The Wittenberg Trail

At its 2009 annual convention, the WordAlone Network received a statement from its theological advisory board encouraging ELCA Lutherans to resist joining the sect of Christians rejecting the biblical teaching on marriage, family, and sexual pracitce.

In accepting “The Necessity of Resistance,” the convention voted that a “state of confession” (in statu confessionis) be declared if the social statement on sexuality is adopted and changes are made in ordination and ministry standards at the churchwide assembly this August. Retired Luther Seminary (St Paul, MN) Professor James Nestingen presented the statement, and added that going in statu confessionis is a temporary measure and must be done with care and discernment, and in a patient and deliberative way. He said the advisory board was suggesting “selective fellowship” and not a “one size fits all” synods approach.

The Necessity of Resistance

First, the biblical witness concerning marriage, the family and sexual practices has established an historic consensus which has held ecumenically throughout the church’s history. This long term and virtually universal consensus of interpretation demonstrates compellingly that the biblical word has functioned clearly and authoritatively on the issues. Whatever ambiguities remain have been and can be clarified in light of this agreement. Those who wish to change the accepted guidelines and expectations for clergy in the ELCA have yet to justify the reconsideration of issues settled by the Scripture and accepted by all but a minuscule minority of Christians.

Secondly, while appealing for unity, the proposal presented for the decision of the Minneapolis churchwide assembly is in fact profoundly divisive. All of the evidence available demonstrates that Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and most Protestants strongly oppose changing the biblical standards. Voting for the proposed changes will thus take the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America out of the stated biblical and ecumenical consensus of the church, isolating it from the visible unity with other Christians.

Thirdly, the proposal presented for action by the church council of the ELCA at its Minneapolis churchwide assembly in August of 2009 brings the church into a state of confession—as defined by Article X of the Formula of Concord—in two ways. It proposes to compromise the plain sense of Scripture, setting aside the authority of the biblical word. Further, if the ecumenical consensus is overturned by vote of the churchwide assembly, the majority would forcibly remove those who oppose such changes from the historic and virtually universal consensus prevailing in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. As such, the proposal presented by the church council is both schismatic and coercive.

Declaring this proposal in statu confessionis, that is, declaring a state of confession means that the proposed action must be resisted on biblical grounds. This opposition takes the form of refusing to support those institutions and officers of the ELCA who have betrayed their true purposes. It is incumbent on the officers of the church, its bishops and pastors, all of whom have taken oaths to preach and teach according to the Scripture and the Lutheran Confession to join this resistance. Their failure to respect their promises has placed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in schism.
From The Institute of Lutheran Theology Blog

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Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing....
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

On two separate occasions Peter received the call, “Follow me.” It was the first and last word Jesus spoke to his disciple (Mark 1.17; John 21.22). A whole life lies between these two calls. The first occasion was by the lake of Gennesareth, when Peter left his nets and his craft and followed Jesus at his word. The second occasion is when the Risen Lord finds him back again at his old trade. Once again it is by the lake of Gennesareth, and once again the call is: “Follow me.” Between the two calls lay a whole life of discipleship in the following of Christ. Half-way between them comes Peter's confession, when he acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God....[48]

This grace was certainly not self-bestowed. It was the grace of Christ himself, now prevailing upon the disciple to leave all and follow him, now working in him that confession which to the world must sound like the ultimate blasphemy, now inviting Peter to the supreme fellowship of martyrdom for the Lord he had denied, and thereby forgiving him all his sins. In the life of Peter grace and discipleship are inseparable. He had received the grace which costs.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer~

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. - Dante Alighieri
HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE MOSAIC LAW

By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Jul 21, 2011 -Apprising Ministries

THE INJUNCTIONS IN THE LAW

God’s command concerning homosexuality is clear: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Lev 18:22).

This is expanded in Leviticus 20:13. “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.” These passages are set in the context of God’s judgment on sexual crimes and are an expansion of the seventh commandment.

Moses was not trying to establish an exhaustive code on the subject of sexuality; rather he was dealing with certain gross offenses of the seventh commandment that were common in the nations surrounding Israel at the time.

