Friday, December 21, 2012

On Your Permanent Record

The 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High featured a young Sean Penn (good actor, bad politics) as a pot smoking slacker that was constantly harassed by a teacher played by Ray Walston. (My Favorite Martian for all of you in my age bracket) Walston warned Penn that his bad behavior would be noted on his permanent record and would follow him forever. Acts 13:38-39, “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” Even slacker Christians that violate the law with regularity are justified by their faith in the Risen Christ. No, these offenses are not noted on your permanent record with God, and for many of us that fall short way too often, that is a welcome relief. Our God is a forgiving God that loves His children beyond any human’s ability to comprehend.

So, does that mean that we are no longer bound by or restricted by the law? Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19, “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. 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. 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.” So, what of those who decide to invoke their bound conscience to overrule verses of Scripture with which they disagree? When we truly love our Lord and Savior, we necessarily want to please Him in all we do. And how can we better please Him but by being obedient servants? Scripture is the written word of God. His rules are set out before us, put to words by the Holy Spirit inspired authors of the Bible. Jesus said in John 14:23-24, “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. 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.”

It cannot be plainer to anyone who reads the words of Jesus, that the law remains important for every believer. In fact, the Gospel cannot exist without the law. The two are inseparable. The law demands righteousness, the Gospel bestows righteousness. Christ is the living embodiment of the law and it is through faith in the Risen Christ that righteousness is bestowed upon believers. In other words, any Christian deliberately behaving in a manner contradictory to what the law demands, denies that Christ is foremost in their lives for all to see. Our actions are to show the world our love for Christ so that others may see and also want to know Christ. Every action, no matter how small, is done to give the glory to God. When we place our opinion over the word of God, we give glory to ourselves and deny our God. This does not go unnoticed by the world. Those thirsting to fill that emptiness within their hearts are watching and just may be turned away from the cross and be compelled to look elsewhere, if we behave contrary to the law.

Our brothers and sisters in the ELCA continue to reach out with their imperfect love, allowing the doctrine of bound conscience to remain an open avenue to disregard Scripture and fulfill the cravings of a sinful humanity. Granted, it is difficult to deny oneself in order to please our God, but our obedience will not only be pleasing to God, it will fill our own emptiness by allowing Christ into our hearts. Actions pleasing to God are also very satisfying to those engaging in them. Every time one acts when the Spirit presents an opportunity to serve, the servant often receives as much satisfaction from performing that act as does the recipient of the service. This is how the Holy Spirit works in us. Our obedience leads us to proclaim the Gospel by allowing us to be filled with His love and then to pour out that love to those in need. All of this to bring glory to God. All of this to show the world the love our God has for His children. All of this to reveal the Truth to the world in order to bring all His children to faith in the Risen Christ.

As you celibrate during this Christmas season, remember who it is that you serve. Much is asked of those who serve the Lord and much more will be required, and those entrusted with much responsibility will receive even more responsibility. Once you become a good and faithful servant of the Lord, it becomes easier and easier to serve Him. Be a joyful servant and serve the Lord, obedient to the best of your ability.

Joy to the world for unto you a Savior has been born. Serve Him with all your heart, mind and soul ever mindful that your service is to proclaim the glory of God by sharing His love with those in need of Him. Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Other "F" Word

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It should be so easy, but forgiveness is one of the most difficult tasks a human being may ever undertake. Anger is so effortless and although it eats away at our very own well-being by giving us a sense of bitter satisfaction, it somehow remains very appealing. After all, when someone wrongs us, it seems to be so right to carry a grudge against that someone who deliberately, or perhaps unknowingly committed that act that caused us so much consternation.

The song “Forgiveness” by Matthew West says it so well, “It’s the hardest thing to give away and the last thing on your mind today. It always goes to those that don’t deserve. It’s the opposite of how you feel. When the pain they caused is just too real. It takes everything you have just to say the word …Forgiveness. It flies in the face of all your pride. It moves away the mad inside. It’s always anger’s own worst enemy. Even when the jury and the judge say you gotta right to hold a grudge. It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’ …Forgiveness." 

God forgives each and every one of us, no matter how serious our sin may be. Complete, absolute, and unwavering forgiveness, each and every day, by faith alone, whether or not we ask for it. God sent His one and only Son, who took on human form and presented Himself as a sin offering for each and every human being, past, present and future. Jesus, one with the Father and the Spirit, God incarnate, became a man and experienced the ultimate form of forgiveness, willingly taking the punishment that a sinful humanity truly deserved. Even while dying on the cross in Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” As disciples of Christ, we attempt to achieve some small measure of the righteousness that our Lord and Savior demonstrated during His ministry here on earth. Yet, we remain steadfast in our refusals to grant forgiveness to those who slight us. In our politics, in our relationships, and in our biases, and even toward our fellow Christians we continue to hold that grudge. Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness frees you and cleanses your soul, eliminates anger, and anger is a great toehold that the evil one uses to cause us to stray. Anger poisons the soul and along with any other negative emotion may seem to fulfill some need, but simply fulfills a sinful craving of a misguided human being. Colossians 3:8-10, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Forgiveness truly allows us to become that new creation, one transformed by the love and forgiveness our Father has given us. From the last verse of the song, "By what you see through eyes of grace, the prisoner that it really frees is you...Forgiveness"
Many still struggle with the hurt and are angry with the leaders of the ELCA and withhold their forgiveness to those that have caused so much pain and strife. It is not for us to judge, but rest assured, our Father will make the appropriate judgment of those leading His children astray. It is difficult to retain that righteous anger that leads us to proclaim the truth so that all can hear and understand the fallacy of the wide and easy path of tolerance and diversity that has persuaded so many of our brothers and sisters to fall away from our Lord’s teachings. Our perceived anger simply causes those we are trying to reach and gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, to ignore our words and lash out in anger toward us. Forgiveness disarms those who would harbor a grudge against those that simply pray that their eyes be opened to the truth. But, as we forgive, we must also never forget. Far too many of our brothers and sisters continue to cling to the misguided belief that the ELCA is on the proper path. We are charged to continue to proclaim the truth and expose the heresies that may threaten the very salvation of those foolish enough to lift up these false gospels. Prayer can move mountains and we must continue to pray for our brothers and sisters adrift in the ELCA.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mirror Image

In 1995 the ELCA was formally examining man’s relationship with God in regards to our sexual nature. The study, The Church and Human Sexuality, a Lutheran Perspective, was being discussed by many churches in the ELCA and my church was among those having what were called “cottage meetings”. During one of our “cottage meetings” one of our congregants suggested that since Jesus said that divorce was unacceptable to God, but since the church now accepts divorce, that perhaps the church should also accept the gay lifestyle. (Back then the homosexual movement did not have the wide variety of acronyms that we see today) I suggested that as far as I have learned, two wrongs do not make a right.  We travel on a slippery slope when we decide to disregard God’s commands and replace them with our human sensibilities. Like so many of the “new things” that the leaders of the ELCA promote, this is simply flawed human logic. To reach a conclusion that because the church decided to stray from God’s commands in one matter that one would necessarily conclude the next logical step would be to disregard another of God’s commands just makes one head spin.

This “study” meant to provoke discussion, was weighted with opinions that led the reader to the conclusion that the Biblical teaching on homosexuality did not necessarily condemn that practice, especially in loving, monogamous relationships. So, as far back as 1995, the leaders of the ELCA promoted that the only logical conclusion was that homosexuality should be acceptable to all ELCA congregants if one was to properly love one’s neighbor. Mark 10:6-9, Jesus said, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” While Jesus did not comment specifically on homosexuality, He was clear that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. It becomes problematic when man looks upon himself as the earthly authority that somehow is more enlightened than the Holy Spirit inspired authors of Scripture.

