Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Evangelism Exploded!

Ron the Ranch Hand has presented some wonderful questions/challenges to my earlier post: New Member Prospects.

I have attempted to give answer to his questions/challenges and I hope that they will be of benefit. It seems that this topic of Evangelism truly is quite explosive, and in attempt to expound upon it, it seems to have exploded here.

On that note, it is interesting to remember that the very word for “power” that St. Paul uses when He says in Romans 1:16 that “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation”, is the Greek word from which we have dynamite.

It is amazing to observe how the Holy Spirit directs the use of words with their actual meanings to convey so much. Truly, when the pure Gospel is proclaimed, it explodes to accomplish what nothing else in the world can accomplish.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ichthys and the Christian Identity

The Ichthys (Greek for Fish) has long been used as a symbol by Christians who seek to identify themselves to others. While it is used for other purposes as well, it is well known and continues to be used quite widely by those seeking to identify themselves as Christians. For more information, Wikipedia has an informative article at Ichthys.

I have a dear friend who has often said that he refuses to put Christian bumper stickers on his vehicle because he does not want people to associate his driving with Christ. While I have never appreciated the duplicity of his statement, I also have been amazed at the number of Ichthus symbols that I see on the highways and streets and in the parking lots, passing me at speeds that far exceed the speed limit, cutting off other drivers, weaving in and out of traffic, and countless other careless and selfish actions. I have often wanted to take the Ichthus off of the back of the vehicle so as to hand it to the driver while saying, “When you learn to drive like one, put it back on your vehicle.”

Today in the Walmart parking lot I saw a lady push her shopping cart up against the side of the car in the next parking space and then get into her car and drive off. She actually pushed the cart against the side of her neighbor’s car. Surely she knows why this is wrong. Nevertheless this is what she chose to do.

Such actions tell a person’s identity. What we do tells the world what kind of people we are and what thoughts and attitudes possess us. Yes, our displays of thoughts and attitudes declare who we are and who our god is.

I share this because it ties into the Old Testament reading appointed for this past Sunday, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity. While we are more likely to refer to Exodus 20:1-17 as the giving of the Ten Commandments, this is not what Moses calls them when he records them. He calls them the Ten Sayings by which the Lord tells us who we really are. These sayings of the Lord begin by telling us that He is the Lord our God who has brought us out of the house of bondage to live as His holy people. Then He goes on to tell us what this means, explaining what His children look like.

These Ten Sayings set forth for us to observe the identity that He gives to us in connection with the Holy Communion into which He calls us. As we observe His Sayings we realize what God has done and continues to work for us and among us. We also see how this identity can never be ours by our own efforts, but must be given to us from the One who fulfills them.

Truly, when we do not observe these sayings, we forget who we really are. We forget the work of regeneration that the Holy Spirit has worked in us. We forget the new life into which we have been born again. We forget the one who has made all of this our new identity, and then we act as though we were not identified with Him at all. If this continues long enough, we grow accustomed to the blurred focus until finally we ourselves lose the identity which the Lord has declared concerning us.

Through the holy office of the ministry, He continues to call us to remember both who He is and also who we are in connection with Him. This is a continual call to repent and believe the Gospel. When this repentance is worked by God in us, we again rely upon Him and His Sayings as our life and we rejoice in His goodness.

For more on this, you are invited to read or hear the sermon, Exodus 20:1-17 — “And God Spoke All These Words”

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reactions to Roman Catholic Document

The Wichita Eagle included in Saturday’s “Faith and Values” section an article entitled “Pope: Other Christians not true churches”. The Eagle included a response section entitled “WHAT LOCAL CLERGY ARE SAYING.”

It is curious to read the responses to the Papal claim to primacy. Actually, the responses are typical responses, exactly what a person would expect from modern Christians. Basically the general response is: “To each his own.

Of most note to me is the response of the “Lutheran” representative, the Reverend Tom Harmon of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, LC-MS.

My classic line is, ‘I’m a Christian who practices my faith as a Lutheran.’ Christianity is not a denomination, it’s a faith. How you practice it is up to you.