Pro-homosexual advocates usually dismiss these passages by relegating them to simple religious prohibitions rather than taking them as moral prohibitions. Blair exhibits this line of reasoning.

That the very pronounced Old Testament judgment against a man’s having sexual relations with another man is included in the priestly Holiness Code of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) is significant because the concern of the priests was one of ritual purity. It was not the moral preaching of the prophets. From this priestly point of view, it is clear that above all else, Israel was to be uncontaminated by her pagan neighbors. In all things, she was to remain a separate “pure vessel unto the Lord.” At this time, male prostitutes in the temples of the Canaanites, Babylonians, and other neighboring peoples, were common features of the pagan rites. There, it is understandable that this “homosexuality” connected with the worship of false gods would certainly color Israel’s perspective on any and all homosexual activity. [1]

Blair, and those who follow his line of thinking, assume that ritual purity and moral preaching are always distinct. Therefore the passages in Leviticus, they argue, are not really speaking against homosexuality as such, but only against
identifying with the practice of alien religions. The issue was religious identity, not the righteousness of God.

But this type of reasoning begs the question on several counts. The first major fault is in assuming that ritual purity and moral purity are always distinct. Those who make this dichotomy argue that Leviticus 18 and 20 cannot be of an ethical or moral nature. Blair states this when he divides the priests with their ritual purity and the prophets with their moral teaching into two groups that were not to transgress each other’s territory. But the prophets preached to the needs of their day. Anything not included in their teaching is more logically explained by that particular sin’s absence among the sins of that generation, rather than by a rigid distinction between ceremonial and moral purity. To hold to such a distinction one would have to conclude that adultery was not morally wrong (18:20), child sacrifice had no moral implications (18:2 1), and that nothing is inherently evil with bestiality (18:23). The point is that ceremonial purity and moral purity often coincide.

These passages, again, are consistent with God’s purpose for human sexuality, as presented in Genesis 1-3. When these passages are studied, it becomes obvious that God’s purpose is to preserve the sanctity of marriage and the home.

THE RELEVANCE OF THE LAW

Pro-homosexual advocates spend much effort and time trying to show the irrelevance of the Law to Christians today. Scanzoni and Mollenkott are an example of this. “Consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that if the Israelite Holiness Code is to be invoked against twentieth-century homosexuals, it should likewise be invoked against such common practices as eating rare steak, wearing mixed fabrics, and having marital intercourse during the menstrual period.” [2] Blair follows Scanzoni and Mollenkott in arguing that the Old Testament Law must be thrown out when seeking a guide to the issue of homosexuality.

It is interesting how lightly evangelicals have taken other proscriptions found in the same Old Testament Code, e.g.: rules against the eating of rabbit (Lev 11:26), oysters, clams, shrimp, and lobster (Lev 11:10ff), and rare steaks (Lev 17:10). Evangelicals do not picket or try to close down seafood restaurants nor do we keep kosher kitchens. We do not always order steaks “well-done.” We eat pork and ham. The wearing of clothes made from interwoven linen and wool (Deut 22:11) does not seem to bother us at an. Evangelicals do not say, in accordance with these same laws of cultic purification (Lev 20:13), that those who practice homosexual activity should be executed as prescribed. Evangelicals do not demand the death penalty for the Jeane Dixons of this world (Lev 20:27) nor do we”cut off” from among the people, as is demanded by this same Code, those who have intercourse with women during menstruation (Lev 20:18) and those who marry women who have been divorced (Lev 21:14). Evangelicals do not keep out of the pulpit those who are visually handicapped or lame or those “with a limb too long” (Lev 21:18ff). [3]

These statements expose a great ignorance of how the Law fits into the total scheme of the Scriptures. When taken to their
logical conclusion these assertions make it possible to say that having sex with animals or engaging in incest is okay for today simply because homosexuality is sandwiched between these two prohibitions. These writers pay a great price in
trying to justify their position. It would have been easier for them to say that Christ brought an end to the entire Law (Rom 10:4). The Ten commandments are also included in this termination (2 Cor 3:7-11). Christ is now the Christian’s High Priest, which shows that a radical change in the Law has come about (Heb 7:11). The Law has been superseded (Heb 7:11).

