Monday, January 30, 2012

Rules, Rules, Rules

Some people think that being a Christian involves nothing more than simply obeying the rules of a condemnatory and unfair God. They charge that Christians are nothing more than hypocrites, judging others for the same shortcomings they possess themselves, while breaking all the rules they profess to honor. Then there is the dilemma of how a loving God could sacrifice His only Son to satisfy His anger against a sinful humanity. “Forward thinking” churches chide those that continue to respect the authority of Scripture as Biblical literalists that use God’s word as a war club to disparage those that have an opinion contrary to their own. Modern “Christians” have become so smitten with the things of this new and enlightened religion that they fail to see the plank stuck in their collective eyes. Those that lift up the love of the neighbor above the love of our Lord have indeed blinded themselves to the cost of this misguided love. Without first filling our hearts with the love of our Lord and Savior, we will find only an imperfect and unwise understanding that is steeped in human selfishness.

By allowing their members to have their cake and eat it too, the leadership of the ELCA encourages its’ membership to place themselves above our God. If they could just understand how much harm they are doing by affirming sinful behavior. It’s not the point that God has prohibited certain behaviors. It’s the point that by disobeying we place our desires before God’s will. Disobedience is willfully placing ourselves above God, believing that it is man that is in authority. Our sins are no longer held against us because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins with His precious blood. So, even though we rebel and disobey, our Father still has a place in His heavenly home for those that have faith in the Risen Christ. When we sin, it is not about breaking rules. It’s about the chain of command. Every time we sin, our selfishness supersedes our Lord. We place ourselves in authority, rather than looking to conform to His will. We need to turn our lives over to our Savior and that means placing Him first. Without Him, we are the nonproductive branch that is pruned, left to wither and thrown into the fire. If left to our own designs, we consistently make a mess of things. Without our God’s guidance we are nothing but human animals, looking to satisfy every worldly desire without regard to our neighbor.

Every single one of us Christians continually fall short of the glory of our Lord by breaking the 1st commandment over and over. God made us selfish creatures and that is in stark evidence throughout our lives. There was once a little boy whose friend asked him, “If you are such a good Christian, why do you need to go to church every Sunday? The little boy answered his friend, “Practice!” We need to be regularly filled with the word of God and to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ preached so that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can come to better love and serve our Lord. We need to continue to meet with other believers and dwell in His word, to lift up, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  The only time Scripture is to be used as a war club is when using it in battle with the evil one.

As for the vengeful God whose bloodlust cost His only Son His life, Jesus said in John 10:20, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is one with the Father. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and three, together, yet separate. Jesus was with the Father from the beginning, the word made flesh. When Jesus hung on the cross, God experienced every ache, every pain, suffering the punishment meant for a sinful humanity because He was on that cross. Tim Keller, from The Reason for God, “Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Forgiveness is the ultimate surrender. To forgive means relinquishing any claim of recompense, in fact refusing to accept restitution for any damage incurred. Rather than punishing those that wronged Him, God took upon Himself the punishment meant for us, His children. He took the bullet for us and forfeit His life in order that we may live. He is a loving God.

Once we come to realize that our selfish nature places us at odds with our God and decide to submit to His authority, our lives will start to fall into place. We will gladly obey, for that is what is pleasing to our Lord. John 14:23, “Jesus replied, "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.” We will begin to transform our selfish nature into one who gladly serves the Lord and proclaims His glory. When we reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction, we do so, not to call them out as rule breakers, but to save them from themselves. Our love of our brothers and sisters in Christ compels us to keep them on the narrow path. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Enemy Within

In 1948 Walt Kelly created a comic strip entitled “Pogo”. Pogo was an opossum living in the Okefenokee Swamp with his numerous friends, including Albert the Alligator, Howland Owl, and Churchy LaFemme the turtle. This comic strip was seeped in social and political satire making many of the politicians and organizations of that day targets of the clever wit of Mr. Kelley, as told through his characters. Pogo coined one particular philosophical phrase that still resonates today, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The ELCA has met and actually embraced the enemy. The enemy is the sin of lifting up the self over our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This love of the self is how Satan leads us to sin, by inferring that we are equal or more important than our God. In the garden of Eden, Satan as the snake, led Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of life. How? Genesis 3:4-5, “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan tempts Eve with the implication God lied to her and that she will become like God if she simply eats the fruit. How often do we also eat of that fruit?