This is a very accurate portrayal of how most today view Christianity. It certainly is the standard that the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod has adopted over the last century. Even among the self-named conservatives and confessionals in the LC-MS, this is the united definition and standard. Some hold to a more rigid definition of doctrine and practice, and hold to that standard within their local congregations and blogs and web postings and email groups. Others hold to a modified definition. While others still, hold the door wide open and stand on a very fluid definition. Nevertheless, they all embrace one another as one communion, publicly declaring their oneness of fellowship.

The last of the quotes in the Eagle is from the Reverend Keith Koch of Grace Presbyterian Church.

If he’s saying it’s the true church in a context of wanting to live out their theology true to the gospels, true to the Scriptures . . . that’s fine. If he’s saying ‘exclusively,’ I have trouble with that.
As for what makes a church Christian: I think Paul sums it up, ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism.’

Oh yes. How lovely! There is ONE true Church based upon ONE Lord and ONE faith and ONE baptism, embraced by such a varied list of definitions that no one can count them.

Well, actually, there is One who can count them, and He has declared that at the Last Day He will sort them out. He says that there will be many who cried, “Lord, Lord!” but only a few to whom He will say, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

Yes, the Lord forewarns that there will be many who will call themselves His followers. He declares that there will be many definitions of the Church and of the confession of faith on which His Church is built. He also warns through His apostles that the day will come when people will heap up preachers to satisfy their own personal preferences regarding faith and values.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:3-4)

To this matter St. Paul writes that as saints we all should “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12)

Do we really need to treat this matter as seriously as our Lord and His apostles declare?

Well, I suppose that really depends upon whom we are truly counting as Lord. Are we trusting in a Jesus who stands as the foundation of His Church or are we trusting in a Jesus who has not declared Himself openly and plainly, a Jesus who can be believed upon without really knowing Him as He has declared Himself?

Is every definition of Jesus as Lord true? Are all churches as defined by various groups truly Church?

Jesus and His apostles and the Scriptures say that a person had better be sure.

Do you suppose they were kidding?

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Tribute Concerning My Wife

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. (Prov 18:22)

House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord. (Prov 19:14)

This morning as my wife prepared to go to work and I prepared to go to the chiropractor and then to work, we discussed certain Scriptures and contemplated the rich treasure of the pure Gospel and the faith that this Gospel creates and nurtures. As I expounded upon these words from the Lord, my wife began to cry and said, “I am so thankful that you are my husband. What would I do without you?”

Well, let’s see. Without me, she probably would still be enjoying her vocation as an air traffic controller, which she sacrificed to follow me as her husband. Without me, she would probably have a nice bank account with a very tidy nest egg. Without me, she probably would never have suffered the continual pains of cubital tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve compaction and the other repetitive motion injuries which she received working in menial jobs on account of being bounced from place to place as my wife. Then there are the many personal faults of mine that she must daily endure.

Yet because of what the Holy Spirit works in her through the Gospel, her response is: “I am so thankful that you are my husband. What would I do without you?”

What man could be more greatly blessed by the Lord? How can I ever give sufficient thanks to God for the helpmeet that He graciously provided for me, a helpmeet who loves the Gospel more than anything else in this world?

Truly, through the one who is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, I have obtained favor of the Lord.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Life and Liberty

In the post below I addressed the Declaration of the unalienable right of the pursuit of happiness as a misapplication of God’s bestowal of happiness. Here I will address briefly the endowments of Life and Liberty. Yes, in the world, these endowments are to be considered the unalienable rights of all men, for no one but God has the authority to deprive a person of these.

Life is a gift from God. He created the world for Man to inhabit. Life is not a choice but a gift. No man can choose to live. He can only continue in the gift of life. This gift of life is from eternity. God gives it.

While Man cannot choose to live, he did choose to die. But death is not what we often suppose it to be. Death is the choice to think or will or do for ourselves rather than to trust and rely upon God. When Man chose for himself, Man died. He cut himself off from Life. He was no longer free to live the Life that God alone can give.

