Monday, November 28, 2011

Good Cop, Bad Cop

After retiring in 2008 after 29 years of service as a police officer in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburban department, one of the worst things to happen to anyone in the profession was to discover a corrupt cop that was wearing the badge. It is essential that police officers be trusted to uphold the law with the utmost loyalty and dedication to the citizens and community that they serve. One bad apple can spoil the whole batch if the police lose the trust of the citizens. After all, every person a police officer comes into contact with is subject to the authority that is entrusted to them. Police officers can take away the freedom of a citizen engaged in or suspected of criminal activity. Police officers are charged to protect and serve. A police officer will place his or her own safety in jeopardy to protect the weak and sometimes, even those guilty of criminal acts. Being a cop is much more than a job. It takes dedication and sacrifice, working on weekends, holidays, missing family functions and working hours when any normal person would be asleep. The saying goes that police officers are not paid for what they do, they are paid for what they may have to do. And some of those calls for police are not what anyone would want to experience or endure.

There are other professions that, by the very nature of their reputation, invoke the highest of confidence and trust. When one is called to serve the Lord as a member of the clergy, they are necessarily believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit in, and through their service. To fail to properly serve the Lord faithfully by preaching “something new” that undermines the Truth, is not even on the radar screen for those that love the Lord. In Presiding ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson’s address to the ELCA Church Council on November 11th this year, he said that ELCA members are "called to be part of God's reconciling and restoring community" in the world. 1Timothy 2:1, 3-6, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” When we are called by the leader of the largest Lutheran Church in North America to “be a part of God’s reconciling and restoring community, one has to determine what our role is to be as reconciler. As Paul wrote, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was the only one who could reconcile God and humanity. Perhaps by proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as He taught the Apostles, by praying for and interceding on their behalf may just be the way to save them and lead them to understand the Truth. Additionally, concentrating on what our Lord called us to do in the Great Commission would go a long way to restoring community in the world.

At this time in the life of the ELCA, mission to bring the word to the world has fallen prey to loss of membership and benevolence. Social statements and advocacy for the things of this world have a higher priority for this misguided denomination and funds normally directed to mission have been cut. The doctrine of “Accompaniment” is being lifted up as the ELCA’s way of watering the seeds of mission they have already planted, rather than starting new mission work. Hanson tried to further illustrate the ways the ELCA is deeply rooted in God’s mission. He highlighted the process by which the ELCA adopts social documents, which "informs our public witness, but not bind our conscience, to help us live as responsible people of faith in a complex world." It is interesting how cavalierly that Hanson uses the term “bind our conscience” as a tactic to give the impression of marginalizing their true objective, secular ambitions, rather than our proclaiming the Gospel to the world. Social statements only act as barriers, set in front of faithful ELCA members that blind them to the call of our Lord and Savior to save the lost. How could God’s church place a higher calling on advocating for things such as the “DREAM” act while they choose to abandon their responsibility to reach and save the lost?

Hanson also called to “affirm the vocation of political service as being a calling from God and therefore need to hold public servants accountable.” It is true that God places those in positions of authority and we do need to respect those in office. We are similarly called to hold those in office accountable to the public trust. Police officers that fail to conduct their duties in a lawful manner will be held accountable by the authorities within their respective departments or if the conduct merits it, the criminal justice system. Politicians that fail the public trust will be held accountable at the ballot box or, if necessary will also face potential criminal actions. For those in the clergy that deliberately lead their flock astray, Jesus said in Mark 9:42, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Bishop Hanson continually advocates for the things of the world and emphasizes their importance in trying to "fix" our broken world. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ gets no more than lip service in the mission of the ELCA. For certain, there are ELCA churches that do not buy what Hanson is selling and remain true to the Lord, but we all are known by the company we keep. Those that decide to remain a light within the darkness of the ELCA, are simply on a fool’s errand that will only lead them to the understanding that the leadership of the ELCA has truly abandoned our God. Jeremiah 5:30-31, “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Useful Idiot

Useful idiot is a derogatory adage, describing a person either too na├»ve or ignorant to understand that their advocacy of malevolent organizations only allows those organizations to conduct their business with impunity. Confused and misguided, the “occupy” movement is used by the labor unions and left wing radicals to conduct their bidding, disrupting the very business activity they need to support them. Gay rights advocates lobby to legitimize behavior that is contrary to God’s will, rather than loving their neighbor enough to lead them back to the Lord. Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, soviet sympathizers used their influence to promote socialism and in several instances, used their positions to steal sensitive information and forward it to soviet agents. What they did not know, however, was that although the Soviets used the information, they actually reviled the sympathizers as traitors. Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of England, used the policy of appeasement in an attempt to placate Hitler and Nazi Germany, only showing a weakness that gave Hitler the confidence to mount a sustained military campaign, almost bombing England out of existence. Those trapped in poverty by social programs that provide nothing more than a meager existence, continue to vote for those that would keep them trapped in a life of poverty. So, the list goes on and on with these supposedly well intentioned individuals and groups foolishly working toward goals that actually happen to be destructive to themselves and society.

