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.