God restores Life to Man through the gift of the Light and Life of Man, Jesus Christ. Jesus has been given from eternity. He has been with Man even while Man wandered. He was born as Man to redeem Man. His life was given as the Life of the world. He died so that Man may live. In Baptism, this Life is restored to Man. In the Supper, it is preserved in regenerated Man.

Liberty also is God’s gift to Man. Like Life, it is misunderstood by Man. Liberty is not freedom to live on one’s own or by one’s own choices. For as pointed out above, such choice is death. Rather, Liberty is the freedom to live according to God’s decree and will. Liberty is the freedom to worship God in truth and purity. Liberty is freedom from selfish motives. This is not a choice that Man can make for himself. It is a gift from God. Truly it is a right, along with Life, a right that is endowed by the Creator. However, since Man chose for himself, this right has been forfeited. Now this right is no longer by Man’s inheritance according to his nature, but is by the inheritance of those who are reborn into God’s kingdom of the liberty of righteousness.

Like with Happiness, apart from God’s intervention, Man can do no more than pursue Life and Liberty. But with God, by His means established and administered in His Church, Life and Liberty are again endowed to those who are regenerated as children of God through the faith worked by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. When these are worked by God in a person so that the person is again identified as God’s child, truly Life, Liberty, and Happiness are renewed as unalienable rights, blessings that cannot be taken away by any force other than blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Only by the person’s own rejection and denial of the goodness of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s work can the person ever again be alienated from these gifts of God.

the Pursuit of Happyness

In the 2006 movie, “ the Pursuit of Happyness” Christopher Gardner says:

It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?

Knowingly or unknowingly, this observation sets the matter into its true perspective.

The actual words of the Declaration of Independence declare:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness --

Dear Thomas Jefferson summed up the perspective of the human race. Sadly, our perspective is blurred so that we cannot recognize the truth.

Jefferson includes four things as “self-evident”:

1. That all Men are created . . . and that they are created equal.
2. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights:
2a. Life.
2b. Liberty.
2c. The Pursuit of Happiness.

Jefferson’s statement, common to the entire human race, is flawed.

First, this statement does not define the meaning of being created equal.

Secondly, in the group of three unalienable rights the third is not what is endowed by the Creator. The Creator (God) does not endow a right to pursue happiness. Rather He bestows happiness. It is this notion that happiness is something to be pursued that has caused all of the trouble that we encounter in the world, (including the trouble of revolution).

Christopher Gardner’s words sum up the problem of discontentment shared by all sinful human beings. God created Man to be happy. Man doubted the faithfulness of God. Then Man experienced unhappiness. Moreover, Man experienced the fear of helplessness as Man could never press beyond the desire to pursue the happiness that had been lost through lack of trust in God.

In this regard, it is interesting to note where America has chosen to place the words, “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Where do Americans place their declaration of their trust in God? On their money! This, of course, is not the only place where this is demonstrated, but it does make a powerful statement about how American religion perceives trust in God and the means to happiness. To Americans, (and Americans are not alone in this), happiness is something that must be sought after and grasped for oneself.

Yet in this sweet little movie, as Christopher Gardner (CG) expends his energies in the pursuit of happiness for himself and his son, little Christopher (C), little Christopher already has what his father so desperately pursues.

This is demonstrated quite beautifully in this exchange between the two as CG puts his son to bed in the “church place” where they are spending the night as CG hopes to find the problem with the scanner that he needs to repair so as to sell.

CG: (tucking little Christopher into bed) You good?
C: Yeah.
CG: I gotta go work on the scanner.
C: Don’t go.
CG: No, no, no. I’m gonna be right outside the door.
All right? I’m just gonna be right there. I’ll leave the door open a little bit. And I’ll be able to hear you if you call me.
C: I wanna go home.
CG: But that’s why I gotta work on the scanner.
All right?
I’m gonna go out there. Uh, I’m gonna leave the door open. I’ll be right up the stairs. I’ll be able to hear you if you call me.
All right?
C: All right.
CG: You gotta trust me. Okay? (As he tickles his son.) You gotta trust me.
C: (giggling) I trust you. I trust you.