When the statement is made that the Law had ended, this does not mean that God no longer has any laws or codes for His people. This does not mean that there are no moral precepts to be followed. The New Testament speaks of the “law of the Spirit” (Rom 8:2), the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2), and the “royal law” (James 2:8). This “law” includes numerous commands, both positive and negative, which form a distinct code of ethics for today. [4] It is here that the pro-homosexual exegetes have made their mistake. As a unit the New Testament code is new, but not all the commands in the New Testament are new. There is overlap, deletion, and addition. Some of the commands in the Mosaic code have been reincorporated into the New Testament code.

But if the Law was done away, how can parts of it be repeated in the New Testament? The answer lies in the distinction between the Old Testament code and the commandments which were contained in that code.

The Mosaic law has been done away in its entirety as a code. God is no longer guiding the life of man by this particular code. In its place He has introduced the law of Christ. Many of the individual commands within that law are new, but some are not. Some of the ones which are old were also found in the Mosaic law and they are now incorporated completely and [are] forever done away. As part of the law of Christ they are binding on the believer today. [5]

This throws much light on the statements made by those who would justify homosexuality from a biblical standpoint. It serves to bring their emotional rhetoric into proper focus. The laws concerning diet, punishment by stoning, or wearing mixed fabrics have been abrogated. However, the proscriptions against homosexual behavior have been repeated in the New Testament code (Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:9-10). This should be a major concern of pro-homosexual advocates simply because it totally destroys the point they attempt to make with regard to the Old Testament law. It is false to say that something which was sin under the Law is no longer sin under grace.

What this all means is that the commands dealing with homosexuality in Leviticus 18:23 and 20:13 are still highly relevant because they have been reincorporated into the New Testament code. A moral unity exists between the Old and New Testaments. It has always been wrong to murder, rape, steal, to have sexual relations with animals, and to have
sexual relations with persons of the same sex. God has dealt with people in different ways at different times, but His standard for righteousness has never changed. If morality has changed then the character of God has changed, because
the basis of morality is in the character of God who is immutable (Mal 3:6). (Online source)

P. Michael Ukleja

________________________________________________________________________________
End Notes:

{1] Ralph Blair, An Evangelical Look at Homosexuality (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), p. 3.

[2] Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, “Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?” (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978). pp. 60-61.

[3] Blair, “An Evangelical Look at Homosexuality,” p. 3.

[4] Charles C. Ryrie, “The Grace of God” (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), pp. 105-113.

[5] Charles C. Ryrie, “The End of the Law,” Bibliotheca Sacra 124 (July-September 1967):246.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Never, Ever Give Up!

