Monday, October 28, 2013

Positive Reinforcement

How do we, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” For the time has come where people are no longer putting up with sound doctrine. Instead the people today have gathered around themselves theologians and church leaders that lift up their selfish desires and preach to them what their itching ears want to hear. Saving our brothers and sisters in Christ that have fallen prey to false doctrine means walking that fine line between correction with great patience and judgmental finger pointing. It is never easy to correct, rebuke or encourage someone who truly believes that they are on the proper path. It is very easy to shut out the very persons that are truly acting in Christian love when our words are often taken as hypocritical condemnation. One needs to find the words that open an avenue of constructive communication.
The contemporary Christian band, Hawk Nelson’s song “Words” echoes this sentiment.
“They've made me feel like a prisoner. They've made me feel set free. They've made me feel like a criminal, made me feel like a king. They've lifted my heart to places I'd never been. And they've dragged me down, back to where I began. Words can build you up, words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out. Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don't want to say a word unless it points the world back to you”. Well intended words often are not accepted by the recipients of those less than helpful comments.

When, as citizens, we criticize our government leaders or laws, we understand that there are differing opinions in civil society. We may become angry for a time, but we move on. When another country criticizes our government leaders or laws, we tend to take greater umbrage. Consider the outpouring of negativity when Piers Morgan, a CNN correspondent and British citizen, criticized our second amendment rights to bear arms. And the anger and dismay over an immigration protest where illegal aliens displayed Mexican flags, while disrespecting the American flag. We tend to take on a bunker mentality, rally the troops and move to protect our sovereignty, even to the point of defending those leaders and laws that we may personally disagree with.

When we are over critical of the leaders of the ELCA, those brothers and sisters that remain members of that wayward organization begin to circle the wagons, as many believe that criticism is also targeting them. So, how does one point out the danger that each and every member of the ELCA faces from all the false doctrines that permeate this defiant church without them putting up a wall to shut you out? Just as one cannot trust the government without the proper checks and balances, one can no longer blindly trust the leaders of our churches. Sounds inappropriate, since the message from the pulpit is expected to be led by the Holy Spirit, but behind each pulpit, behind each robe, and behind every leader of every church, stands a human being. And human beings are prone to falling short of the glory of God and to be led into trap of the evil one. We are called to dwell in God’s word to try to discern His will for us and pray unceasingly for guidance and direction in our lives. We cannot simply attend church on Sunday, hear the word and be content that our spiritual appetites are satisfied. His word is always there for us and we must study and learn so that whatever “new things” that are promoted by the church are truly God’s will.

Whenever we reach out to our brothers and sisters adrift in all of the apostasy driven churches, we must do this carefully and without the appearance of being judgmental. Focus on some of the good things that their churches do and commend them for furthering God’s mission in those ministries that are Christ centered. Once we can get their attention and enter into an even discussion, we can ask those questions about errant doctrine and help direct them to the truth. It really is quite plain when one looks at these issues without that defensive wall that closes the door to reasonable discourse. Temper your argument from being against their errant teaching to being for the truth. Temper your calling out of sinful behavior with the realization that we all are sinful and fall short. Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” We will never be successful in correcting, rebuking and encouraging if our words end the discussion. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit inspires us with the words that will point the world back to Christ.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Upward Mobility

Throughout our lives we are taught to work hard and good things will happen. When you are driven to succeed, you will be more likely to attain your desired outcomes. You may earn that job promotion with its greater salary. You may find that perfect mate. You may go on and purchase your dream house, have your 1.5 beautiful children and live happily ever after. But, once you reach those goals, why does it seem like your life is, somehow, unrewarding and unfulfilled? Why does something always appear to be missing? Why isn’t that success enough? As parents, we always want our children to attain that which we could not, to have a chance at a life that is better than what we achieved. How is it that you are still not as happy as you should be when you accomplish these important worldly goals?

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It is so easy to fall into the trap that is this world. It is so easy to look past the gifts God has blessed us with and seek the things of this world. It is so easy to focus on our own wants and desires while placing God on the backburner. We not only conform to the pattern of this world, we often embrace it. Our place in this world is very evident when we realize what is really important. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are called to be good stewards of this world that God has blessed us with. Our time here is limited. Our future lies ahead, and the things of this world are not the final objective. The one who has the most toys does not win in this competition. Our Father’s house has many rooms and He wants to fill them with all of His children. But, not all will be allowed to enter. Contrary to what some theologians would have the faithful believe, those who do not believe will not be welcomed into eternal paradise at our Father’s house.

John 1:10-13, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Things change, yet, still they remain the same. The very people called upon to serve the Lord, fail to recognize Him. When the leaders of the wayward ELCA embrace their gospel of social justice, they choose to reject Christ, rather than receive Him. By believing that we can make a difference in this world without the guidance of our Lord is nothing short of a fool’s errand. Bring the lost to Christ is the primary mission of the church. Our world is broken because of us and our unwillingness to let go and let our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ lead our hearts and minds. We can no more repair our broken world than we could build a new one. New things promoted by the self-proclaimed enlightened leaders of a new world order of Lutheranism promote a gospel that does not serve the Lord and drives their members that accept these new things, away from Him. Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit and come to understand and believe, our purpose becomes clear. We are to proclaim His glory everywhere and to everyone until all are saved.

Progressive mainline Christian church leaders are driving the faithful and those searching away with their embrace of secular ideals. Seems every time a church leader tries to minimize sin or revise doctrine to gain acceptance from the world, more are confused as to the role of religion in their lives. If it doesn’t matter what we do or believe, there is really no reason to believe in anything but ourselves. As children we need the boundaries provided by our parents, schools and faith. If left to our own devices, our selfish nature takes over and we would be lucky to make it to adulthood. The law is written upon our hearts and our obedience not only protects us, but is pleasing to God. And pleasing the Lord in all we do is the cure for the unfulfilled heart. When Christ is the reason we live, everything is a gift, even those trials and tribulations God uses to mold us. Each and everyone of us deserves to be condemned to hang on that cross. But in the greatest gift ever given, Christ took our punishment, carried away our sin and defeated death. To save all of us unworthy sinners from an eternal death. An act of unconditional love that is simply beyond our understanding. And by simply having faith in the Risen Savior, God grants us eternal life. Romans 2:7-8. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Seek not to attain worldly wealth, but seek the glory that is the Lord’s. Whatever gifts God has blessed you with, use them to proclaim His glory. Seek the riches of the joy that the love and forgiveness that Christ has given to you. Proclaim His love to the world.