Bishop Mark Hanson uses his office to appease the LGBTQ community by affirming their sinful behavior. Hanson proclaims that the authors of Scripture would not have an understanding of homosexuality as do the enlightened leaders of the ELCA, and as such, we need to reevaluate what Scripture says about sexuality. Mark 10:6-9, Jesus said, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” So, that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ taught that marriage is between one man and one woman is overruled by the 2009 ELCA churchwide assembly. Those gullible human beings, using their imperfect love, overturn our God’s command. Bishop Hanson, whose duty is to safeguard sound doctrine, chooses to abdicate his responsibility to uphold God’s will and allows the inmates to run the asylum. Now, what God considers sin is no longer sinful in the official policies of the ELCA and homosexual relations are even acceptable for clergy as long as they engage in a “loving monogamous relationship” because God’s children are apparently wiser than their Father in heaven.

Hanson uses his office to denounce God’s chosen people, Israel, while offering support for Palestine and their terrorist leaders, Hamas. “Peace” activists attempt to violate a legal blockade of Palestine by Israel, attack Israeli forces attempting to board their vessel and Hanson delivers a scathing rebuke of Israel when, in fact, the Israeli forces acted with incredible restraint. Hanson advocates that ELCA members and Americans as a whole, support an embargo on all goods made in Israel. Hamas showers Israel with rockets, targeting civilians, causing casualties and fatalities, yet Hanson stands mute to those atrocities. Romans 9:4, “They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.” Yet, Hanson persists in his affirmation of Palestine, while condemning Israel at every opportunity.

Hanson welcomes diversity within the ELCA. While we should welcome a diversity of people in our church, we should hold fast to the truths of Christianity, not welcome a diversity of beliefs. Universal salvation, the gospels of affirmation and radical inclusiveness, questioning the Virgin Birth and Jesus’ resurrection are just some of the “new things” that Hanson proclaims that God is now telling us. Throughout Scripture, we are warned to “not change a single word of Scripture”. Jesus said in Luke 16:17, “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” Who is Hanson obeying when he, as the presiding bishop of the ELCA, decides to rewrite Scripture to placate those that want their worldly desires affirmed by the church? As Satan works on our worldly desires to lead us to sin against our Lord, Hanson decides that these “new things” are from God, but those true to the word realize that this is exactly what the evil one wants us to believe. Those being used by Satan to do his bidding have found a place in leadership positions at our Lord’s church. Just as the Politiboro used unwitting idealists to betray their country, he has found willing servants in God’s own church. After all, how better could Satan infiltrate God’s church, but to use words that sound so appealing, so welcoming, so tolerant and so diverse to those intending to use their imperfect love to create a new religion, based upon what they want to believe, rather than what our Lord has taught.

Knowledge is the way to understand when the evil one is attempting to use you. Dwell in His word and put on the full armor of the Lord. Jude 17, “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Learn to recognize the useful idiots working in league with Satan that are proclaiming a gospel other than the one our Lord taught.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We're Not Worthy

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey created the Wayne’s World characters Wayne and Garth for a 1988 skit on Saturday Night Live. (When it was still relatively funny) The premise of the skit entailed a couple of slackers that hosted a public access cable show. Whenever they interviewed someone of note, they would both do an exaggerated bow, stating, “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.” Well, we just may be able to learn from their example, because we are certainly not worthy of the grace that our God bestows upon us. Martin Luther wrote the explanation of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism, “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.” We should always be eternally grateful that our Lord can overlook our numerous shortcomings and grant us eternal life, in spite of our blemishes.
 
Since we are forever unworthy of our Lord’s love, should we decide to simply rest on the laurels of our faith in the Risen Christ? Should we sit idly by and humbly accept the grace that grants us our salvation? Should we merely be happy that our Lord and Savior took upon Himself all of our sins and generously accepted our punishment, died in our place and rose, defeating death so that we should live? Or should we rejoice in the knowledge that faith in the Risen Christ is the only way to salvation by sharing the Good News with our neighbor? If we fail to abide by our Lord’s command to preach the Gospel to the world, we fail as Christians. The responsibility that comes with being a follower of Christ is that we simply can't not share the love that God has for all His children. Everyone should come to know Him and if we fail to take that responsibility, we fail our Lord. For certain, this does not affect our salvation, but any of His children that are lost bring sorrow to our God. If it is our goal to please our Lord, we must take up His cross and become a Disciple of Christ.