The deepest and darkest sin that man can commit is placing possessions, identity, and the self above the love of our Lord. When we come first, necessarily our Lord comes in second. When we truly love our Lord, our greatest goal should be to please Him. The leaders of the ELCA seek the things of this world instead of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeking the souls of the lost. When they reach out with their imperfect human love to the LGTBQ community in order to be more welcoming, tolerant and diverse, they fail those that need to come to the Lord, repent of their sin and make themselves right with Him. Affirming those who choose to please themselves, not God, and lead a sinful life, only bestows upon them the errant blessing of the church to continue to love themselves, their possessions and their identities above the love of the Lord.

The Lutheran rite of confession and forgiveness, that has now become optional in the ELCA, comes from 1 John 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Then we continue, “Most merciful God, we further confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.”

We are all sinners, no better or no worse than any other. When we fail to acknowledge our sinful nature, we make it even easier to partake of the forbidden fruit, fooling ourselves into believing that we are, somehow, like God. Even though these words and this prayer is spoken each worship service by confessing Lutherans, it now in the process of being eliminated by the enlightened leadership of the ELCA. Apparently, God is lower in the pecking order according to the enlightened elites of the ELCA. Of course, those backward Bible thumping churches are still allowed to use these obsolete rites, but those elightened churches that choose to be more diverse and incorporate other religion's rites are lifted up by this wayward denomination.  God has become an afterthought as it is grace for all, believe as you want, just make sure to come to our church and lay your money down. How sad it is for those thirsting for His word to fall into the trap that the leaders of the ELCA have laid.

The ELCA has been faced with the reality of falling membership because the leaders have decided to make social justice, intrinsically wedded to the love of self, the overriding emphasis of their ministry. Problem is, that this social activism that the ELCA continues to engage in, does little to lift up our Lord’s ministry on this earth. This far left agenda has placed the ELCA at odds with those that cling to traditional or classic Lutheranism. As more and more Lutherans that adhere to the authority of Scripture leave the pews of ELCA churches, someone needs to replace them and the financial support that has left with them. So, the leaders, ever aware that their left leaning doctrine pushes the traditional Lutheran away, decide to move even further left and court those that want to be affirmed within their sin, rather than to seek Him. Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  The ELCA continues to lift up the love of self, citing that their diversity of beliefs somehow adds to the strength of their church.  This does nothing but trick those who place their trust in this misguided church, just like the serpent tricked Eve.  Continue in prayer that more deny themselves and seek the Lord with all their hearts, that they open their hearts and minds to the Truth and return to Him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reconciled in Christ

To: Mark Hanson, presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

On Sunday, January 16, 2012 our congregation sang a praise hymn entitled Speak, O Lord. I can’t recall the last time this praise hymn was used in one of our services, but the Holy Spirit spoke loud and clear through this hymn of praise. If you haven’t experienced the words in a while, here they are for you. “Speak, O Lord as we come to know You, to receive the food of Your Holy Word. Take Your Truth and plant it deep in us. Shape and fashion us in Your likeness, that the light of Christ might be seen today in our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak O Lord and fulfill in us all Your purposes for your glory. Teach us Lord, full obedience, holy reverence, and true humility. Test our thoughts and our attitudes in the radiance of Your purity. Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see Your majestic love and authority. Yours are words of power that can never fail and let their truth prevail over unbelief. Speak O Lord and renew our minds and help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us. Truths unchanged from the dawn of time that will echo down through eternity. And by grace we'll’ stand on Your promises and by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us. Speak, O Lord till Your church is built and the earth is filled with Your glory.”