The saying, never, ever give up always reminds me of the cartoon of a frog being eaten by a heron. His legs are holding the beak open and his hands are around the bird’s neck, fighting valiantly to not become that bird’s next meal. As Christians we are called to be vessels for our Lord. We are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. We are also called to gently correct our brothers and sisters in Christ that fall into sinful behavior. Those true to our Lord have discovered that one of His churches has strayed from the Gospel that He taught. The leaders of the ELCA have taken the easy road that leads to the ruin of their membership. Doctrine that is contrary to our Lord’s teachings has replaced sound Lutheran doctrine that has stood for centuries. The primary mission of the ELCA has placed humankind’s experience, knowledge and tradition over the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.
Those of us that hear and yield to the Spirit and have challenged these false teachings are experiencing many hardships. They are called troublemakers, zealots, and now the leaders of the ELCA accuse them of being misinformed or just plain liars. We follow our constitutions and ask that our councils investigate the direction that the ELCA is heading. Many of us are disheartened when our congregations refuse to listen, choosing to remain faithful to a church, not to our Lord and Savior. 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.” We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. There is a veritable revival occurring within the Lutheran church. More and more congregations are listening and discovering just what the ELCA is doing and voting to leave this errant denomination. Many more individual Lutherans are standing up for our God, sometimes leaving congregations that they have called home for decades and have started new mission churches that preach sound Christian doctrine.
So, for those that are afraid to lose their church and the friendships they have made over the years, we are called to proclaim His word, but it is His will as to where our evangelizing ultimately takes us. After all, it is not what we want that matters. For every church united in upholding the authority of Scripture, there are those that don’t want to hear it. For every church that votes to leave the ELCA, there are those that vote to stay. We cannot be motivated by the end result, but our motivation is to do His will. Our Lord will lead us to where He wants us to be. The goal is to proclaim His word and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, those that hear will come to believe and/or return to the Lord. We are merely soldiers for the Lord, to be used to give our God the glory. Once we give up on those earthly things, we will better accept what is our Lord’s plan. That plan may be to save your church, to lead you to leave and join another congregation true to the Lord, or take up the daunting task of starting a new mission church to proclaim His glory.
Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” So we will fight for our Lord and pray that those close to us will listen and discover that the ELCA is, in fact, leaving our Lord behind. We will fight for our Lord no matter how difficult it is for us. We will put on the armor of our faith and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as Paul instructs in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
We need to be that good example for our Lord and no matter how much we would like to have the outcome that pleases us, it is more important to do our Lord’s work for His glory and be patient, waiting for His will to be done. Hebrews 10:35-39, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Do not lose heart and give up. We are not one of those who shrink back and are destroyed. We are those that believe and are saved and we will continue to proclaim His word until we can speak no more. Amen.
Common Sense for a Senseless World
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Conscientious Objector
"God wants our conscience to be certain and sure that it is pleasing to Him. This cannot be done if the conscience is led by its own feelings, but only if it relies on the Word of God." - Martin Luther. It is the doctrine of bound conscience that drives all other doctrine within the ELCA. It is the tie that binds all the other errant teachings of this misguided denomination together. It is the linchpin that locks out the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, replacing it with secular, not heavenly ideals. For without this bound conscience, one could not lift up their own opinion above the will of our God. Without bound conscience the false gospel of affirmation falls like a house of cards. Without bound conscience the concept of universalism is proven to be a lie, perpetrated by those who simply want to abandon their responsibility to save souls. Without bound conscience sexual relations are a gift, granted by our Lord, consummated by one man and one woman within the confines of the Sacrament of Marriage. Once man has granted himself authority over of the word of God, it is easy to replace it with their modern sensibilities. It becomes effortless to reinterpret Scripture to satisfy the longings of a depraved humanity.

The leadership of the ELCA has replaced reason with the deliberate confusion of the intent of our God in order to appease those who want a God on their own terms. Hebrews 12:22-25, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” Those who decide it is incumbent upon themseves to disregard Scripture in order to be more welcoming, tolerant and accepting, turn away from the commands of our Lord and encourage the faithful to follow errant doctrine. Those that accept this bound conscience may well be placing their very salvation at risk.

1 john 2:3-6, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” To accept the premise of bound conscience one must necessarily disobey God’s commands, either by deliberately choosing to disregard His will or by acquiescing to or ignoring those that choose to do so. To truly love the Lord we must want to please Him above all else. To truly please our Lord is to walk as He did and follow His teaching, not place our needs before His. We all have our failings and fall into sin all too regularly, but if we deliberately defy our God, how long will His patience last. As a follower of Christ, my conscience compels me to object to the intentional rejection of God’s word by placing man’s opinion above His will. From the Formula of Concord, “when under the title and pretext of external adiaphora (Adiaphora refers to matters not regarded as essential to faith, but nevertheless are permissible or allowed in church.) is such things are proposed as are in principle contrary to God's Word (although painted another color), these are not to be regarded as adiaphora, in which one is free to act as he will, but must be avoided as things prohibited by God.” The doctrine of bound conscience does not fall under the auspices of adiaphora, even though the leaders of the ELCA paint it as such. It must avoided, as are all things that are prohibited by our Lord.