We must endeavor to not only reach those who have not heard, we need to reach those who are misled by false teachers, such as the ELCA, the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ, that accept and promote errant doctrine. As these churches lead their members away from our Lord, placing their authority above our God, we must proclaim the true Gospel. To simply run away, clinging to sound doctrine, is to abandon our responsibility to gently correct in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to know the Truth. Every soul that does not know our Lord is a soul longing to hear the word. Those that have been properly instructed in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ have the solemn duty to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2.

Satan is alive and doing very well in this modern, accepting, tolerant society of ours. He has infiltrated our churches, particularly through the misguided leaders of the ELCA, Episcopal, and UCC churches. Satan must be dancing with glee when hundreds of pastors sign documents lifting up sexual immorality and support for reproductive rights (abortion). When the leader of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, denounces God’s chosen, Israel, while lifting up Palestine, led by the terrorist organization Hamas, Satan must be so proud of his work. If we choose to sit by idly, many may be at risk of losing their very salvation. They may only need to hear the truth from fellow believers to turn back to the Lord. We can all leave these errant churches, join new organizations true to the Word, but it doesn’t change the fact that those left behind are your brothers and sisters in Christ. If we leave and let them be led away without trying to bring them back, we are just as guilty as those that lead them away. We must be diligent in our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that not only those who have not heard come to Him, but that those who have fallen off the path can have their hearts and minds made right with God, so that they can return to Him. James 5:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” Let the Lord help us not only to save the lost who have not heard, but to save those that have been unknowingly led to accept a gospel other than the one our Lord preached.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wishful Thinking

Those that hope for an outcome that would be most pleasing to them often use wishful thinking when making decisions, rather than considering real evidence, logic or truth. This pattern of thinking continues to persist throughout human society and now is being embraced by “mainstream” religion. When one decides on a course of action which is deliberately guided by wishful thinking, things may actually go well for a time. But, fantasy can never be reconciled with reality. As things start to go south, the wishful thinker will often make an even more determined effort to keep their dream alive. Then, as reality closes in and everything starts to unravel, the illusion crashes back to earth. For the leadership of the ELCA, their “new things”, such as bound conscience, are in the process of falling apart. As more and more congregations discover the direction that the ELCA is heading, more are taking steps to disassociate. The ELCA’s leadership is currently engaged in a very determined effort to keep their dream of an all welcoming, tolerant, accepting and appeasing religion that does not recognize sin, alive. They have changed the rules for congregations that are in the process of discerning whether or not to continue in their relationship with the ELCA. They have taken a hard line with the faithful, seeking to maintain unity in their wayward church by using threats and subterfuge.
The leadership of the ELCA persists in adhering to two different hermeneutics that are irreconcilable, promoting that man is in authority of Scripture, while also proclaiming to profess the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone. Unfortunately, because they so foolishly wish that their “bound conscience” will give them license to justify any worldly desire, they have also deliberately led their unwitting membership along the path of unintended consequences. This wishful thinking leads the misguided that long to have their lifestyle affirmed by the church, to ascertain that because Jesus did not specifically comment on homosexuality, one can derive that this indicates that He does not disapprove of that lifestyle. No matter how much one would want this to be true, Jesus over and over cited the Old Testament laws as valid. 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.” So, although we are no longer bound by the law in order to gain our salvation, it still is important to not only obey, but to uphold the law by teaching sound doctrine.

Another “new” concept that intrigues the leaders and scholars of the ELCA is that hell somehow no longer exists, or is at least irrelevant, apparently since hell is cited only 53 times in the Bible. This is just one more example of wishful thinking. To encourage teaching that God is a God of love and nothing but love breeds a dangerous assumption. Promoting the idea that God would never punish His children and that since Jesus died for everyone it is not necessary to know or even believe in the Risen Christ to gain salvation, is more than simply wishful thinking. It is a perilous notion that jeopardizes the salvation of those foolish enough to trust a church that promotes or at the very least, acquiesces to this errant doctrine. 

These are nothing more than false doctrines that the leaders and scholars of the ELCA have concocted and illegitimately foisted upon their trusting members. These leaders and “Biblical scholars” claim that God is now telling them a new thing, appealing to the emotions of those who want a God who affirms them within their sinful behavior. Bound conscience is no different than saying, “If only I want something bad enough and truly believe it, then it will come true.” This type of thinking will only lead one to a bitter disappointment. I’m sorry, but being a follower of Christ carries great responsibility. It’s not about us and what we want; it is all about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:8-9, “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.” Expose the heresy of those that seek to redefine Christianity. Reject those that preach a gospel other than the one our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ taught. Pray that those lost or that have fallen from the path of righteousness return to the Lord. Proclaim the true Gospel with all your heart and with all your might, praying that the Holy Spirit gives you the wisdom and strength to persevere.