Thursday, May 27, 2010

The God of Peace

In many conversations I am sadly reminded that very few Christians worship my God. Most Christians worship the God of tolerance. I worship the God of peace.

This very important difference is counted as insignificant semantics by most people. But semantics are never insignificant. I wonder what people really mean when they say, “That’s just a matter of semantics.”

Do people even think of what they are saying? Do they understand what semantics are? The semantics are the meanings of the words. If words are being used with meanings that are at variance, what is really being communicated between the users of the words?

Since my God is the Word, I never count semantics as insignificant. Since my God emphatically declares that His words have power to effect what He says, I count all words as important, acknowledging that words will either collaborate with or counter His words.

My God is not a god of tolerance. Tolerance is an allowance or accommodation at a distance. It is a “putting-up-with” something or someone. True agreement is not reached and true reconciliation is never achieved. Tolerance merely attempts to overlook or in some way compensate for what is lacking.

Peace, however, true peace, is the removal of that which causes offense. The cause of unrest is removed and thus peace is the result. True unity is the basis of peace.

The God of the Gospel is the prince and king of peace. He rules not by permissiveness, nor by force. Permissiveness allows the problems and the continuance of unrest to linger. Force hardens the heart. Peace, however, creates a new heart of willing subjugation to what is good for all. Peace overrules all selfishness and creates the bond of unity. Where true agreement rules, no cause for disagreement and disharmony ever arises.

My God condemns disunity and drives it far from Him and His. In His communion unity is fostered through love. That which is wrong and untrue is not tolerated but is overcome through love. Love works no ill to the neighbor. Romans 13:10.

With tolerance exists disunity. With disunity exists division. Division is separation or disconnection. This is the opposite of communion and peace. In my God’s communion peace rules. Therefore each person speaks and all agree. No bristling occurs. No putting-up-with the speaker is necessary. For if disagreement is found, the matter is discussed in connection with God’s words until agreement results. Then all are in agreement and peace continues. All hear the other and all say together, “Amen!”

Amen is never effected by tolerance. Amen is the language of peace. Amen and peace are of God. This is what my God declares. This is what my God brings to be. This is what my heart and soul and mind crave. To this I cling with body, heart, mind, and soul. I do not desire a god of tolerance, not when the God of peace has come near. Him I will trust. Him I will love. Him I will preach. In Him I will live.

Tolerance & Peace

The dove may tolerate the cat . . .

. . . but does tolerance make for peace?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

85% Unity — It’s Time

A paper produced in 2008 has received high acclaim from certain people. The paper is entitled: IT’S TIME: LCMS UNITY AND MISSION - The Real Problem We Face and How to Solve It. The paper is promoted through links on various blogs and web sites. In fact, it now has its own URL and web site here.

This image from the cover of the paper is very clever and attractive. It is very artfully designed and appealing. Everything about the paper is crafted expertly and has the appeal of a supurbly well prepared steak dinner.

I have repeatedly contemplated writing a response, as the premise of this paper causes me deep distress. The premise of the paper is that something less than 100% unity can be called acceptable and even be set forth as a noble goal. Several times I have taken notes and have sought Scripture verses to show the fallacy of this notion. Every time I began such an endeavor I realized that such methods have little effect upon those who have already accepted this notion as worthy of consideration and perhaps even acceptance.

In this paper the author presents the following claim:

It is possible to unify 85% of the Synod in doctrine, practice and mission, I’m convinced.

It disturbs me that the ludicrousness of this does not immediately strike others as it does me. This notion is entirely preposterous, yet many find it perfectly reasonable.

As a means of setting forth just how preposterous this notion is, the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus is presented below, with the notion of 85% inserted where He prays concerning unity. It is not inserted in every possible instance, but in the more significant places it has been inserted. Read for yourself how dramatically this notion offends when this majestic prayer of the Lord Jesus is made to conform to this notion of unity.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said,

Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might 85% know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me 85% with thine own self with the glory which I 85% had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me 85%; and they have kept thy word 85%. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are 85% of thee. For I have given unto them 85% of the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known 85% surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed 85% that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are 85% thine. And all mine are 85% thine, and thine are 85% mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be 85% one, as we are.