This church, that so prides itself on its great diversity, always falls back on its “official” doctrine when the faithful call out to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. What does their official doctrine say about allowing those who stray and teach a gospel other than the one our Lord taught? From the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, which is declared by the ELCA as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church, “all doctrines are to be conformed, and what is, contrary thereto is to be rejected and condemned, as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith. In this way the distinction between the Holy Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament and all other writings is preserved, and the Holy Scriptures alone remain the only judge, rule, and standard, according to which, as the only test-stone, all dogmas shall and must be discerned and judged, as to whether they are good or evil, right or wrong.” The doctrine of bound conscience is contrary to Scriptural intent and violates our Lord’s commands. And since one must necessarily invoke this bound conscience to accept other false gospels promoted and/or accepted by the leaders of the ELCA, it must be rejected and condemned.

1 Peter 3:14-16, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Continue to proclaim our Lord’s Gospel and to speak out to expose the heresies promoted by the leaders of the ELCA. Wear the slander that they speak against us as a badge of honor and continue to fight the good fight. There are far too many of our brothers and sisters that are too easily accepting these false doctrines.
Common Sense for a Senseless World

Monday, January 30, 2012
Rules, Rules, Rules
Some people think that being a Christian involves nothing more than simply obeying the rules of a condemnatory and unfair God. They charge that Christians are nothing more than hypocrites, judging others for the same shortcomings they possess themselves, while breaking all the rules they profess to honor. Then there is the dilemma of how a loving God could sacrifice His only Son to satisfy His anger against a sinful humanity. “Forward thinking” churches chide those that continue to respect the authority of Scripture as Biblical literalists that use God’s word as a war club to disparage those that have an opinion contrary to their own. Modern “Christians” have become so smitten with the things of this new and enlightened religion that they fail to see the plank stuck in their collective eyes. Those that lift up the love of the neighbor above the love of our Lord have indeed blinded themselves to the cost of this misguided love. Without first filling our hearts with the love of our Lord and Savior, we will find only an imperfect and unwise understanding that is steeped in human selfishness.

By allowing their members to have their cake and eat it too, the leadership of the ELCA encourages its’ membership to place themselves above our God. If they could just understand how much harm they are doing by affirming sinful behavior. It’s not the point that God has prohibited certain behaviors. It’s the point that by disobeying we place our desires before God’s will. Disobedience is willfully placing ourselves above God, believing that it is man that is in authority. Our sins are no longer held against us because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins with His precious blood. So, even though we rebel and disobey, our Father still has a place in His heavenly home for those that have faith in the Risen Christ. When we sin, it is not about breaking rules. It’s about the chain of command. Every time we sin, our selfishness supersedes our Lord. We place ourselves in authority, rather than looking to conform to His will. We need to turn our lives over to our Savior and that means placing Him first. Without Him, we are the nonproductive branch that is pruned, left to wither and thrown into the fire. If left to our own designs, we consistently make a mess of things. Without our God’s guidance we are nothing but human animals, looking to satisfy every worldly desire without regard to our neighbor.

Every single one of us Christians continually fall short of the glory of our Lord by breaking the 1st commandment over and over. God made us selfish creatures and that is in stark evidence throughout our lives. There was once a little boy whose friend asked him, “If you are such a good Christian, why do you need to go to church every Sunday? The little boy answered his friend, “Practice!” We need to be regularly filled with the word of God and to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ preached so that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can come to better love and serve our Lord. We need to continue to meet with other believers and dwell in His word, to lift up, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The only time Scripture is to be used as a war club is when using it in battle with the evil one.

As for the vengeful God whose bloodlust cost His only Son His life, Jesus said in John 10:20, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is one with the Father.  Jesus was with the Father from the beginning, the word made flesh. When Jesus hung on the cross, God experienced every ache, every pain, suffering the punishment meant for a sinful humanity because He was on that cross. Tim Keller, from The Reason for God: “Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Forgiveness is the ultimate surrender. To forgive means relinquishing any claim of recompense, in fact refusing to accept restitution for any damage incurred. Rather than punishing those that wronged Him, God took upon Himself the punishment meant for us, His children. He took the bullet for us and forfeit His life in order that we may live. He is a loving God.