Now, you may wonder why this letter is entitled reconciled in Christ, because in the ELCA, this phrase denotes those churches that reach out to the LGTBQ community. Well, if you really read the words above and let the Holy Spirit fill your heart and allow you to discern what “new thing God is saying”, you will discover that there really are not two hermeneutics or paradigms at work that are irreconcilable in the interpretation of God's word. His words are timeless and everlasting. His words are true and most assuredly pertinent to our lives today. Obeying His commands bring us great joy, because we truly want to please the One we love. Because it is when we abandon our goal to please ourselves and decide to turn our lives over to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we find true fulfillment in the goal of pleasing Him. When we give our lives to Christ, we will find that we need not fulfill ourselves with the things of this world, our fulfillment is simply leading a life pleasing to our Lord and Savior. This means abandoning our identities and becoming Disciples of Christ. And Disciples of Christ love everyone, even if it means correcting, rebuking and encouraging--with great patience and careful instruction.

Bishop Hanson, please reconcile the doctrine of bound conscience when we are called to let Scripture lead us in all matters of faith and in our Christian lives. Tell us how this false gospel teaches us full obedience when those that accept this doctrine place themselves in authority of Scripture. Explain how this allows His Truth to remain unchanged from the dawn of time and echo through eternity. Defend the ELCA officially disregarding Scripture and overturning God’s law by enacting doctrine to declare homosexuality right in God’s eyes. Enlighten us on the method in which bound conscience allows us to let His truth prevail over unbelief. Justify how this shapes us in His likeness and does not, in fact, open the door for man to try to make God in his own image.

Bishop Hanson, describe just how a diversity of beliefs causes our faith to rise and to see and understand His majestic love and authority. Illuminate us how those who declare that faith in the Risen Christ is unnecessary to gain salvation can still walk as God walks with us. Rationalize to us poor uneducated, unwashed masses that accept that without faith, we cannot enter into His kingdom. If our Lord and Savior told us that He is the way and the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him, how does the ELCA acquiesce to this misguided belief and not reach out in true Christian love to bring back those who have gone astray?

As the leader of a church of over 4 million, you sir, have the responsibility to preach the pure Gospel so that those that hear can be inspired by the Holy Spirit to come to accept the Truth that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You must help feed the food of His holy word so that Truth can be planted deep within us. By appeasing every wayward belief under the sun and allowing those to fall off the narrow path is certainly not what the Lord called you to do. With great authority comes great responsibility and every brother and sister lost to the Lord because you choose to neglect the responsibilities of your office pleases no one but the evil one. His are the words of power that can never fail. With those words our Lord will fulfill in us all His purposes for His glory. His words can renew our minds and help us grasp the heights of His plans for us. Bishop Hanson, it is time to lead your flock back to the Lord. Jesus said in John 17:15, 17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Our prayer is that you return to the true Gospel and uphold sound Christian doctrine so that all of God’s children come to Him.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bite the Hand

As a person who shares his household with three Siberian Huskies, I understand how important it is to make certain that my dogs understand and acknowledge that I am the alpha male of our pack. The alpha dog has first priority at feeding time and any treats or toys must be surrendered without question. (no growling allowed!) Any protestation from the dog must be answered and corrected. The dog must submit to the authority of the alpha in order to maintain control of the animal. Some humans, however, are not as easily trained and do in fact, bite the hand that feeds them.  ELCA presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has the temerity to challenge the very truths he is charged to uphold. The office that he holds is one of great responsibility. The Presiding Bishop acts as the chief ecumenical officer of the church and supervises all of the synodical bishops. The presiding bishop chairs the biennial Churchwide Assembly and approves the agendas for the assembly, the Church Council and its executive committee. The Presiding Bishop has the responsibility to establish policy and doctrinal direction, and oversees the administration of the entire church. The presiding Bishop also is charged to maintain sound doctrine and to enforce discipline against pastors engaging in heretical teaching. So, if the ELCA loses its way, the buck stops with the presiding bishop, since the responsibility to “keep the ship afloat” ultimately rests with that office.

Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” God offers His grace freely, to anyone who has faith in the Risen Christ. ELCA scholars endorse, and some teach, the idea that man is saved by grace alone, regardless of faith or belief. This gospel of universalism is not the official doctrine of the ELCA, but those that choose to believe this false gospel are welcomed and accepted without the slightest effort to correct this errant belief. John 16:7-10, Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” Luther explained these verses in one of his sermons. “However, here the Lord speaks quite differently, and says, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me.” Unbelief only is mentioned here as sin, and faith is praised as suppressing and extinguishing the other sins, even the sins in the saints. Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sin dare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sins condemn them.” Although we are no longer bound by the law, it remains valid and violations continue to be sins, no matter what this errant denomination teaches and believes. But, when we believe in the Risen Christ, those sins will no longer lead us to condemnation.