Why is it so important to the leadership of the ELCA to normalize homosexuality? Can we not welcome our brothers and sisters who are homosexual in their understanding as fellow sinners, just like each and every one of us, in need of love and forgiveness by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? It would appear that the leaders of the ELCA promote that their membership fashion a god in their own image, one that will let them live as they please, one that does not rain on their parade with unfair rules and commands. Unfortunately, when we rely upon our own understanding we place our Lord in a secondary role in our lives. When we focus on ourselves and question our Lord’s authority, we look into a mirror and see the image of the god we pledge our allegiance. Only when we give ourselves to our Lord and Savior, fully and absolutely will we find true meaning in our lives. The only way to give yourself fully to the Lord is to discard those things of this world that you believe will be fulfilling, yet never seem to fill that emptiness in your heart. Deny yourself and place Christ first in your heart. Throw away the things of this world that cause you to sin and become a new creation, one that pleases our Lord.

Matthew 18:7-9, Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” Every one of us sins every day, in thought, word, and deed. No one is righteous in God’s sight, no one. Try as we may, it is impossible to be obedient in all matters of faith for us imperfect human beings. That is why we have a Savior that took the punishment for a sinful humanity. Why then does the leadership of the ELCA advocate a different path, one that is wide and undemanding? By encouraging their membership to accept that which the Lord prohibits, the leaders of the ELCA elevate the status of man, requiring no self-denial, no repentance and no need for faith in the Risen Christ.

John 3:16-21, Jesus said, “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 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.” While the ELCA pronounces that the Bible is the true word of God, that they abide by the Creeds and that they are one with the Augsburg Confessions, they continue to cast doubt upon the very God they are called to serve.  The leaders of the ELCA continue to hide their deeds in the shadows, claiming that these "new things" are not their official teachings while they are promoted in their publications and in their seminaries.

God comes freely, openly offering His wonderful gift of grace to all who believe. God wants all of His children to be saved. Who do you see when you look into that mirror, a sinner in need of a Savior or one who knows better than the Creator of all that was, is and is yet to come? Continue to pray for those brothers and sisters lost and adrift amid the heresy of the ELCA.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Flim Flam Man

In the old west Snake oil salesman peddled elixirs that allegedly cured everything from acne to gout, but in fact these “miracle cures” were simply watered down whiskey or worse. Con men used elaborate ruses, such as the scheme used in the movie, The Sting, to swindle their marks and steal their money. There are many e-mail and internet scams that attempt to wrest money and information from those who are greedy or simply unsuspecting and na├»ve. There are many ways to deceive, mislead, dupe and betray in order to pilfer another’s assets. But, some of those assets are far more valuable than others. The evil one will use various schemes to try to lead us away from our Savior and tempt us into engaging in sin. The father of lies uses pleasing words that often prey upon our innate selfishness and false sense of superiority. Satan and his minions will take many forms in this world, sometimes even donning clerical garb in order to lead God’s church astray.

ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson has become so enamored with the love of this world that he cannot even see, nor understand that he betrays the very God he has pledged to serve. When the 2009 ELCA churchwide assembly was wrestling with the decision to lift up human sexuality and pronounce that God was in error, he sat back and decided that he would allow the lay delegates to make their choice. Never mind that it is Hanson’s responsibility as Bishop to make certain that proper Lutheran and Christian doctrine is followed, he could see that the outcome that he had so hoped for many years, was about to finally come to fruition. In his never ending quest to champion gay rights, he threw caution to the wind and shoved God under the bus. It is no longer necessary to deny oneself to please the Lord, the ELCA allows one to deny the Lord and please yourself, according to the doctrine of bound conscience.

So much of the ELCA’s efforts have gone into secular ideals such as their “Care for Creation” attempting to prevent man from polluting the world, they have neglected to protect their members from being polluted by the world. . James 1:26-27, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” So much of Scripture warns us to live in the world, but not be of the world. We should prosper in this world, but maintain our belief in the Lord. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego vowed to remain faithful to God and not bow down to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol of gold even if it meant being burnt to death. Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” They were saved from the fire and remained faithful, even turning Nebuchadnezzar's heart to the Lord. When one clicks the link to the social statements on the ELCA’s website, you will see the shining gold idol that is worshipped by the leaders of the ELCA. Mark Hanson, as the leader of the ELCA, has decided that the acceptance of secular ideals, the affirmation of that which God prohibits, and the tolerance of the evil that the purveyors of Islam rain upon God’s chosen nation, Israel are the golden image he wants to bow down and worship.

So, like any other snake oil salesman, he foists these lies upon the faithful and unfortunately, many agree with him and decide to bow down and worship the golden image with him. Brothers and sisters in Christ are lost to this false gospel every day. Yet, there are so many who have yet to hear the message of salvation and the unending love our Father in heaven has for them. I pray that those weak in spirit that fall prey to these false teachings hearken back to God’s word and discern His Truth. Dwell in His word and the truth will become apparent. Pray unceasingly that believers will not fall prey to the false gospel of affirmation, tolerance and acceptance. Pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ remain true to the Word and proclaim the good news to the world. There are many more brothers and sisters thirsting to hear the good news. Proclaim His Truth loudly and boldly!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Primarily Secondary

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States with over 4 million members. Beginning with the 2009 Churchwide Assembly decision on human sexuality and its embrace by ELCA leaders, numerous congregations are leaving the denomination, other congregations are being split apart, and others are simply closing due to dwindling attendance. Non-denominational churches, however, are thriving and expanding. Most of the non-denominational churches, such as Blackhawk church in Middleton, WI and the Elm Brook churches in the Milwaukee, WI area, have one thing in common. They are Christ centered. It would appear those that are searching for something have found it and that something is the freedom gained through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Good works abound in these congregations, but nary a word about social justice.  Those that attend these houses of worship are driven by the never ending joy in proclaiming the Gospel to the world. It matters not what is your political bend or chosen sexual identity is. The pure Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached from the pulpits of these churches, without the socio-political bent that has become so prevalent in the ELCA.

ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson talks about his two-step dance, a balancing of the gospel of radical inclusiveness and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is telling that he places radical inclusiveness before the Gospel. In the August edition of the Lutheran, the featured article “Spiritual Nomads, a blueprint for young adults in the ELCA” attempts to discern why young adults are fleeing from what they view as traditional churches. The author, Benjamin M. Stewart, is the assistant professor of worship and dean of Augustana Chapel at the Luther School of Theology in Chicago. Of course, sociologists are quoted in the article, explaining that young adults today share a general sense of what the appropriate role of religion in society should be. According to Stewart, young adults believe religion should teach a “golden rule”, encourage people to be good and should teach people to pray. He further states that emerging adults bring what is described as a therapeutic approach to religion: it’s good if it makes you feel good about yourself and expresses your identity. So, in the opinion of those who are much brighter than I, religion should not only make one feel good toward others but to feel good about oneself. In other words, he believes that young adults expect affirmation and look within to find their identity, rather than looking to the cross and to the Savior that gave everything for us.