Once we come to realize that our selfish nature places us at odds with our God and decide to submit to His authority, our lives will start to fall into place. We will gladly obey, for that is what is pleasing to our Lord. John 14:23, “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” We will begin to transform our selfish nature into one who gladly serves the Lord and proclaims His glory. When we reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction, we do so, not to call them out as rule breakers, but to save them from themselves. Our love of our brothers and sisters in Christ compels us to keep them on the narrow path.
Common Sense for a Senseless World

The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
- Harper Lee

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.
- Martin Luther

Proverbs 28:4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.

Reclaiming the Church for the Bible -  Pr. Jonathan Jenkins - Easter, 2008

Many of us here think the ELCA has a problem with the Bible. Many of us also agree with the obverse: the Bible has a problem with the ELCA. “With them,” said our Lord, “indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them.’”(Matthew 13:14-15)

How have we grown so hard of hearing? The parable of the Sower and the Seed is the occasion of our Lord’s recollection of Isaiah. It warns of three causes for the failure of the Word of Kingdom to grow among us: the devil, shallow roots, and worldly desires. The next parable, the Weeds among the Wheat, warns of a fourth cause: bad seed – words that appear to be wheat, but are actually weeds.

The ELCA has a problem with the Bible, and the Bible has a problem with the ELCA. What is the solution? Being wary of the evil one, growing deep roots in the Word, and not being fooled by the needs of this life. What is the solution? Good seed. Exposure to plenty of good seed. To reclaim the church for the Bible we need to…read the Bible. Why aren’t Lutherans more interested in reading the Bible? Because, like the church in Luther’s day, we’ve developed habits that make it unnecessary.

In Luther’s day, on the one hand, the Pope and certain experts were the official interpreters of Scripture. In our day, Chicago and certain experts are the official interpreters of Scripture. In Luther’s day, the “heavenly prophets” claimed to know the meaning of Scripture on the basis of their individual experience. In our day, everybody can claim to know the meaning of Scripture on the basis of their individual experience. It had become unnecessary to read the Bible in Luther’s day, and you see the same forces at work today, for example, in our Christian education materials that typically combine isolated bits of Scripture, explanations from experts, and the predictable question, “What does it mean to you?” At best, you might end up learning about the Bible. In any case, you don’t actually have to read the Bible, because an expert will tell you what it meant and you decide what it means.

Luther objected to experts and individualists for the same reason: both are substitutes for Scripture – both assault Scripture’s ability to speak the Word of God clearly and publicly. What we need said Luther, are pastors who will proclaim the Word clearly and publicly, and congregations that will regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. Luther’s alternative to learning about the Bible is learning from the Bible.

First and last, this means simply knowing the words – taking in the words,
chewing on them, developing a taste for them. “How sweet are your words
to my taste; sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Familiarity
with the words is the fundamental form of Scripture’s inspiration, and the
fundamental form of Scripture’s authority is allowing the words to say
whatever they have to say. “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it
that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world.’ Jesus answered
him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not
love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine,
but is from the Father who sent me” (John 14:22-24).

For that reason, the text of my confirmation classes is the Bible. What we do
in class is read the Bible. When reading the Bible, we will go to the
catechism, too, and we will go to the liturgy, too, and we will go to any
question they want to ask, too, and we will read summaries I have prepared,
too. But it is in learning from our Bibles that we will go to these other places.
Reading the Bible together is what we do in confirmation class. Knowing the
words is our goal.

There’s more I’d like to say on the subject..., but for the moment it is enough to know that to reclaim the church for the Bible, we need to read the Bible.

Pastor Jenkins serves Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Lebanon, Penn.

For if you want to judge according to what you see and feel, and if you, when God’s Word is held before you, hold your feeling against that, saying: “You are indeed telling me much, however, my heart is telling me far differently, and if you felt what I feel, you, too, would talk differently, etc.,” then you do not have God’s Word in your heart; this has been suppressed and extinguished by your own ideas, reason, and reflections. In short, when you no longer accord the Word greater validity than your every feeling, your eyes, your senses, and your heart, you are doomed, and you can no longer be helped. For this is called an article of faith, not one of your reason or wisdom, nor of human power or ability. Therefore here, too, you must judge solely by the Word, regardless of what you feel or see. I, too, feel my sin and the Law and the devil on my neck. I feel myself oppressed under these as under heavy burdens. But what am I to do? If I were to judge according to my feeling and my ability, I, together with all other men, should have to perish and despair. However, if I wish to be helped, I must surely turn about and look to the Word and say accordingly: “Indeed, I feel God’s wrath, the devil, death, and hell; but the Word conveys a different message, namely, that I have a gracious God through Christ, who is my Lord over the devil and all creatures. To be sure, I feel and see that I and all other men must rot in the ground; but the Word informs me differently, namely, that I shall rise in great glory and live eternally.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:1–2 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: 'You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.' Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it