This is the true meaning of being created equal. All men were created in the image of God, created with the ability to trust fully in their loving heavenly Father. All men were created knowing God as THE One in whom all happiness resides. Living in absolute faith, the faith of a newborn child, Man created in the image of God, male and female, happiness was their life.

Then trust was broken. That beautiful faith of children to their Father was set aside in order to begin a pursuit for that which was already their full possession. The pursuit of happiness began and it has been passed on through inheritance from Adam to all of mankind. Now all that mankind really knows is the pursuit. This is also called greed, or lust, or idolatry.

While mankind broke faith with God, God has not broken faith with His children. He continues to come to us through the “church place” where He baptizes us into His kingdom of happiness (blessedness) and supplies us with all that we need to remain happy through the Holy Communion of His family. As long as we continue in this regeneration of faith in Him and His goodness, happiness is ours. But as soon as we look away from Him and His means of grace, once again we find ourselves pursuing that which He gives freely. It is truly a terrible perversion that we transform His grace into something that we must find by our own efforts.

Is it any wonder that we have this indictment included in our founding document as a nation of rebels? Is it any wonder that the harder that we strive to have more “IN GOD WE TRUST” units in our wallets and in our bank accounts, the farther away true happiness seems to be?

Yet when we hear our Father graciously calling to us saying, “I’ll keep the door open. I’ll be right outside the door. I’ll hear you when you call Me.” then we rest peacefully and learn that happiness is not something to pursue, but rather, happiness is giggling the words, “I trust you. I trust you.” But like with little Christopher, the words come not by our own choice, but rather, they come from the warm, gentle, and loving touch of our Father as He washes us clean and feeds us His Word of life and the Supper of His presence. He is the one who recreates us in His image, as faith is born in us by His careful working in our hearts and lives in His Church through His means of grace. When He is the perfecter of our faith, we are truly happy.

The pursuit of happiness is for losers who wander around in their own lost reason and strength. But for those who know the love of God in Christ, happiness is their inheritance, their birthright, their life. God has promised it. God has provided it. Do you believe it?

Christopher Gardner:
I met my father for the first time when I was 28 years old. I made up my mind that when I had children, my children were going to know who their father was.

Our Father continues to come to us through His Church so that we may know Him as our loving Father who is willing to sacrifice everything for us. He insures our safety in His love through means that depend solely upon Him so that we never have need to pursue happiness for ourselves. Looking to Him with the faith that He supplies, Happiness is ours.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Independence Day - July 4th

On this day, the citizens of the United States of America and the friends of the United States and of the freedom represented and defended by the United States and her articles of protection and identity, celebrate the birth of this nation through the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. This document is the first and foremost document by which the United States exists and is defined. This document is the mother of our country, a mother who has fostered many years of liberty and justice both in the USA and has carried these to many other lands and peoples.

This grand mother of the USA gave birth to another exemplary and defining document, the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution itself declares this, saying:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What this means for us today is that in order for anyone rightly to understand what is written and declared in the Constitution, that person must read the Constitution as the continuation of the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution is wrongly interpreted and understood if it is not interpreted with the Declaration of Independence as the founding document of the United States.

In the last several generations, many detrimental and destructive changes have been forced upon us by those who refuse to acknowledge this dependence of the Constitution. The Constitution was not written as a “stand alone” document, but was written with the intention that it was the further development of the Declaration of Independence and of the beliefs and government established by this Declaration.

This is why the Fourth of July is celebrated as the birth date of the USA, not because a revolution began and was fought, but because the United States had been founded and identified and declared to the world. Truly this Declaration was resisted by the powers of the world and has been resisted by many would be tyrants ever since. Therefore, as we celebrate the freedoms that many have purchased for us and have defended for us with their lives and their blood, we do well to understand what was and stands Declared.

Many, both from without and from within have sought to undermine what is declared, in order to gain power over the people of the United States. One of the most powerful means of robbing the People of their freedom, has been to abuse the first Amendment to the Constitution.