Quoting, Robert Putnam, a political scientist, “this generation has moved to the left on most social issues-above all, homosexuality-many prominent religious leaders have moved to the right. Increasingly, young people saw religion as intolerant, hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic. If being religious entailed political conservatism, they concluded, religion was not for them. The implication here is clear: the belief that classic or traditional Christianity is driving young adults out of religion with hypocritical judgmentalism while liberals were losing them because of the very content of the U. S. liberal gospel (the golden rule and therapeutic approach to life) has been increasingly succeeding in the wider culture. To overstate it: politically speaking, conservative Christians alienate young adults and liberal Christians bore them.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-21, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

Four churches were described in this article, one from Washington D. C., one from Chicago, one from Atlanta, and one from Dalles, OR. Each was asked to use words that describe your congregation. Liturgically eclectic was used three times, social justice was invoked twice, LGTB once, yet faith and God were cited only once each and preaching the Gospel was notably absent. Unfortunately, these churches sound more like social clubs than a house of our Lord. There is an emptiness in humankind’s heart that can only be filled with the love of Christ. Search all you want for the proper enticements to fill your pews, when the answer is plain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of forgiveness, redeeming love and everlasting life is the only invitation that is necessary to bring the lost to Him. Come and see. Muddy the waters with political and social issues and those thirsting will look elsewhere. That is what is driving congregants away from the ELCA, not simply the fact that Luther’s statement to “sin boldly” has overtaken its doctrine.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Bully Sin-Drome

With so much emphasis on the negative impact of bullying in our society, the leaders of the ELCA have decided to ratchet up the supposed plight of the LGTBQ community. The secular world has all but normalized alternate lifestyles, but that is simply insufficient for the leaders of the ELCA. Those that choose the homosexual lifestyle are now lifted up as more saint than sinner by the enlightened leaders of the ELCA. Luther said that each person is at once a saint and a sinner, righteous and reprobate, saved and lost, but apparently those that choose alternate lifestyles are only saints, righteous and saved. Not only are the misguided leaders of the ELCA determined to approve behavior explicitly prohibited by God, they have decided to go all in. Their program, It Gets Better, designed as an anti-bullying program, is primarily focused to acknowledge, accept and celebrate the LGTBQ lifestyle. Openly gay speakers were featured throughout the ELCA youth gathering in New Orleans this year in an effort to indoctrinate those youth attending, teaching them that homosexuality gets the ELCA good housekeeping seal of approval.

Before everyone gets all worked up and points the finger at all of us hateful, homophobic Bible thumpers, think about this for a minute. The sin of engaging in homosexual behavior will not, in and of itself, lead one to damnation nor is a greater sin than any supposedly good Christian engages in daily. Sin is selfishly refusing to obey God’s will. But, when one decides to tell God that He is wrong and they are right, they are not pleasing the Lord. When one decides that their wants and desires are more important than obedience to the teachings of our Lord and Savior, they make themselves and their desires more important than loving God. When I decide that it is all right for me to engage in behavior that is displeasing to God, I fail to follow the Spirit and choose to listen to the lies of the evil one and please myself. When one fills their heart and soul with the love of Jesus, our wants and desires become secondary. And even though we constantly fail to meet our Lord’s expectations, we truly recognize when we decide to disobey and follow our own desires. Romans 2:14-16, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” We truly do know right from wrong and no matter how much this errant denomination wants to minimize or eliminate sin; they simply are doing exactly what the evil one wants.

Love your neighbor as yourself is the rallying cry of the progressive leaders of the ELCA. Problem is, loving one’s neighbor is not enough if they happen to be gay. One must ignore the fact that they are sinners, accepting their sin as no longer sinful, respecting their choice to remain in their selfishness, allowing them to placate their sinful human nature. We are taught over and over in Scripture that to follow Jesus requires great sacrifice. Once we believe and allow the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts, we are made new creatures. Our old sinful selves die and we are no longer subject to the punishment we so rightfully deserve. We go on to a new life in Christ, wanting to please Him in all we do by our obedience and through our lives to give Him all the glory. In a prayer for a new Christian, we pray, “Father, I know that I am broken and my sinful nature has separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life and toward you. Please forgive me, and lead me on the path you have set before me.” We admit our brokenness and sinful nature is a wedge we have driven between us and our Lord. We do not tell our God that He must accept us as we are, with no need of repentance or transformation.

But, the leaders of the ELCA use a different strategy. That which our Lord and Savior expects of us is much too difficult a pill to swallow for this errant denomination. Denial is such a negative word and obedience conjures up images of parental discipline. So, sin is declared good and those that accept this as God’s will place themselves at the top rung of the ladder. The enlightened leaders of the ELCA may believe that they have all the answers, but no one is amazed at their understanding except those wishing to hear what their itching ears long to hear. We are part of a selfish, sinful humanity who, if left to our own devices would sink ourselves to the lowest common denominator, ultimately leading to our destruction. When we finally allow Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, into our hearts and turn our lives over to His will, our wants and desires become secondary. The leaders of the ELCA wish to advocate that humankind place their desires before God’s will and somehow this shows the world our love, tolerance and acceptance. Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Jesus has the words of eternal life; the leaders of the ELCA are preaching a gospel other than the one our Lord has taught.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Inappropriately Partisan

In the October 2012 Lutheran Magazine, the featured article is titled Lutherans and Politics, the “two Kingdoms” and putting the needs of others first. The article, written by Darrell H. Jodock, an ELCA pastor who teaches at Gustavus Aldophus College in Minnesota, starts inauspiciously enough, with a tale about his father who got involved in local politics. So, like most of the essays published by proxies of the ELCA, it contains some truth and sound doctrinal premises. But, the central segment of the article does not focus on those truths and sound doctrine. Instead, Jodock decides to rewrite history, inserting his opinions by stating that Martin Luther “advocated freedom of conscience in matters of religious belief.” He goes on to state that Luther believed that “individuals were free to hold theological ideas that disagreed with the church’s doctrines but not to teach them publicly. Americans have, rightly I think, broadened the concept of religious liberty.”  Some Americans have indeed replaced the wisdom and will of our Creator with their own misguided opinions and ideas.

Luther stated, in his testimony at the Diet at Worms, Germany in 1521, “…I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” How one can draw the conclusion that Jodock infers in his essay, is absolutely mind boggling. But, when one wishes to promote a narrative leading to a desired result, the ends are often deemed to justify the means. In fact, Luther did nothing to indicate that he advocated for the freedom of conscience in matters of religious belief or the freedom to hold theological ideas that were contrary to proper doctrine. In one particular instance Luther did chastise his fellow priests at his parish for deciding to serve both the host and wine at Holy Communion while he was away from Wittenberg. Since some congregants did not wish to take the wine, he stated that their weak conscience should be respected and those congregants should not be forced to take both the host and wine. To extrapolate that Luther advocated for individuals to hold theological ideas that were contrary to church doctrine is patently false. Nothing in his writings would indicate this conclusion.

It gets even better as the essay progresses. Jodock states, “For example, Christians bless marriages, but marriage itself is a matter of the state.” Apparently, to Jodock marriage is no longer a sacrament of the church. He goes on, “..the primary question for voters should not be what the Christian view of marriage is but what serves the interest of the community as a whole…But the question of what compelling interest the state has in reserving marriage for heterosexuals deserves careful consideration.” Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-6, “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” It is true that our Lord and Savior did not speak of homosexuality in the Gospels, but He made it abundantly clear that marriage is reserved for one male and one female.

Jodock advocates that Lutheran tradition instructs us to focus on specific problems experienced by real people such as, “How can we help those victims of violence who are seeking political asylum in our country and are housed in our jails.” What???? To date, I have found no one meeting the above criteria imprisoned in US jails. Sounds like something any good ELCA Lutheran should be up in arms about, but this is just another patently false claim made by Jodock. The essay continues with an admonishment to the untruths that seem to assail us from all sides in our political rhetoric. “We remember, for example, the false impressions created by describing as “death panels” the proposal in Congress to fund conversations with a doctor about responsible end-of-life decisions.” The untruth about this statement is that the “death panels” that Jodock asserts are benign and normal conversations with their primary care physician are nothing of the sort. These “death panels” he describes are actually bureaucrats that sit in judgment and decide who will be approved for extraordinary measures to prolong life, having the authority to deny treatment to those deemed no longer worth the cost due to age in particular. Jodock cites another example, although he cites no specific circumstances, …”many false claims about refugees and immigrants." What false claims he is speaking of is left up the reader of this essay to invent.

