Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let it Be

Let it Be was a song written in 1970 by Paul McCartney, but credited to both McCartney and John Lennon, and recorded by the Beatles. McCartney, and especially Lennon were not particularly spiritual, even though Lennon was much more conservative that he led on. McCartney based the song on a dream he had where his deceased mother, Mary, visited him during the troubled times just before the band broke up, and told him that everything will be alright, just let it be. While McCartney looked to his mother for guidance, Christians look to our Lord and Savior for direction, through the word of the Holy Scriptures.
When we find ourselves in times of trouble, Jesus comes to us, speaking words of wisdom, “Come to Me for comfort.” In our hours of darkness, He is standing right in front of us, speaking words of wisdom, “Give yourselves to me and I will lead you to salvation.”

When the broken hearted people living in the world agree, they will find that Jesus is the answer, the way, the Truth, and the life. For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an answer, let it be the Risen Christ.

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, but shine not just until tomorrow, let His light shine forever. When I wake up to the sound of music, my Savior comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, “Come to me and share My kingdom.”

We must also “let it be”. We must let ourselves, our time and our possessions become secondary to our love of our Lord and Savior. For if we persist in placing our needs before our Lord, we withhold that which He desires of His children. Failing to give ourselves to Him will only lead us on an empty pursuit of worldly things, leaving us unable to find the love and fulfillment that a deeper relationship with Jesus will overcome. When we truly give in and let God control our lives and strive to simply please Him, we will have found the answer. No matter how much wealth or fame we have, it can never be enough and will ultimately only lead to disappointment and emptiness. If we find that our identities are the driving factors in our lives, we can never reach a height that will truly satisfy. There will always be someone better, with more skills that we covet, and there will always remain a void in our lives.

With Jesus in control, whatever it is that we do is good enough for Him. Whenever we fail, He loves us unconditionally, no matter how far we fall. When we give up control, we find comfort in His direction. We please our Lord by simply loving Him, thankful for the life He gave for us. We do not need to be broken hearted. We can all agree that Jesus is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life. We can also agree that we need to share the joy that the love of Jesus brings. We must share that which the Lord has blessed us with. We must shine the light of the Lord upon the world. We must give those that do not know, the chance that they too, may see. The Good News is meant to be shared. True Discipleship will require sacrifice on our part, but everything we have is a gift from God. In times of trouble, Jesus is there for all, they only need to have His love and wisdom shared to rescue them. When darkness is all around, He is standing there, waiting for the words, “I believe” to extend that liberating salvation. When the night is cloudy, be the light that shines the light of Jesus to those in need. With the sound of music, lift up your praises to the Lord and reach out beyond the safety of your comfortable church and share that joy with those who have not heard. Ephesians 6:19, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” Pray that we Christians will also be given the words and the courage to proclaim the Truth and become Disciples of Christ.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Truth, No Consequences?

Truth or Consequences was a game show that originated on the radio in 1940, then graduated to television in the early 1950’s, lasting until 1988. Contestants were asked to correctly answer a trivia question or “Truth”. Typically there was either no correct answer, or the allotted time, often two seconds or less, would elapse. An incorrect answer or failure to beat the clock would subject the contestant to "Consequences," usually a zany and/or embarrassing stunt. Many contestants deliberately answered the question incorrectly in order to face the consequences. Stunts often included a surprise family reunion and many active military personnel were brought home to reunite with their families. When we accept the Truth that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we no longer are subject to the consequences of our sinful lives. The punishment that our sinful behavior warrants has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

So, once our lives truly belong to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the consequences of our sinful behavior are no longer counted against us, we are home free, right? Actually, there are many more consequences once we believe. We are no longer in control. When we are filled with the Spirit, our wants and desires become secondary to our Lord’s will. We truly become a new creation, placing our Lord in control of our lives. It’s not “What Would Jesus Do”, it’s what would our Lord want us to do to bring Him the glory. We cannot simply become a Christian without the desire to be a Disciple of Christ. And being a Disciple brings with it much responsibility, the greatest being to make disciples of all nations. This unconditional grace that grants us eternal life with our Father must be shared. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.“ If we selfishly keep the Good News to ourselves, we not only neglect our Lord’s command to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to love our neighbors as ourselves. For if we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would want to share the gift of salvation with everyone.