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled 85% in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be 85% one; as thou, Father, art 85% in me, and I 85% in thee, that they also may be 85% one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be 85% one, even as we are 85% one: I 85% in them, and thou 85% in me, that they may be made 85% perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:1-26)

Perhaps a person may respond, thinking: “That is blasphemous!” At least, I am hopeful that others may see that this is so. To speak of any percentage of unity as a goal for the saints is truly blasphemous and should never be found acceptable among those professing to be of Christ.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My Favorite Thing!

My Favorite Thing!

I received an e-mail entitled “What Pets Write IN THEIR DIARIES..........” It has a photo of a dog with excerpts from what it would write in its diary, and likewise with a cat.

What Pets Write IN THEIR DIARIES..........

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Diary......

Are the excerpts from the Cat’s diary really necessary?

I think that for this occasion I’d rather not supply what the cat wrote.

However, the dog supplies an helpful attitude.  I have encountered a few cats that display at least a somewhat similar attitude, but very few.

The dog stands as a lesson for life in this old world of sin and corruption.  Even in this fallen world God still blesses abundantly.  God has not stopped being gracious and loving and generous.  Yet I often find myself robbed of the rich and full enjoyment of His goodness on account of my ingratitude.  How often I have been less than truly happy, many times even miserable, even though God’s blessings are innumerable.  His goodness is too great and wonderful even to be rightly accounted.

Truly there is reason for sadness, too. The continual compromises amongst those claiming to be the Church are especially grievous. Yet, where the saints gather to the pure Word and Sacraments, God’s riches continue to flow without measure. His grace, mercy, and peace are abundantly supplied in His holy Church, wherever it is found. And in this especially I find myself responding like the seemingly silly doggie. In all of the activities of the divine liturgy I find myself saying, “My favorite thing!”

God grant that this carry over into my daily walk by faith.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Power of Lies

How powerful are lies?  Do lies actually have any power at all?  What do lies ever accomplish?  What do lies ever establish or build?

Lies always, always fall short.  Lies never, ever fulfill.  Lies are dependent upon deception.  Lies are dependent upon acceptance.  Lies are dependent upon successive lies.

The Truth, however, depends upon nothing.  The Truth is of itself fulfillment.  All things find fulfillment in the Truth.  All things are validated by the Truth.  The Truth never falls short.  The Truth remains constant through every circumstance.  The Truth is that upon which all things depend.

While lies always break down and collapse into corruption, the Truth stands forever.  Lies bewilder, but the Truth leads into the light of knowledge and confidence.  Lies leave one to abandonment and discouragement and distress.  The Truth holds one steadfast in hope and peace.

How then is it that everyone continues to turn to lies and half-truths, when the Truth is ever near?

A Homeless Refugee of Royal Claim

Our back yard seems to be a thoroughfare for many of the neighborhood creatures.

After the stormy and rainy weather broke, allowing a bit of sunny and pleasant weather to nudge its way into the later afternoon hours, I noticed two squirrels, a rabbit, and many birds enjoying our landscape.  Watching the rabbit in particular, I wondered about the several cats who frequently inspect our back yard.

This cat is one of the more frequent visitors.  I see this one quite regularly.  It seems to sleep here some nights.  Sometimes it seems to stay beneath our deck and sometimes under my lumber and pipe storage rack.

Today it seems to have claimed our air conditioner compressor unit as its own luxurious throne.

In my many encounters with this cat, I often have spoken to it.  I have never tried to make friends, however, as it does not belong here.  Nevertheless, I enjoy speaking kindly to it.  It often has stopped to look to see how I would act, and seems to give a shrug of relief when I do not act cruelly or threateningly.

At any rate, today it contentedly made use of our kitty lounge and permitted me to take its photograph.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

WELS & LC-MS once one?

Today I read the following question on my Facebook page:

Question for LCMSers (pastors, laymen, whateva). Since the WELS and LCMS were in fellowship at one point, wouldn't that mean that the LCMS at one point agreed with the WELS views of fellowship, women's suffrage, and the Office of the Ministry? I'm wondering whose position changed, if any?

The answer may be that both changed, but not so much on these issues, but more on how much heterodoxy matters.  The WELS determined that heterodoxy matters just a little more than the LC-MS determined.  Even this is not accurate, it would be better to say that for the WELS their claim to orthodoxy mattered more than with the LC-MS.  The WELS counted themselves more orthodox than the LC-MS had become.