No progressive essay would be complete without reference to the 99% and the evil 1%. Citing an unidentified study, he bemoans the inequities in incomes between the top 1 percent and the rest of the country. Economic inequity on both a national and international level with the predictable rant about changing consumer habits on a global scale. Then it is back at one of his pet peeves, the unfair immigration policies that the US imposes upon those seeking to enter this country against the law. While Jodock acknowledges that government is a gift from God, he implicitly ignores Scripture in this matter. 1 Peter 2:13-14, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” Jodock concludes the essay by returning to more of a Scriptural bent, lulling the trusting reader into believing that the content of the entire essay is also Scripturally based.

When the leaders of the ELCA allow essays such as this, that are littered with untruths and misguided opinions, their members are put at risk. We are sheep of our Lord’s flock and we inherently trust that the leaders of God’s church are led by the Holy Spirit and that their teaching is necessarily God’s will for us. If only the leaders of the ELCA would get back to doing God’s work with their hands by saving the lost and bringing them to the Lord, rather that advocating for the things of this world. 1 Peter 1:24-25, “For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Boxing God

Those “unenlightened, traditional Christians that adhere to the doctrine of “Sola Scrptura” and uphold the authority of Scripture are often accused of putting God in a “box”. The progressive Christian looks upon those traditional Christians as “Bible Thumpers” that simply are following a book of outdated rules. Those progressives look at Scripture and see an archaic book, written by uneducated men, that contain interesting stories that are, unfortunately, wedded to the time and place where they were composed. That the authors of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit is something that only weak minded individuals would believe, say those enlightened by this modernistic religion where God is doing all kinds of new things. Jesus said in John 16:13-15, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” That our Lord and Savior told the Disciples that He would guide the Spirit in revealing the truth to them is of far lesser importance to the leaders of the progressive ELCA than striving for social justice.

Fact of the matter is that these so-called enlightened progressive Christians that currently hold authority within the ELCA do not put God in a box when they refuse to acknowledge anything that does not fit with what their expectations of God are. They infer that God is doing "new" things that, astonishingly, tell them only what they want to hear. Their doctrine of love, acceptance and tolerance extends only to those who think and believe as they do. Those progressive Christians that create a god in their own image are doing nothing short of fighting God. They are so hung up on the “law” that accepting the authority of Scripture is simply not tolerable. Listen to Nadia Bolz-Weber in her rant against the Christianity that has boundaries that she happens to personally disagree with. I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, but there she is, addressing the national youth gathering of the ELCA, in jeans and a tank top, showing off all of her tattoos that were etched upon her skin by a fellow drug addict. She proudly displays those signs from a former life that almost cost her life on this earth, but fails to use them to teach the young and impressionable a lesson. Yes, she extols the fact that it was by God’s grace that He lifted her out of a life of drugs and despair, but she offers nothing about faith in the Risen Christ and why God so loves His children. The story of her finding an appropriate church had nothing to do with God’s love or repentance, but all to do with feeling welcome in a “tolerant and enlightened” church replete with the appropriate diverse membership that was acceptable to her expectations. Her ideal church is not one that welcomes all sinners, but one that recognizes no sin, has no need for repentance, and has a god that meets her expectations, made in her own image.

So, while those that uphold the authority of Scripture supposedly place God in a box, progressive Christians literally punch Him in the mouth as they deny the very truths they are called to uphold. Bishop Mark Hanson was the keynote speaker that addressed the Lutherans Concerned conference in July of this year. In that address he stated, “I am so grateful for the church we are today—a church committed to welcoming all while valuing our differences and respecting diversity. Through this unity in diversity we show forth the body of Christ.“ Let me take creative license here and interpret for you Hanson’s real intent in this message. “I am deeply disturbed at the state of the church today. So many traditional Lutherans fail to see the advantage of secularizing our church. Affirming members within their sin allows us to take the high road and fit in with society, rather than undertaking the daunting task of bringing the lost to Christ. Lifting up the gospel of radical inclusiveness over the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings the ELCA greater respect in the eyes of the world, rather than being viewed as a backward thinking organization that clings to their Bibles. And becoming a new creation when Christ fills your heart, well that is overrated. Denying oneself has such a negative connotation, people feel much better pleasing themselves without having to give up those things that the selfish nature desires. Unity begins and ends with the diversity that is the ELCA.”

It is true that the leaders of the ELCA do not put God in a box. They continue be engaged in a battle, fighting against Him, striking our Lord with body blow after body blow with each “new” thing that disregards our Lord’s will. But understand this, Psalm 145:17-20, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” Continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seek the lost in order to lead them to Him. Pray for our brothers and sisters who remain lost within the ELCA, that their hearts, eyes and minds be opened and that they return to the path that our Lord has set before them.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Attention Deficit Disorder

Early on my son showed signs of an advanced intelligence, but also was plagued with inappropriate behavior. Tested at an I. Q. of 158, my wife and I had high expectations for him. Unfortunately, his behavior became more and more troublesome and his grades were well below average. When my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), it posed more questions than answers. Of course, we now had an excuse to blame his poor grades and misbehavior in school. This diagnosis also found that he was deficient in his verbal recognition skills. We had to learn to give him a single task with a single explanation to accomplish that task. Assigning more than one task led to unfulfilled errands and eventually led to us being disappointed and him becoming frustrated. Medications were prescribed, some that actually exacerbated his condition. His frustration with this condition led him to leave school before he graduated, leading my wife and I to exact some tough love, telling him he had to leave our home and strike out on his own. Sometimes, things work out that are just beyond explanation. Our son is now married, with two beautiful children, owns his own home, finished high school and is now attending college while he works full time. The Spirit moves in amazing ways.

The malady that has infected the ELCA is not unlike ADD. Unfortunately, the enlightened leaders of the ELCA do not have the high spiritual I. Q. that they believe they possess. Poor grades in upholding the authority of Scripture has nothing to do with a lack of focus or inability to concentrate. Misbehavior by lifting up the doctrine of bound conscience above the will of God has nothing to do with a deficiency in their ability to recognize the doctrine of Scripture Alone and to disregard those that preach the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, trying to gently correct and instruct. There are no medications that can open the eyes of the leaders of the ELCA that persist in focusing on the secular world to the detriment of the saving of souls. Their focus is so plain to so many, but the plank that is in their collective eye, unfortunately goes unnoticed by so many of their members who would rather maintain unity than uphold the authority of Scripture. Jeremiah 9:4-6, “Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD.“

Strong words, but like so much of God’s word, remains pertinent to what is happening today. The doctrine of bound conscience allows members of the ELCA to live in the midst of deception, denying God, while acknowledging themselves as their own god by worshipping themselves, their possessions, and their identities. When a church substitutes the truth and replaces it with lies, for the sake of being more welcoming, tolerant and open minded, they deceive themselves and their members. I am a sinner. I sin every day. I must be so disappointing to my Lord in my spiritual failure. I don’t ask Him to affirm my sin. I ask Him to forgive my transgressions and to help me to live up to the standards He wants me to follow. When a church throws out God’s law, and yes, we are no longer subject to the punishment of the law when we believe in God’s one true Son, those that accept this errant doctrine are encouraged to feed their selfishness. We all can love our brothers and sisters in Christ without regard to the sins they commit. If we fail to acknowledge that we are by nature sinful and unclean, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. We make our God out to be a liar!