The leaders of the ELCA have neglected their responsibility to engage in the mission to reach out to save the souls of those who do not know our Lord. So much money has been lost due to congregations leaving, by members who uphold the authority of Scripture and have left to join other denominations or began a new mission start, and by other ELCA members that have redirected their benevolences to Christ centered mission, that the ELCA mission budget has been slashed. The ELCA has budgeted less to mission in 2011 than what was budgeted in 1988. This is more than simply a sluggish economy.  Something had to give if the ELCA was to continue their drive to transform the very foundation of Lutheranism. Something would have to be cut since the social justice agenda continues to be of utmost importance to this wayward denomination. Since the largest Lutheran denomination in North America has abandoned its’ duty to save the lost, it is even more important that more Christians step up and become Disciples.

Now is the time to get involved in mission. Now is the time to step out of your comfort zone and start sharing the peace of the Lord with someone outside of your secure and cozy church. There are so many missions looking for volunteers. There are many churches looking for partners in existing mission ministries and others wanting to share the Good News, but need partners to help them get started. Putting a few extra dollars in the collection plate is way too easy. It is time to “get some boots on the ground” and those boots belong to you. It is easy being a Christian. Will you step out and be what God calls you to be and become His Disciple? Matthew 4:19, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Use the gifts that God has blessed you with and reach out to the world. Take that first step and truly give yourself to Him. Don’t take the easy way out. Accept the consequences that come with being a Disciple of Christ, the Truth that sets you free.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Joyful Spirit

Constructive criticism given by a friend rubs you the wrong way. You respond in anger or withdraw, mumbling under your breath, shaking your head, thinking “How could you”. The drive for perfection leads you to accuse those around you of not carrying their weight. Feeling hurt or betrayed by the one you love, you draw into a shell and cut off communication. Acrimony, jealousy, pride, tension, and bitterness are just a few of the negative emotions or moods that allow Satan to poison our relationships with others. As children of God, we have one thing that others do not. We have a Savior that gave Himself for us. We have the promise of eternal life with our Father if only we believe. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Sometimes, we do not, in fact, lift each other up. When the evil one takes advantage of our failings, we become the selfish beings that rebel against our God. Instead of filling our heart with His Spirit, we allow our own selfish cravings to let Satan in and ignore the Spirit.

Psalm 147:1, 7, “Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! 7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.” Praise Him with a joyful heart. Every time we sing praise to our Lord, let our hearts be filled with His love and let us share that joy with everyone in our Father’s house. Romans 15:32, “Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other.” As Disciples of Christ we need to encourage our brothers and sisters, and it is so important to do so with a glad and joyful heart, for we praise the God of all creation that sent His son as a sin offering in our place. So, put aside those things of this world and proclaim the joy that our Lord has placed within our hearts. Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Let us hold fast to the words of the Holy Spirit inspired authors of Scripture. Whenever two or more are gathered in our Father’s name the Spirit will also inspire us to give glory to Him. We should not simply sing praises to God, but use our voices to open hearts and minds to the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead them to understand God’s will and open an avenue to begin or enrich a personal relationship with Him.

Relationships can become strained when the Spirit becomes secondary within that relationship. Endeavor to fill your hearts with the Spirit, leaving no room for the evil one to upset that balance. We sing our praises to God and not any earthly authority. There is no room for disagreement when we fill our hearts with the Spirit. There is no room for petty bickering when we lift us our songs of praise to the Lord. Pray that His Spirit guides us to offer praises worthy of our God. Psalm 113:1-3, “Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. 2 Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. 3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” Dwell in His word and meet regularly with other believers in prayer and praise. When we follow our Lord’s will, there is no room for the things of this world that Satan can use to cause us harm. Idle minds are the Devil’s workshop, so fill your heart and mind with the love that can only come from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Once we are truly at peace with our God, the things of this world simply no longer seem so important. Reach out to your brothers and sisters in Christ with a heart filled with the love that can only come through a right relationship with Jesus. Sing to the Lord with a joyful heart and joyful spirit. All glory and honor to the one who gave His life so that we may live.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's Raining Grace