To understand the significance of this one needs to read what Francis Pieper teaches on this matter in his “Christian Dogmatics”, the long-standing standard doctrine textbook for seminarians in the two synods.  In volume III, beginning on pg. 422, Pieper defines orthodoxy and heterodoxy.  He condemns heterodoxy and insists that it must be avoided.  Then, however, he allows that the heterodox communions can be called “Churches in so far as they still retain enough of the Gospel of Christ that men can come to faith in Christ and thus can become true children of God.”

For both the WELS and the LC-MS, following this understanding of Church and fellowship/communion, the issue is not one of orthodoxy versus heterodoxy, but rather it is a matter of better or worse.  Who is the better Church is the question.  Are they good enough that we can tolerate them?

True unity in the faith was not really the issue.  The real issue was that the LC-MS had moved a bit too far for the WELS to tolerate.  (The LC-MS did the same with the ALC.)  The WELS did not cease calling the LC-MS a Church.  Neither did they cease calling the LC-MS Christian.  No, they determined that they had to stand apart from their fellow Christians, not on the basis of them being outside the communion of the saints, but as not being in their communion.

This false view of Church and Communion has led to the demise of both church bodies.  Both church bodies or communions have walked the road of tolerance.  Today, both church bodies have enormous degrees of diversity and yet they each still count themselves as orthodox.

In the revelation given to John, the Lord Jesus condemns tolerance and threatens to take away the preaching office, that is the Holy Ministry, from those who practice tolerance.  He warns that they will lose their identity as the Church and therefore will no longer be able to stand as the light of the world.  Why?  Because they will have tolerated that which is false.  Truth and falsehood cannot be mingled.  Truth that has been mingled with falsehood is no longer the truth.

Thus even among the so-called Lutheran bodies there is division rather than unity, but each continues to call the other Church.  By this they say that their faith is in one who lies, because they call Jesus a liar.  This is why they preach not Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but the WELS and the LC-MS.  This is why the Church Growth Movement has taken over both church bodies.  This is why both church bodies look more and more like those whom they officially denounce and yet call Church.

This is the way of the Pharisees.  This is utter hypocrisy.  It has the same effect as in the days of old.  It has the same effect as when the Pharisees encountered the one whom they professed to worship.  Their worship was of their own making and when the Lord confronted them in their hypocrisy they rejected Him.  They chose rather to seek to preserve their nation and temple and way of life and worship.  Today many faith traditions call themselves Christian, choosing various traditions and manners, clinging to certain basic or essential doctrines but allowing that other matters can be compromised and still be called Church.  In the end they each get what they have chosen, they get to boast of being the Church and to count themselves as more the Church than the others or more orthodox or more friendly or whatever other more is better in their judgment, all part of a loosely defined identity in which no one is really wrong, merely not right enough to stand with “us.”

We Care About Mission Money

Whenever I receive an envelope in the mail with this return address and insignia, I know that I am being hit up for money. I know that this group has one and only one interest concerning me and my family, like the Federal Reserve’s Internal Revenue Service, they want my money.

The material enclosed always includes a letter that begins like this one:

The intent of the letter is to inform me how much the LC-MS cares about mission work and the spread of the Gospel so as to move my heart to give them money. Isn’t that lovely? The LC-MS wants me to know how much they care about the Gospel and about mission work and about missionaries and about the sharing of the Gospel on the home front and in the military. Perhaps I will refrain from the sarcastic reminders of the many ways in which the LC-MS has withdrawn support for this work and misused the people’s monies for other-than-Gospel purposes. Perhaps I’ll let those who are in the know reflect upon and react to those issues.

This month’s money request has this very carefully chosen and attractive cover on the envelope:

“GOING where God leads us...” is what it declares. The emphasis is on going. Let’s get going. All CAPS are used for going. “where God leads us...” is given a lesser emphasis. This is what concerns me to a much greater degree than the fact that I continue to receive assaults upon my conscience in attempts to obtain my money.

This seemingly insignificant variation in emphasis has very significant impact upon the practice of those who hold it. Thus the pursuit of my money. With the primary emphasis being on GOING, the practice that follows this emphasis is on works of men. Perhaps it is actually the other way around. The preponderance of the focus on the works of men drives the emphasis on GOING.