I don’t qualify as one to determine whether or not homosexuality is a choice or is an innate predisposition of the human condition. What I do know is that Scripture is abundantly clear that God does not approve of that behavior. When one opens their heart and allows the Spirit to enter, we are then able to believe and have faith in the Risen Christ. When one realizes exactly what He did for us, we are deeply indebted to Jesus. We, indeed, need to learn to deny ourselves and to obey all of His teachings. We fall in love with Him and it becomes our joy to obey, placing God’s needs above our own. I also do not qualify as one to understand why it is necessary for a church to disregard Scripture and lift up sin as right with God, allowing those with desires strictly prohibited by God and sanction those wishing to lift up their selfishness, instead of denying themselves. What is so plain to so many is still lifted up by this errant denomination as the proper way to love the neighbor while they accuse those who disagree as homophobes, intolerant and hateful.

He who spoke the universe into existence has the final word in all this. Does this doctrine of bound conscience jeopardize the salvation of those who accept it? I don’t know, but I believe it opens a door to allow Satan easy access to our souls. He is the father of lies, and bound conscience is as big a lie as any church has foisted upon the faithful. Full inclusion of the LGTBQ community must be a goal of all churches, as we are called to love everyone as ourselves. So vital to the ELCA’s drive to have the LGTBQ community normalized is the anti-bullying program, It Gets Better. But, it is not only the LGTBQ community that faces bulling. People fall prey to bullying based upon their gender, sexual identity, race, or any other excuse.  Those engaging in bullying are to be sternly corrected to the full extent of man’s and God’s law, and this behavior is not to ever be tolerated. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. If my brothers and sisters in Christ can love me in spite of myself, we can love all our neighbors as well.

The doctrine of bound conscience allows one to sin without the need for repentance.  Minimizing sin by making confession and absolution optional in the ELCA liturgy, dilutes our faith and drives a wedge between themselves and God.  It has become apparent that the leaders of the ELCA have abandoned their authority as a church of God. God already comes to us, offering His abundant grace. Will you stand with a church that denies Him? 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. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

In a Twinkling of an Eye

For those who trust in the Risen Savior, death to this world is just a way to open a door into eternal paradise. When one believes and has faith in God’s one true Son, farewell to this world is a welcome sweet sorrow. Although we will have to wait, that wait will be but a twinkling of an eye. 1 Corinthians 15:52-54, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” For Jesus Christ paid the ransom for our sin, paving the way to our salvation. No matter how far short of the glory of God we fall, by faith, our Father will still welcome us into His kingdom. So, in that twinkling of an eye, when all are raised in that glorious day of judgment, we will be raised to new life, new bodies, and a new world, living in peace and harmony, eternally with our Lord and Savior.

My father in law passed away to this life this week and was born to new life with Jesus on August 23rd after a long struggle with diabetes. This is not a time for sorrow or mourning, but joy. Because Fred was right with his Lord and Savior. He believed in God’s one true Son. He believed that Jesus took all of his sins and willingly accepted the punishment that he deserved, so that when he leaves this life, he will be welcomed into his Father’s eternal kingdom. John 3:16-21, Jesus said, “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 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.”

Fred lived a full life out in the light, as a child of God. Although his struggles with diabetes robbed him of his legs and eventually caused his life on earth to end at age 82, we can truly say that he is in a better place, free from the pain and suffering of this life. My wife said he is now dancing with Jesus, since he will be made whole again in God’s eternal kingdom. This is the promise made to all who choose to believe in the Resurrected Christ. And yes, even though God offers His grace to all and Jesus died to save all of God’s children, we must have faith. Even though many “mainstream” churches, such as the ELCA, tacitly accept that grace is offered without the condition of faith, Christ own words reveal that such a teaching is in obvious error. Without the need for faith, Jesus’ death becomes meaningless. Galatians 3:24-27, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

God’s grace is there for all of His children. Believe in Him who God sent to save the world and paradise awaits at the end of this life. For this world is only a short audition for the true life, eternal life with our Father. To truly believe is to truly love our Lord and Savior. To truly love our Lord and Savior means to please Him in all we do and to give Him all the glory. To truly please Him means denying ourselves and giving ourselves to Him, obeying all of His teachings. It is not What Would Jesus Do, it is What Would Jesus Want Me To Do! Live for the Lord and proclaim His glory in everything you do. Do not pass up any opportunity that the Lord places before you to do His will and to show His love through you. Thanks be to God who gave us life and offers us salvation!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Symptoms of a Greater Disease

A cough and sore throat may simply reveal that the patient is suffering from a common cold. These same symptoms can also indicate a more insidious disease, such as throat cancer. Doctors that simply treat the symptoms, often keep their patients suffering from the disease that may not be diagnosed until it is too late. While alleviating symptoms may make the patient feel better temporarily, this will not cure the root cause of those symptoms. Treating the person as a whole, diagnosing the malady and prescribing a course of treatment that will lead to a cure, will make the patient whole again. An article printed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel March 15th, 2012 reported that the ELCA has issued yet another draft statement in their long line of social commentaries. This particular meddling in the affairs of the secular world calls for reform of the nation’s criminal justice system. Jeff Barrow, Bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA, called this a great idea and lamented about our broken justice system, stating, “The criminal justice system has not brought about any reforms, it’s expensive and I think there are better ways to make our communities safe.”

The article goes on to state, “Thursday’s statement says the ELCA affirms the fundamental principles of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as due process and the presumption of innocence, but that the system is in need of reform. The ELCA is troubled by the high rate of incarceration compared to the rest of the world, and racial disparities that lead to a higher rate of incarceration for minorities. It notes that 1 in 31 adults is in prison or on parole or probation; 1 in 11 for minorities. The statement calls for, among other things, greater use of prison alternative programs, changes in the national drug policy and opposition to the trend toward privatizing prisons.” Again the ELCA, so enamored of the world, fails to look toward God’s will for His children, and instead, looks to repair our broken world without His guidance.

After serving the Greater Milwaukee area as a law enforcement officer for almost 30 years, I have had more than a little experience in dealing with our criminal justice system. Those convicted of crimes are incarcerated according to state statutes and federal laws.To be a member of society requires one to obey the law of the land.  Those that choose to violate those laws pay the consequences for their disobedience.  In larger counties however, such as Milwaukee County, the justice system tends to be much more lenient, due, in part, to the vast number of criminal cases brought into the system. Many criminal charges are dismissed without the offender ever seeing a court room and many other offenders are diverted to alternate programs that often lead to the trivialization of the law. 1 Peter 2:13-17, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”

The misguided leaders of the ELCA try to cure the symptoms without regard to the very cause of the maladies befalling those that run afoul of the criminal justice system. We live in a society that actually promotes and rewards out of wedlock births. What was once a safety net for families in need, has now become an avenue for those who would rather depend upon the government for their livelihood than try to support themselves by entering the workforce. Offered just more than subsistence living conditions, low income women have numerous children by numerous fathers that often have little or no role in the upbringing of those children that they have fathered.  Families receive payments for each child, health care and transportation assistance.  These children are raised without a father's guidance, instead leaning almost exclusively on the women of their extended family. God rarely has a place in these families, so moral responsibility has become foreign to many of these children. This vacuum in their lives is often filled by association with other amoral individuals that have no respect for others, engaging in criminal and gang activity. These families have indeed become slaves to the government that supports them, nurtures them and makes them beholding to the politicians that enact these entitlements that many now believe that they deserve. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