Believers stand before God and literally bask in the grace that flows from heaven above. As believers we lift up our arms and open our hearts to let the Spirit fill our souls, falling upon us like a gentle, warm rain. Yet, there are still so many that do not have faith. There are those who simply do not understand the gift offered by God or have never heard the Good News. There are those who know about God, but open their umbrellas to deflect the grace that rains down, refusing to listen. There are those who choose to accept alternate paths that lead them away from Him. And then there are those who teach that everyone will be granted salvation, regardless of faith. 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.” Our God so loves His children that He wants all to be saved. His grace falls indiscriminately upon this world. It is there for all. We have the choice to accept His grace by simply believing in the Risen Christ.

But, there are scholars within the ELCA that promote a very different understanding of salvation. Though not taught as official doctrine of this wayward Lutheran denomination, the concept of universalism is gaining steam and is being taught in ELCA churches and seminaries. From the June 21, 2011 Living Lutheran, an article penned by Paul Lutter, a visiting instructor at Gustavus Adophus College, working towards his PHD at Luther Seminary. “Fully, Luther came to understand, God forgives, loves and saves us completely apart from anything we do or do not do. When this came to light, it was for Luther as if “the gates of heaven were opened to me.” Such news clangs in our ears, however. “I have to do something,” we retort. “God isn’t going to do God’s thing with or for us without our first believing, right?” When faith — or anything else God gives — is turned from a gift God gives to something we need to do first to earn God’s favor, we reveal something rather telling about ourselves. We do not trust that God gives as God promises. We do not trust God. God comes down the staircase, gifts in hand, ready to dole them out to us who are caught empty-handed. When God reaches us, God hands them out, as the one who sews seeds. God throws caution to the wind and hands out God’s gifts with wild abandon. Foolishly. Freely. For us. When we speak of grace alone, we mean to say something unconditional about the way God gives to us who are not ready and yet waiting for God’s presence and work among us. God gives. We receive. Fully and completely.” Like most ELCA teachings, some of Mr. Lutter’s analogy is correct, God’s grace is given freely to those who believe. Faith is the missing link in this essay. It is apparent that the instruction given to seminarians by this man is tainted with his interpretation of grace without the condition of faith. This is not what our Savior taught us and certainly not what Martin Luther preached.

From the March, 3, 2011 Huffington Post, an article by David Lose, Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, commenting about Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”, “But I think the importance we attach to hell today has more to do with the allure of certainty than fear of punishment. A clear sense of the rewards and punishments for having or lacking faith in Christ offers a compelling logic regarding our eternal destiny that reduces ambiguity from the life of faith. After all, and as many Evangelical Christians have argued, if you can go to heaven without believing in Christ, what's the point of faith in the first place? This certainty, in turn, lends believers a sense of authority, even power, as they have a clear standard by which to judge "who's in" and "who's out." Talk about seductive!” Again, we find a professor at an ELCA seminary who looks upon those who have faith in the Risen Christ as self righteous and judgmental. Are believers somehow more special than others? No, God loves all of His children unconditionally. This is why Jesus charged His Disciples, and also all believers, to make disciples of all nations, so that everyone would find eternal life with the Father.

The initial printing of the ELCA Study Bible, included this footnote, written by Wartburg Seminary professor, Duane Priebe regarding Matthew 28:16-20: “...In contrast to 10:5-6, 23, Jesus now sends the disciples to make disciples of all nations. That does not mean make everyone disciples. Most people who are helped by Jesus and believe in him never become disciples. Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or even know about him.” Our Lord and Savior does not agree. Jesus said in John 6:40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Why do these enlightened scholars of the ELCA continue to teach that faith is somehow optional? Our God does not force us to believe. We have the free will to choose to believe. Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Share the gift that God has given you. Proclaim His word to those who have not heard and especially to those who are acceptant of false gospels. God wants all of His children to come to Him. We are His disciples on earth and we are charged to share the Good News and make disciples of all nations, so that all will be saved.