How does the Declaration of Independence define the United States? It opens with these amazing words of declaration:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

According to the founding document of the United States, its very existence and the declaration of its right to exist depends upon a right understanding of the ”Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”.

In the concluding sentence the Declaration says:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Thus the Declaration begins and ends with absolute statements of belief in and dependence upon the Laws and Protection of God. Belief in this God is stated as the very basis for the founding of and the perpetuation and preservation of the United States and of all that this union encompasses.

This is why the very first article of the Bill of Rights, the very first amendment, is written in the manner that it is.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Since the Declaration already declared the nation’s dependence upon Nature’s God, the God that was already known to the People of the United States and worshiped in the already existing and various establishments of religion, the First Amendment declares that it must be guaranteed that these establishments of religion should not be interfered with by the Congress and that the Congress should never pass any law prohibiting the free exercise of this already established worship of Nature’s God upon which the United States exists and relies for its existence and protection.

Furthermore, in connection with this freedom from governmental interference in the worship of Nature’s God, the Congress must never be allowed to pass a law that abridges (reduces) the freedom of speech. Subsidiary to this freedom of speech, neither must the freedom of the press be abridged. What this means is that the freedoms that Nature’s God has declared, including along with the freedom to worship without governmental interference or prohibition, also the freedom to speak publicly of these Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God must be insured. For if the government is permitted to restrict the open and public declaration of these Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, what will become of the freedoms and unalienable rights that God has declared? If such public declaration and promotion of God’s Laws should ever be abridged by the government, how will the tyranny of the rulers and law makers be kept under control?

Thus this First Amendment also guarantees the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition Government for a redress of grievances. The founding fathers had experienced the tyranny of those who suppress the establishments of religion, that is, who suppress the churches, so as to strip the people of God’s protections. Thus, as the very first of the articles of the Bill of Rights, they sought to guarantee that the worship of God and the speech that is promoted by this salutary worship of God would suffer no interference from the government.

Yet today, this has been perverted by the Supreme Court and by the press (including the movie industry) to mean the exact opposite and to work the very evil intentions from which this marvelous Article was meant to protect us.

Moreover, today this Article is used not only to abridge but to prohibit the freedom to speak openly and publicly regarding these concerns, promoting instead, those things that violate the very foundation of this nation and to deceive the people into praising such violation and rape of the citizens. For today, people have been persuaded to accept the lie that what is fought for is the right to speak of and promote matters that undermine the Constitution.

For example, Hollywood and the Press have for several generations promoted the notion that our veterans fight for the rights of Communists and atheists to spread their agenda, and that the churches must be silenced. Yet Communism is a religion and philosophy that has at its very root the destruction of the Constitution and the freedoms and way of life that the Constitution protects. A comparison of the declarations of the Communist Manifesto to the declarations of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence shows that there is no comparison. The two are diametrically opposed. The two forms cannot exist together. The same is true of the religion of atheism versus the religion declared by the United States. Atheism violently opposes the Laws of Nature’s God, demanding that all that the United States is founded upon be renounced.

The next time you see a movie where a veteran says, “I oppose all that you say, but I’ll fight to the death to defend your right to say it!” ask yourself where this comes from. It certainly is not what is declared in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It certainly is not what was embraced and stated by those who fought in the Revolutionary War. Neither was it what was stated by FDR when the forces of evil threatened freedom worldwide.

What veteran ever fought in any war of the United States with the idea that the Kaiser or the Nazis or the Italian fascists or the emperor of Japan or the Communists in Korea or the Communists in Viet Nam or the Islamic devils throughout the world have the right to promote and spread their tyranny and terror throughout the world? No, our dear veterans marched against these devils to protect the United States from everything that they promote and say. The First Amendment as well as the entire Constitution and the Declaration upon which the Constitution is founded stand against all that these fomenters of discord and tyranny say and do. Far from granting rights to such evil violators of freedom, the Declaration and the Constitution denounce them and protect us from them.

Rather than reinterpreting the Declaration and Constitution to our own demise, should we not rather praise and celebrate them as they stand written? Should we not follow the example of those who unanimously declared on July 4, 1776:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Is this not what the Fourth of July is really about?

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