While Scripture calls for God’s children to obey the laws of the world and that each of us should cheerfully give of ourselves to build up God’s kingdom, the leaders of the ELCA think it better to weaken the law and promote the selfishness of humankind. Without consequence those choosing to violate the law will not choose to obey if the laws are made more lenient. This tact does nothing to address the root cause of the crowded jail system in this country, nor will cause the crime rate to diminish.  If the leaders of the ELCA would choose to use their “bully pulpit” to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and call to repair our broken families, it just may begin to alleviate the problem with the disparities in our prison population. As we know, the ELCA is so obsessed with quotas, so perhaps they can begin with promoting the quota of one mother and one father as the family heads that work together raising children, teaching them the Lord’s prayer, the Ten Commandments and bringing them to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to know and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guity as Charged

As Christians we have a Savior that offered Himself and accepted the punishment that we deserve. Those who believe that God sent His one and only Son, to suffer and die for our sins, to descend into hell and on the third day rose to defeat death, receive the grace of God that leads to our salvation and eternal life with the Father. What far too many Christians forget, however, is that we remain guilty as charged. Though we no longer fear the punishment for our sins, we stand convicted, our sentence borne by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Romans 3:19-20, “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” And we are truly sinful, disobedient children. There is no one that is righteous and there is no one that deserves the gift of grace offered by our loving Father. Each and every time we dwell in His word, we learn more about our sinful selves. Scripture indeed convicts each one of us, yet that same Scripture lifts us up as it reveals God’s infinite love and abundant mercy for His children.

Galatians 2:17-21, “But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” We break the law every day, sometimes so frequently, we cannot even keep track of our transgressions. But, even as His disobedient children cause our Father consternation, we receive forgiveness for our sins, through faith in the Risen Christ. Does this mean that grace cancels the law? No, the two are intrinsically linked, for the law allows us to know right from wrong and the Gospel frees us from the consequence of our sin. Even though we are no longer under the punishment of the law, the law remains a guide for God's children to follow. To truly love our Lord means to obey and follow Jesus’ teachings, which includes obedience to the law.

For members of the ELCA, the doctrine of bound conscience means never having to say you’re sorry. It also means that members of the ELCA may believe whatever it is that trips their trigger, because the leaders of the ELCA reach out in their imperfect love and affirm those lost in sin. There is no need for repentance. There is no gratitude for a Savior who spilled His blood so that they may live. There is no guidance from the deceitful leaders of the ELCA to lead their members onto the narrow path that leads to salvation. The false doctrines that the leaders of the ELCA allow have no need of a Savior, because all are saved regardless of faith. Of course, this is not the official teaching of the ELCA, but these teachings are more than simply tolerated, they are given equal time to the teachings of Christ Himself. The doctrine of bound conscience is the lynchpin that all the other heresies accepted by the ELCA are connected. For without a method to allow a variety of beliefs and teachings, some that are contradictory to the very tenets of Christianity, the authority of Scripture could not be challenged, declared invalid in this "enlightened age" and amended by a sinful humanity to feed their selfishness.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” The doctrine of bound conscience allows one to selfishly maintain their sinful nature, denying our Lord and Savior. Is this what Jesus meant to deny himself or does this fit the actions of one who wants to save their own life?  Feeding the selfish nature denies no one but our Savior.  Does this necessarily cause one to lose their salvation? Not in and of itself, but it puts a foot in the door to continue to lift up one’s sinful nature that will eventually push God right out of the picture. As more and more Scripture is decared irrelevant by this misguided church, there will eventually be no need to rein in any of our sinful behavior. Without the law, we devolve into nothing more than intelligent mammals, clothed in our own selfish desires. No matter how hard we try, we continually fall into sin. But, when the sin is willful, deliberate and without repentance, it is displeasing to our God. And every Christian should want to please God first and foremost, denying oneself and carrying His cross, leaving our own desires secondary. Pray unceasingly for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to be, once again, taught from every pulpit in every church.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

See No Evil

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil is a phrase typically meant to describe someone who wants to avoid being embroiled in an uncomfortable or difficult situation. The three monkeys in a row covering their eyes, ears and mouth are universally recognized as the symbol of those that try to deal with misconduct or wrongdoing by refusing to acknowledge it, or by simply feigning ignorance. There are others, like the ELCA, do not simply feign ignorance. The leaders of the ELCA acquiesce to the cravings of a corrupted humanity, ignoring God’s word and create their own interpretation of Scripture, one that is deliberately contrary to God’s intent. Apparently it is easier to affirm sinful behavior than acknowledging that there is, indeed, evil in this world. Confession and absolution, once a mainstay of Lutheran doctrine, has become a casualty of the goal of affirming their members within their sin. What was once so very important in the Lutheran worship service to emphasize that humankind is by nature sinful and needs to acknowledge that fact, is made optional in ELCA churches, to be replaced with a celebration of baptism. Apparently, the leadership of the ELCA believes that to acknowledge that anyone can possibly fall short of the glory of God is much too harmful to the self-esteem of their membership. Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

For those in the ELCA, it is no longer necessary to admit one is sinful. The doctrine of bound conscience allows ELCA members to hold to their own interpretation of Scripture, and even if it is in obvious error, all are called to respect that opinion. So those that wish to uphold their selfish nature are allowed to lift themselves up and over the authority of Scripture. As Christians, we are ever indebted to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because He took upon Himself the punishment meant for us. When we want to prove our love to the One who gave His life for us, we should want to please Him in all we do. Jesus said in John 14:15, 21, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” We are called to obedience. Even though we are no longer under the law, Jesus commands us to obey. So, where does that leave the leadership of the ELCA that decides that God’s law is no longer relevant in this enlightened age? It is becoming increasingly clear that the ELCA has denied that any authority rests with Scripture, unless it fits with their misguided aspirations to place man’s worldly desires before the will of God.

The leaders of the ELCA see no evil when they disregard Scripture to affirm homosexual behavior. They hear no evil when bound conscience allows their members to disregard the word of God. But, they DO speak evil when they brazenly question the very tenets of our faith; the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ Resurrection, the deity of Christ, the existence of hell and promoting the concept of universalism. Of course, these are not the official teachings of the ELCA, but ELCA biblical scholars pen essays that are not only tolerated, but are published in official ELCA publications and on their websites. (see The Lutheran, Digging Deeper on the ELCA website) Furthermore, these heretical essays are given theological approval, indicating that many biblical scholars believe this way. The false gods of tolerance, diversity, and welcoming are paramount in the ministry of the ELCA. Members accept decisions made by the leadership of the ELCA because Jesus called all Christians to love your neighbor as yourself, and accepting and affirming those within their sin sounds so loving. It is nothing of the sort. Allowing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to go on believing that their church affirms what God rejects, drives them away from Him and into the arms of the evil one.