This is very likely the biggest false doctrine attached to missiology and evangelism. The mission is not comprised of the works of men. The Gospel is God’s work, work in which He includes men. This false doctrine, which reverses the works of God and men, changes everything. Thus the LC-MS World Mission organization is not even concerned about me and my spiritual well-being. They are not in the least concerned about whether or not my wife and I have survived the horrendous evils that the LC-MS has perpetrated against us, nor concerning the hundreds of other pastors who have been abused. Their only concern is to attempt to persuade me to give them money to GO.

Yet they have the audacity to claim as their motto: “GOING where God leads us...” The church body is divided to such a degree that some are hoping to regain 50-80 % unity in the future. Where is the evidence of the church body and its missiology being directed and led by God? Do the Scriptures ever give any indication whatsoever of the apostles considering seeking financial support from beyond those with whom they are in communion? Did the apostles ever indicate in any way that mission work could be effectively pursued apart from 100% unity in doctrine and practice?

When unity in doctrine and practice is the primary concern, what is the result? Is not unity the result? When unity exists, do the people not of their own accord give from their hearts for the work that the Holy Spirit urges?

Is this not the problem in the churches today? Borrowing from a very common cliche, the cart is being hitched in front of the horse. Under such conditions, the horse struggles even when whipped severely. Is it possible that the churches will someday remember that the mission begins with teaching, that is, Baptism, as the Lord of the Church declares in Matthew 28? The mission begins with proper catechization of the Baptized within the congregation. Proper catechization includes regular participation in the Eucharist, by which true unity is embraced and made real. How many churches today completely ignore this ultimate manifestation of unity and proclamation of the Lord’s death, that is, the pure Gospel? How many churches never even discern the body of Christ at this most rudimentary and essential and defining level? How then can they imagine themselves to be led by God in anything, when they openly defy what God has ordained for the life of His Church on earth?

Christ declares Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life. The way cannot be discerned or acknowledged apart from the truth. Morever, the life of the Church cannot in any way be divorced from or contrary to the way and the truth. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

When churches forget this as the foundation of the Church, when churches forget that only pure administration of the Gospel and Sacraments has the effect that God promises for the Church, how can they imagine that they have the ability to go forth by God’s leading? If they want to receive God’s leading, they really need to listen to what He says. Don’t they?

When they remember this, they won’t need to reach out for money and they won’t need to reach out with the Gospel. For the Gospel is a light and the true Church is the light that God sets up on the hill for all to see so that people will come to the light. Mission work begins with the local congregation. What sort of witness is it to send forth missionaries when even the local congregations do not show forth the light that is to be carried abroad?

Notice that St. Paul did not urge the Corinthians to support mission work. Why not? Because they were the mission that needed the Gospel. They were so divided that the apostle told them that their supper was not the Lord’s Supper. He warned them that they were partaking of the table of demons. Until the unity that the pure Gospel produces was manifest among them, they had no light to show to the world. Thus he called them to repent, to return to the complete unity in which they at first shared together. At the end of the admonishments he finally called upon them to unite with the Galatians, who were also plagued by disunity, in supporting the saints, that is, the Church that was distressed by persecution on account of faithfulness to the pure Gospel.

St. Paul spoke of mission work to congregations that were united in Christ. He even asked them for their financial support. Could it be that the one whom the Lord Jesus called as the apostle to the Gentiles actually knows the manner in which mission work should be pursued? Could it be that the Holy Spirit inspired men to record these things for us to hear so as to be led by God? Whom should be counted as correct, the Holy Spirit and those who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, or a bureaucratic organ of a church body created and directed by men? Which is truly the mission of the Church, collecting money for GOING, or standing fast in the unity of the true Faith?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Absolute Power

An oft quoted saying declares that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This observation was declared by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The following information can also be view here.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely


Literal meaning.


This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Another English politician with no shortage of names - William Pitt, the Elder, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wrongly attributed as the source. He did say something similar, in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

While Lord Acton spoke accurately concerning that which he observed around him, his scope was limited and thus is incorrect.

For there is only one man who has ever had absolute power. He was not corrupted by it. Quite the opposite is true. This one man held absolute power and used it to overcome corruption.

What Lord Acton actually observed is the desire for power and the desire for absolute power. This desire, a.k.a., Lust, is that which corrupts. The lust for power is what corrupts, not the possession or use of power.

