Monday, May 27, 2013

Mutually Inclusive

Many in the secular world decry Christianity as being the most exclusive religion. After all, Christianity confesses only one way to salvation, faith in the Risen Christ. John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” This “exclusive” way to heaven is derided by those much more enlightened than I, labeling Christians as condemning, self-righteous and hypocritical. How could Christians be certain that there are not many other valid religious beliefs and alternate paths to salvation? “After all, and as many Evangelical Christians have argued, if you can go to heaven without believing in Christ, what's the point of faith in the first place? This certainty, in turn, lends believers a sense of authority, even power, as they have a clear standard by which to judge "who's in" and "who's out." Talk about seductive!” David Lose, Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary St. Paul. MN.

It just may be true that other religions worship the same God. Unfortunately, human beings have perverted God's will by using their flawed and selfish reasoning. Many religions, even with the best of intentions, just plain get it wrong. Christianity, while also governed by flawed human beings, looks to the writings of the Holy Spirit inspired authors of the Bible. And many Christian churches have also betrayed our Lord and Savior in their misguided attempts to fix our broken world. Jesus called upon us to preach the Gospel and to make disciples of the world, but there is no earthly requirement that anyone must accept the truth of Jesus Christ. If one hears and chooses to ignore the Word, there are no earthly consequences. If one truly accepts, nothing else is necessary to receive the gifts of grace, forgiveness and salvation. One is free to continue living as they did before. But, once one receives the joy of salvation and understands the sacrifice our Lord and Savior made for us, everything changes. We are so grateful that we want to please our Lord in all we do, and obedience to His will becomes an honor and joy rather than simply rules that we must obey. Everything we are and have, are gifts from a loving God. We are imperfect, sinful human beings that deliberately disobey and dishonor our Father in Heaven each and every day. Yet, the only requirement that our God places upon His children to obtain eternal life is to believe that His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, took upon himself the punishment meant for us, His sinful and disobedient children.

Many of the more tolerant and open minded in society believe that today’s morality trumps what Christianity teaches. Many progressive churches, including the ELCA, agree with society as they call out those that hold fast to the authority of Scripture. Problem is, they are actually right and yet they are totally wrong. They are right asking why would anyone want to be a part of a religion that has so many judgmental hypocrites sitting in their pews? Well, I for one, stand accused and am guilty as charged. So does every other Christian in this imperfect world. There are no righteous human beings in this world, especially not any Christians. There is a reason that we need a Savior and Redeemer, because, if it was up to us to earn our salvation, we never could. To those who reject our Lord and Savior because of me and my fellow believers, please understand that I am a greater sinner than any of you could possibly be. I want everyone to share in the joy that faith in the Risen Christ can bring. I want everyone to come to Him and be granted eternal life. I want everyone to love and care for their neighbor.

They are wrong because God created this world for us, His children. If you want to believe that, somehow, all of this was some random comingling of molecules and just a mathematical inevitability, take a look around you. See how intricate this world and universe is and try to come to the conclusion that God did not create it. As awesome as God is, He cares for and loves each and every one of us. He wants so much to live with His children in eternity that, rather than punish us justly for our sinfulness, He sent His only Son, to take our place. Now understand that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three, but also one, so when Jesus hung on that cross, God Himself was experiencing the pain and suffering in our stead. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s act of forgiveness was accepting the punishment meant for us. Total, complete, and utter forgiveness, no matter what you have done. Just believe that Christ died for you. No conditions. There is no requirement that you face the east and pray five times daily. You don’t even have to pray at all if you so choose. Non-believers are not required to be converted or killed. There are no enemies to Christianity but the devil and his minions.

They are wrong when so many progressive churches, like the ELCA, go out of their way to be more inclusive in order to placate the secular world. Christianity could not be more inclusive as the gift of eternal life is offered to all who choose to simply have faith in the Risen Christ. John 6:40, Jesus said, “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." What could be more inclusive than that?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Deliberate Inaction

The late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who transformed society by not just talking the talk, but walking the walk of Jesus Christ. Dr. King influenced generations with his words and deeds. “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” He was calling out those that stand by when their brothers and sisters in Christ were treated unjustly, simply because of the color of their skin, and turning their heads away as if they could not see. Jesus said in Matthew 25:46, “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Far too often we turn a blind eye to man’s injustice to his fellow man. Even more frequently, we fail to do those things that could truly make a difference in the lives of our neighbor.

Today, we live in an age that celebrates when a professional athlete admits to deliberately breaking God’s heart. Society applauds his “coming out” by dubbing him a hero, as if it is truly right and salutary, that in all times and in all places we give thanks to those that push God aside and place themselves upon the altar to worship. This is how far humanity has fallen away from God. We are all sinful and unclean and we sin incessantly by thought, word and deed, by commission and omission. Christians today speak volumes by what we fail to say than those times when we choose to actually proclaim our faith in the Risen Christ. As a former member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, I know from where I speak. Far too often, when delegates were needed to attend synod assemblies, I kept my hand down and tried not to make eye contact with my pastor, lest he shame me into accepting an invitation. When I finally relented and attended my first Greater Milwaukee synod assembly in 2008, what I found was a church that I no longer recognized.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Instead of being fed the bread of life and worshipping, the assembly concentrated on social issues, such as anti-racism, which was described mostly as “white privilege”, immigration reform, the Iraq war, human sexuality, universal health care and environmentalism. Resolutions were brought forward that advocated for the synod to actively violate law, engage in civil disobedience and to openly overturn Scripture. I felt as if I had stumbled into a Democrat convention or the Occupation Movement, not a gathering of God’s people. Standing at the red microphone to challenge the resolution advocating for universal healthcare for all living within the borders of the US, which included those in this country illegally, the GMS bishop Paul Stumme-Diers told me I needed to go to the green mike to speak in favor of the resolution. When I told him that I was at the correct mike, his eyes widened.