The leaders of the ELCA blind their membership with the promise of acceptance without regard to repentance. Once we come to know God and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become a new creation. What we once were is no more. Whatever sin we engaged in, whatever wrongs we committed are forgiven and we endeavor to leave our life of sin behind, living to give Him all the glory. Worldly desires please no one but the evil one. Activists for the LGTBQ community place conditions upon our God, which is nothing more than selfishly refusing to leave their life of sin behind. They refuse to give up engaging in behavior prohibited by God. “Full inclusion” in the church is selfishly requiring God to change to meet their expectations. Excuse me, but that is a little like having the tail wag the dog. God loves His children beyond measure, but we are called to obedience, not the other way around. God is our Father and He has the authority to require His children to meet His expectations. Now, none of us is without sin and no one is righteous, but;

Romans 3:21-26, “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of their sin and I hope they would love me in spite of mine. No one knows what is truly in our hearts except our God, and He does love us unconditionally. Will humankind’s preponderance to commit sinful acts jeopardize the grace extended to those with faith in the Risen Christ? No, but when we obey, our Father will be pleased. But, sin is disobedience and disobedience leads to lawlessness, which in turn feeds our selfishness, which ultimately leads us to deny our God the proper place in our lives. Our brothers and sisters in Christ that remain trapped within the progressive churches of the ELCA , Episcopal, and United Church of Christ need our prayers more than ever. As the leaders of these wayward churches advocate for the things of this world and lead their membership away from Christ, so many are at risk of losing their salvation. Pray unceasingly for their deliverance, continue to uphold the authority of Scripture and proclaim the Gospel, so that those that have not heard will come to Him and those who have become lost will return.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Me, Me, Me, I

Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, is actually the basis for all sin. Pride is mentioned 297 times in the Bible, most often in a negative connotation. When pride drives the self, it causes one to have an inflated opinion of one’s importance in the grand scheme of things. Pride, overdone, will eventually lead to vanity where one cannot pass by a mirror without admiring oneself and produces an undue desire to be admired by others, sometimes overwhelming reason. Vanity leads to conceit that manifests itself as an overinflated assessment of one’s status in this world. Then conceit leads one to fall in love with one’s self and suffer from the malady known as egotism. Unfortunately, all of humankind falls into this trap sometime or another. Our selfish human nature compels us to place our needs first. The First Commandment states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Who then is our god when we decide to worship ourselves, our possessions and our identities? For we certainly worship ourselves when we place ourselves before God.

LGTBQ activists have long advocated for full inclusion in the church. Apparently, acceptance as a child of God, sinful and unclean, like all of God’s children is insufficient. The sin of homosexuality must be accepted as not sinful in order to properly love and welcome this misguided class. Oh, how much easier it would be if God’s church affirmed my misbehavior by decreeing that it is no longer a sin. Too bad it would do nothing to make me right with God. In the Lutheran worship service there is what is known as confession and absolution where we confess our sins and the pastor affirms that God does indeed forgive us. 1 John 1:7-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” When one claims that the sin of homosexuality is no longer a sin, he deceives himself and makes God out to be a liar.

Are those that choose a lifestyle that is prohibited by God any worse than any other child of God? Absolutely not! Just like the rich man that would not follow Jesus because he did not want to give up his wealth, those who selfishly cling to the things of this world fall into the same trap. Each and every one of us commits the gravest of sins every day. Rather than give our God the first of ourselves, our time and our possessions, we selfishly take the first fruits, relegating the leftovers to God. God has given everything to us. Nothing belongs to us, it all belongs to Him. Yet, we cling to the notion that whatever we decide to give to Him is acceptable. Those that tithe simply give 10% to the church. Is that sufficient? “Gracious God, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us - ourselves, our time and our possessions - signs of your gracious love." When one invokes their bound conscience to usurp the authority of Scripture, they withhold themselves from God. They do not freely give themselves to Him. They withhold what the selfish nature wishes to retain. When Jesus told the parable about the rich young man, attaining the kingdom of heaven is not only difficult for a rich man to attain, the selfish will also find it difficult to attain.

The leadership of the ELCA has abdicated their responsibility to preach sound doctrine. They look at the world and have become enamored with it. They not only live in the world, they love the world. And this love of the world turns them away from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

The pursuit of social justice instead of the pursuit of souls for Christ cements this wayward denomination’s place in this world. No longer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to the world. Now the leadership of the ELCA determines that the love of the neighbor is paramount in their effort to repair our broken world. The gods of tolerance and acceptance are placed upon the altar to be worshipped. What is called sin by God is overruled and affirmed as no longer sinful by the leaders of the ELCA. Romans 6:11-14, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Offer yourself fully to the Lord. Love Him with all your heart, mind and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself, subservient to our Lord, not above Him.

Faith in the Risen Savior allows God’s grace to cancel your debt to sin. Even though we all fall short, our love and appreciation for what Jesus did for us compels us to please him in all we do. What pleases Him most is our willingness to serve Him with our obedience. The leadership of the ELCA has betrayed their call to serve the Lord. The leadership of the ELCA must reconcile with God in order to lead their membership back to the Lord. Their penchant to falsely affirm sinful behavior only widens the chasm between God and humankind. Pray unceasingly for the leadership of the ELCA to return to the Lord and once again do God’s work by reaching out to save the souls of the lost.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Speak the Truth to Power

This pretentious phrase has become a common expression used by liberal activists, or what they prefer to call themselves, progressives. Truth has little to do with those that utter this contradiction of terms, but it has much to do with power. This catchphrase is simply the excuse used by those on the left to disparage and demean conservative logic, since it is primarily used as a means to end an argument without the benefit of rational debate. The power is simply used to shut off any and all logical argument, especially conservative argument. There is little thought involved in much of the liberal or progressive agenda as, it merely involves vilifying someone or something, or pitting one class against another. We have witnessed the progressive left in politics speak this "truth", aiming their epithets and talking points at their declared enemies, the one percent. Most of these leftists cannot even articulate what it is that they so loudly protest. As a former liberal, I know of what I speak.

Now those who want to help those who have lost their way return to the Lord’s path are in the crosshairs of those they are trying to help. “Progressive” Christians chastise those with the temerity to uphold the authority of Scripture, by invoking this liberal talking point.  Lifting themselves up as tolerant, welcoming and loving they look with contempt at their conservative brothers and sisters in Christ who uphold the authority of Scripture, judging them to be hateful, bigoted and homophobic. They parrot tired and worn out slogans in a vain attempt to justify their selfish and deliberate disregard of God’s will. Rational argument quickly turns to verbal confrontation when those who adhere to traditional or classic Christian theology attempt to “gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:25 Criticisms also appear as comments in local newspapers, in Christian blogs, many by those with no stake in the local issue at hand (see Grace Lutheran in Eau Claire, WI) and in various articles written for the more progressive churches, such as the ELCA.

Progressive Christians continually proclaim that our Lord’s command to love one’s neighbor allows one to ignore that which the Lord prohibits, in order to properly welcome them to our Father’s house. It is simply a false argument that asserts that since God is good everything He has made must also be good. Since God made those with sinful proclivities, they “reason” that those proclivities must also be good.  So, those trapped within that sin are affirmed by declaring that behavior no longer sinful. Affirmation of those with a proclivity to engage in sinful behavior is NOT the way that our Lord taught as a way to properly love and welcome the neighbor.  Leaving a life of sin to love, worship and honor our God is a lesson taught over and over again in Scripture. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Titus 2:11-15

The amoral attitude of those that have the audacity to challenge God’s law simply advocates for man to usurp God’s role as the sole authority in our lives. The leaders of the ELCA lead the faithful over the edge like lemmings in their misguided attempt to normalize that which our God forbids. What the world accepts is of no consequence to our Lord’s command. What His church accepts is another matter altogether. Scripture is the sole authority in our faith lives and any church that would have its members disregard God’s word and replace it with “new things” leads its members away from Him. Jesus has all authority and it is the leaders of God’s church that are called to uphold His word. “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “ John 17:1-5

Pray that the leaders of the ELCA abandon their attempt to be of the world.  Continue to pray that those true to the Lord recognize the truth and walk away from the apostasy of the ELCA.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Queer Eye for the Faith Guy

The Bravo Channel, a cable network, offered up a show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, from 2003-2007, where 5 gay men, adept at interior design and personal clothing selection helped straight men become more contemporary. Usually the straight guy needed an upgrade from his typical ensemble of blue jeans and a flannel shirt or his home and/or apartment needed to be transformed into something that did not fall into the category of man-cave or worse, a pigsty. This show was popular for several years and became a favorite of the twenty-something college crowd.  The effort to mainstream the LGTBQ lifestyle eventually led to the formation of the LOGO cable network, launched in 2005, that caters to that lifestyle choice. Those that have chosen an alternate lifestyle are now often looked upon and cool, hip and enlightened, especially in the secular world.  Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA follows in the footsteps of those cable networks as he caters to those choosing to lead an alternate lifestyle. Much effort is put into anti-bullying, directed primarily as support for LGTBQ individuals through the “It gets better” project. Understand that it is absolutely reprehensible to discriminate, bully or treat those that choose alternate lifestyles as someone to scorn. Everyone is a child of God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, no matter their life choices. What is problematic though, is that Bishop Hanson affirms that lifestyle even though Scripture is abundantly clear that God does not approve.