Our Lord and Savior gave His life for us, and the leader of the ELCA decides that he is the one who makes the rules and rejects the conditions of the One who offers salvation. Hanson and the leaders of the ELCA refuse the gift of grace by faith to embrace the gospel of universal salvation, or grace alone, no faith necessary, deceiving the faithful with appealing and pleasant words. They uphold the love of the neighbor over the love of our God, advocate that we should strive to fix our broken world, and emphasize the goal of social justice. These things sound so right, but what is truly missing in their ministry is the most important thing, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How much longer will the Master tolerate these impudent and presumptuous children that continually bite His benevolent hand? 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Spoiled Rotten

Our society has embraced the practice of providing whatever it is that our children want without question. Play Station, Xbox, and WII with all their inherent violence is offered as a substitute for the responsibility of parental nurturing and direction. Cell phones and any and all technological advances are offered as bribes so that parents need not bother themselves with “quality time” with their kids. It used to be that the television was called the babysitter, something to keep the kids attention while we attend to our own desires. Now there is so much technology to occupy our kids, we don’t even need to talk to them personally, as we can now simply text the daily instructions. Somehow this is considered adequate. Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging have replaced one on one conversation and include information that was at one time considered private and personal. Not only are our children spoiled, the ease in which we lavish gifts upon ourselves is utterly mind boggling. We lack for nothing in our modern society. Or do we?

Public school systems in major urban areas in the US typically have graduation rates less than 30%. Those institutions produce high school students that, on average, are reading at a 6th grade level or less. Many of these urban children come from impoverished single parent families that lack a father as a role model. Federal and state governments attempt to fill this void by subsidizing these low income families, apportioning them just enough to get by, but failing to provide enough assistance to eliminate the poverty that surrounds them. The government has decided to replace the ”nuclear family” by offering a subsistence existence by providing financial aid that, in effect, preserves a state of poverty. Politicians and advocates call our school system broken and look to place more public funding to “fix” the problem. This “new” single parent family, dependent upon government assistance, does little to install the values and morals that our God has placed before us. Deuteronomy 6:5-9, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

This self-centered society of ours relies upon secular values while it diminishes the role of our God. Placing God secondary to oneself is a recipe for disaster. The doctrine of bound conscience, so integral to the “new things” that the ELCA pronounces that God is telling them, is rooted in the worship of the self. This doctrine places man in authority of Scripture and in effect, of our God. God’s spoiled rotten children have become so enamored of themselves that they have the audacity to tell Him that they will not feel welcome in His church unless their immoral behavior is accepted as good in His sight. Some of us are apparently so used to getting our way, that they demand that God meets their criteria and the leadership of the ELCA bends over backwards to placate those who complain about “outdated rules”. Those unwashed and uneducated Apostles, overflowing with the power of the Holy Spirit, compile God’s word in the Holy Bible, and the ELCA is quick to proclaim that they would have no idea how modern man understands human sexuality. I’m sorry, but God made, not only the entire universe, but He created humankind with a word. Our God is intimately aware of human sexuality and took the time to inform those Apostles and other authors of Scripture of the importance of human sexuality and that it is a gift to be shared by one man and one woman within the bonds of holy matrimony.

Our God comes to us, offering eternal life, simply requiring that we believe and have faith in the Risen Christ, and there are those who will only accept this gift on their terms! And the ELCA is a willing accomplice to those who do not want to give up their sinful lives. Even though we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, He welcomes us in spite of our shortcomings. The ELCA welcomes sinners, but deceives them with the promise to affirm them within their sin. There is no need for forgiveness for the leaders of the ELCA teach that there is no sin. Galatians 6:8, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. “ By falling into the trap set by the evil one and placing human desires before our God’s law, the leaders of the ELCA sows to please the sinful nature, putting their membership at risk. Continue in prayer for those lost within the ELCA that they will see the Truth, turn away from the things of this world and return to the calling of pleasing the Spirit.