Romans 13:1-5, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” As a person who protected the public and upheld those laws for 30 years, urging God’s people to engage in unlawful conduct was not only improper, it violated the words of Scripture. I was almost shouted down after reading from the Bible. This just reinforced that this church was not just walking away from God, they were running away.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We have remained silent for too long. It is time to lift up our voices for the Lord. Progressive churches like the ELCA are leading the faithful away from our Lord and Savior, using the false gospels of affirmation, bound conscience and lifting up the love of the neighbor over the love of God. Jesus said in Mark 9:26, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Is our silence evidence of our shame? Those that profess their faith in the Risen Christ in other parts of the world are subject to physical violence, even the loss of their life. In the US we worry about being looked upon as a “weak minded” Christian Bible thumper that clings to the Bible and our guns. We are called to proclaim His glory to the ends of the earth. Far too many of God’s churches are preaching a gospel other that the Gospel that our Savior taught and lived. The responsibility now falls to us. Continue to meet and study His word and build up your spiritual armor so that you will be properly equipped to save the lost. Our Lord and Savior said in Mark 4:21-23, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” Now is the time to take action. Stand up and be counted among the faithful! Share the joy of your salvation, given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.” Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Just Sayin'

One is often judged, fairly or unfairly, by the company they keep. Hang with someone who is a thief and it may be assumed that you are also a thief. Affiliate with an organization and those values espoused by that organization are assumed to be yours. Fair or not, it is what it is. While our Lord and Savior hung around with those judged not acceptable by society, He came to heal their spiritual shortcomings. Jesus healed the sick, both physically and spiritually. So, when Jesus sat down with prostitutes and tax collectors, He did so to heal their hearts and lead them back to righteousness. Unfortunately, in this new enlightened age, the leaders of the ELCA conspire with the world and enlist the law to enforce their idea of justice.

The leadership of Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin was troubled by the doctrinal shifts of the ELCA. Discerning their role in a denomination that no longer held fast to traditional Lutheran doctrine, they chose to allow their congregation to decide if they wanted to remain affiliated with the ELCA. Their first vote passed, but the second failed to reach the required two thirds majority. After the vote, the leadership of Grace decided to affiliate jointly with the LCMC and ELCA, since the majority of the congregation had voted to leave the ELCA. Now, the plot thickens. About 70 disgruntled ELCA supporters left Grace and began to do whatever they could to disrupt the congregation that they once worshipped with. Anonymous complaints made against a council member at their place of employment. An unauthorized Facebook page purporting to be the official Grace Lutheran worship community was set up announcing that worship services would no longer be held at the church. Some would call this persistent troublemaking, but the all welcoming, all inclusive and tolerant ELCA not only allowed this behavior, they encouraged it.

Out of a few angry congregants, "Amazing Grace" was born and dubbed the “synodically authorized worship community”, to be led by none other than Bishop Duane Peterson, himself embroiled in a messy divorce. Now the ELCA specifically and strongly recommends that clergy involved in divorce refrain from ministering to congregations, since they may be negatively affected by the stress and proceedings of their divorce. Not this champion of the ELCA. Peterson filled the void in his life by leading the small break away congregation out into the world of legal proceedings. Not satisfied with the daunting task of beginning a new mission church, Peterson, the "Amazing Grace" malcontents, and the ELCA decided to take Grace to court. New territory here, but as you know, the ELCA has been claiming to be hearing God saying all kinds of new things, so they deem it is best to avail themselves of worldly laws and to use them against the people of God in spiritual matters.

The first court proceeding ordered Grace to end its affiliation with LCMC, of which Grace complied. The ever forgiving ELCA then decided to judge the pastors at Grace harshly, and removed them from the ELCA roster. It gets even more convoluted. The final court proceeding ordered the leadership of Grace to step down, turn over the keys and assets to the 70 malcontents, and removed the other 1700 members, (no, this is not a typo) from the active membership roll, making them associate members with no voting rights. Judge Molly GaleWyrick, one of the lowest rated judges in the state of Wisconsin, presided over one of the most illogical judgments ever rendered in a Wisconsin court. To make matters even worse, an appellate court refused to issue a stay, giving the ELCA free rein to dispose of the ample assets of Grace. Justice is truly blind and in this case, the best friend of the court was none other than the evil one himself.

Now, this case mirrors another instance of the un-evenhandedness of the ELCA. Although many ELCA churches are dual affiliated, only a few are challenged by the ELCA and not allowed to leave. Some are allowed to dual affiliate, others are removed from the ELCA roster as discipline for violating the ELCA constitution, such as St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion, IA. St. Peter Lutheran Church in Fort Pierce, FL, like Grace Lutheran, had ample assets, with property holdings worth some $5.5 million. The ELCA challenged their two unanimous votes to leave and the synod council prohibited them from leaving and taking their valuable property with them. Eventually, St. Peter Lutheran Church did leave and is now a LCMC congregation. Just my humble opinion here, but these actions seem more like those a devious and unethical organization would choose to use to swindle good and trusting people.

For those who choose to remain in this apostate denomination, hear this. While Jesus sat with sinners, those sinners were led to repentance. The ELCA is scrambling to maintain their power and refuses to repent of their sinful actions. Sit in the pew of an ELCA church and turn over the gifts God has blessed you with is the equivalent of funding the evil one’s mischief in the world. These tax collectors will not only fail to apologize for their actions and make amends, they will continue to take money and resources from the willing and the unknowing, not using it to further God’s Kingdom, but to build up and maintain their own earthly wealth and status. By choosing to remain in unity with this errant church, you choose to hold on to the things of this world, rather than being united in Christ. Ephesians 5:5-7, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”
Just sayin’.