So, why does the leader of the largest Lutheran Church in America decide that what God has obviously forbidden, is to be affirmed by God’s church? Hanson tries to explain that, somehow, God is telling us new things and that apparently, God (through the Holy Spirit inspired authors of Scripture) could not possibly fully understand that the alternate lifestyle would evolve as it has. It is also the misguided love of neighbor that drives his crusade to normalize the homosexual lifestyle. Is the sin of homosexuality any worse than any of the sins supposedly good Christians commit every day? No, it is not. Whenever I, as a married man, look at a woman with lust in my heart, I commit the sin of adultery. Whenever I place my needs ahead of God’s will, I place myself on the altar and push my Lord away. Should the church affirm this type of behavior as right with God? Of course not! 1 John 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, Hanson has the authority to declare the entire forgiveness of all of our sins. But, what he does not have, is the authority to declare that which God has forbidden, is no longer prohibited and is acceptable in the eyes of God.

We trust that the leaders of God’s church are inspired by the Holy Spirit to lead us in ways that are pleasing to our Lord. We accept that the message from the leaders of God’s church is the truth and they would never lead us astray. But, they are not only ministers of God’s church. They are also sinful human beings just like every one of us. When one uses human understanding to try to discern God’s will, one may just hear what they long to hear, rather than where the Holy Spirit is leading. When one believes that their own imperfect human love approaches the pure and perfect love of our God, one can disregard the truth and replace it with the desires of imperfect human beings. All believers are equally inadequate before God and fall woefully short of the glory of God. But, when God’s children trust the leaders of God’s church and are led astray by those leaders, a heavy burden falls upon those leaders. Just as the police officer is held to a higher standard of the law, the leaders of God’s church must endeavor to preach the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that with the power of the Holy Spirit, those that are lost may come to believe. If they lead their flock astray, Jesus said in Luke 17:1-3, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”

The misconception that one must accept sinful behavior as somehow pleasing to God in order to properly love the neighbor, makes no sense whatsoever. Do I expect that my brothers and sisters in Christ look upon me as righteous, even though I am a greater sinner than they? Do I withhold my love of my brother until they accept my sin as acceptable to God? It doesn’t matter what your sin. It doesn’t matter what you have done. It doesn’t matter what you have failed to do. Faith in the living Christ is what matters. And if you truly love the Lord, you will want to please Him. If you want to please the Lord, you will try your best to delight in His will and walk in His ways. If you love Him, you will want to give all the glory to His Holy Name. My Savior and king died for me, an unworthy sinner and I am forever grateful. It is time for Mark Hanson lead his flock to the truth and not simply placate those that want their earthly desires affirmed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Devil's Advocate

In the 1997 movie, Devil’s Advocate, Al Pacino skillfully plays the role of Attorney John Milton, the human form that Satan has taken. Near the climax of the movie, Satan was attempting to convince his son, attorney Kevin Lomax, played by Keanu Reeves, to join forces with him. Pacino was describing how he, Satan, was going to take over the world and win the battle against God through the law profession. Reeves asks him, “Why lawyers? Why the law?” Pacino answers, “Because, the law my boy, puts us into everything. It's the ultimate backstage pass. It's the new priesthood, baby. Did you know there are more students in law school ...than lawyers walking the Earth? We're coming out...guns blazing! The two of you...all of us, acquittal after acquittal after acquittal...until the stench of it reaches so high and far into chokes the whole f----g lot of them!” The ELCA, in an effort to maintain their grip on the things of this world, while disregarding God’s law, have decided that man’s law can be used to their advantage. Following in the footsteps of their ecclesiastic bothers in the Episcopal Church, where church property belongs to the greater church organization, they have decided to attempt to seize the assets of churches that choose to leave. Those congregations attempting to break fellowship are taken to court in an effort to wrest whatever assets this greedy organization can take. After all it takes a lot of money to run their bloated bureaucracy. Abandoning their responsibility to preach the Gospel to the world and bring the lost to Christ is also apparently quite expensive.

Some of the churches affected by this new approach are Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, WI, where Bishop Duane Peterson, is leading 70 congregants that support the ELCA, into court in an effort to seize the congregation’s ample assets. Initially, Peterson offered support to the "Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community" by starting a mission church, sharing facilities with First Lutheran, another ELCA church in Eau Claire, agreeing to find an alternate worship site by February 1st 2011. When the pastor of First Lutheran held fast to the deadline, he was removed by the synod, throwing another congregation into turmoil. Peterson then decided to facilitate, what became known as Amazing Grace Lutheran, into bringing legal action against Grace Lutheran. While Peterson fights Grace Lutheran from breaking fellowship with the ELCA, he himself is embroiled in a divorce action with his wife. Even though ELCA church policy advises clergy involved in divorce proceedings to refrain from active ministry, this does not deter this champion of the ELCA from his attempt to cause strife, division and suffering for this congregation that voted unanimously (322-0) to break fellowship with the ELCA.

Redeemer Lutheran in East Falls, Philadelphia, PA was sued by the Southeastern Pennsylvanian Synod of the ELCA in an attempt to take control of congregation’s assets and property. In 2007, Synod Council assessed the fragile status of Redeemer, including its diminished attendance records, income and expense figures, and approved a resolution authorizing Bishop Burkat to take Redeemer under "involuntary synodical administration" in accordance with Section 13.24 of the Synod Constitution, in effect, ordering the church council to turn over the keys, checkbook and vacate the property. The ELCA ultimately locked out the Redeemer congregation and there are still counter suits by the Redeemer congregation to regain their church property, valued at over $1.5 million. I’m certain that the property value had little to do with the ELCA effort to seize that church and its assets.

Life Lutheran Church in Richmond, CA, an ELCA congregation, one of only two congregations serving Chinese-Americans in the area, were given a building that was closed by the ELCA and formerly served by the current pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church, also known as “Her Church”. After beginning the process of breaking fellowship with the ELCA, Life Lutheran was taken to court by the ELCA in an effort to reclaim the property and evict them from the building. Life Lutheran left the ELCA in 2011 and joined LCMC. Life Lutheran continues to worship at their church, but legal proceedings are still in process.

So, perhaps the stench of these legal actions, initiated by the so very tolerant, loving and welcoming organization commonly referred to as the ELCA, is reaching the realm of Heaven. This just may be the new priesthood for this family of believers that cling to an organization while relegating our Lord to what they consider His rightful place, just below the enlightened leaders of this misguided organization. Reject the apostasy preached by the leaders of what was once one of God’s churches. Hold fast to the truth so that you can recognize Satan at work in this world. Pray unceasingly for God’s children to be rescued from the pit that has become the ELCA. 1 Peter 2:7-10, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”