The Lord Jesus has absolute power both as God and as Man. He is the Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Creator of all that exists in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible. He is also Man, created by His own almighty power, in whom the very Godhead is manifested. Even though this almighty and absolute power belongs to Him by the very essence of His Godhood, He did not consider it something to be grasped (Philippians 2:6-8). Rather, by His absolute power He made Himself to be of no reputation, making Himself to be a servant who would die in the stead of those who continually corrupt all good things with their ceaseless lusting and grasping.

No, absolute power never corrupts. Absolute power is manifested in the Gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. For this preaching is the very power of God, power that accomplishes the impossible, the overpowering of all corruption to regenerate filthy and damned sinners into saints who shine forth with the glory of God.

How sad it is that the lustfulness of mankind seeks to corrupt this Gospel, grasping after God’s power, desiring to claim some form of power for self. The Gospel is incorruptible. It is perfect and holy and without flaw. It regenerates those who live in and by it so that they are made to be members of one holy communion of saints, one Church, perfect and without flaw. Anything less is not of God and is not born of His absolute power. Anything less is merely a gathering of corruption, a gathering of lustful and grasping degenerates seeking power for themselves. From such people comes the cry, “You’ll never find the perfect Church.”

The reason that such a cry is brought forth is the same reason as that of Lord Acton. His reason was that he was looking not to the one who holds absolute power, but to those who lust after and grasp for it for themselves. Where the Lord Jesus is the one to whom the congregation gathers in accord with the means by which He gathers them, that gathering is exactly what He declares it to be: His own perfect and holy body, the communion of saints, the holy catholic Church on earth.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Truth and Consequences

Telling the truth has consequences, both positive and negative. At least so we are inclined to perceive. However, this is not really true. Is it? Does telling the truth ever have a negative consequence?

Well, the truth can be told in a way that is not in keeping with the truth. Those who live as reconciled to God are moved by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Such speaking of the truth often has painful effect, but is presented for good and not for evil, for ultimate healing and not for ultimate harm. Such speaking of the truth is not rooted in anger or vindictiveness but in compassion and concern.

The problem is that we are sinners, corrupted through and through according to our sinful nature. This corruption is complete, so that even when we speak the truth in love, our sin shows through. Not only is the sin of the speaker at issue, but also of the hearer.

For someone like me, this makes me hurt when I speak the truth to someone who feels hurt by what I say. Then I examine and reexamine my statement. And even when I am confident that I have spoken the truth, and even when I am confident that I spoke the truth with loving intentions, I still encounter my own sinfulness and weakness.

In the post below in the comments I stated: “It seems to me that in the future I should only make direct reference publicly to posts with which I agree, and address other matters simply as observations. Perhaps this would not give the impression of a personal attack on the writer.”

Sadly, even this is corrupted by sin. Having stated such, having reflected upon it further, I realize that I am shrinking back on account of my own feelings of pain. I hate pain. I hate knowing that in some way I have caused pain, especially to someone for whom I care deeply. And since love is the motivation for speaking the painful truth, the hurting person’s pain makes me hurt. My own sinful nature leaves me always in doubt as to the pureness of my motivation. The fact is that I can never claim pureness of my thoughts, words, and deeds.

I must always confess sin and look to my God and Savior for absolution, even concerning what I count as my best efforts. And this is the reason that a Christian addresses painful issues with others, that they may hear of their need for God’s healing forgiveness and walk in the freedom of the truth. Therefore, how can one who walks in the love of Christ remain silent about matters of spiritual concern? How can one comment only on things with which he agrees? Will the love of God remain silent in the face of that which needs to be confronted?

In matters such as this, Luther’s response was that one must act in accord with one’s Spirit guided conscience and sin boldly. One must acknowledge that in this corrupt and evil generation that all of our actions according to their own merit are sinful, and therefore that one must go ahead and act in accord with one’s conscience even though the stain of sin will still show through in even the actions that flow from the best of intentions.

Thus my conclusion is that I must continue to post regarding those things that I believe are wrong as well as those things with which I agree, but that I very much need always to challenge my motives and my words. Love does not stand by silently observing that which is harmful and destructive. Yet neither does love speak out without taking into account how the words may be received. Love cares regarding both matters.