- a Krauth quote from the Conservative Reformation

Ninety-Nine Shades of Grey

A clear description of the culture we now live in would go something like this: a hatred of absolutes, a dismissal of universals, an abhorrence of truth, and a disdain of certainty. Instead, we find an all-encompassing embrace of relativism, subjectivism, and scepticism. Modern culture has eschewed black and white in favour of 99 shades of grey.

This explains why there is so much hostility and animus directed to those who have not bought into this postmodern delusion, and believe truth and absolutes do in fact exist, and can be boldly proclaimed and championed. A relativistic culture just can’t stand that sort of boldness, certainty, and confidence.

So even though so many will champion relativism in all its forms, they nonetheless act as if their own relativism is an absolute. They are absolutely sure there are no absolutes, and will argue their case till they are blue in the face. They brashly insist that they are right about insisting that we can never be right about anything.

Peter Kreeft has written about this mixed-up mindset: ‎“The simplest refutation of the tolerance argument is its very premise. It assumes that tolerance is really, objectively, universally, absolutely good. If the relativist replied that he is not presupposing the objective value of tolerance, then all he is doing is demanding the imposition of his subjective personal preference for tolerance. That is surely more intolerant than the appeal to an objective, universal, impersonal, moral law. If no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance far more seriously than the relativist. It is absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance.”

Indeed, as I keep on documenting here, the people I find to be the most intolerant are the ones who go on and on about how vital it is that we all be tolerant. They despise any idea that there might be universal rights and wrongs, and absolute truth. They hate our strong stance on any issue.

I often get critics saying I need to lighten up and stop seeing everything in terms of black and white. They make it clear they are just so upset with me for spurning their world of greys. They insist I must make room for “nuance”. They want me to be just like them, and float around in a fetid pool of mental and moral relativism.

And I am not just speaking of the usual candidates here: the secular humanists and their fellow travellers. I am referring to all the limp-wristed Christians who long ago have abandoned truth, certainty and absolutes for the latest trendy PoMo pap.

They inform me that if I would just be more nuanced and tolerant I would not be getting all the flak that I do. They want me to just be nice and not offend anyone. They want me to never rock the boat. But I have news for these religious wimps: it ain’t gonna happen. If they don’t like what I am doing, they can just go elsewhere and throw their little hissy fits.

And they had better stop pretending they are in any way biblical Christians. They seem to be clueless as to the fact that the Bible is chock block full of strong absolutes, withering universals, and stark black and whites. It knows nothing of this namby-pamby, ‘I don’t want to offend anybody’ baloney.

Try a few of these out for size, all from someone who should know something about truth and its importance – Jesus:

“He who is not with me is against me.” Luke 11:23

“You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matt 6:24

“You belong to your father, the devil.” John 8:44

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:8

“For judgment I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39

“You will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:14

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matt 23:33

“You hypocrites.” Luke 13:15

“He rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’” Mark 8:33

Gee, those statements sure do not sound very nuanced. They seem all very black and white to me. No middle ground there. No nuance. No 99 shades of grey. No beating around the bush. No wimpy platitudes and jellyfish sentiments there. Just very strong, powerful and forceful absolutes. But our weak-kneed moral and epistemological relativists just can’t handle this. It is all too much for them.

Well, tough beans – how’s that for another black and whiter, without “nuance”. I really don’t give a rip what the wimps for Jesus care about. They will more than likely sell out Jesus and the gospel when any opposition or persecution comes up. Indeed, such wimps will probably never face any opposition or persecution – not as long as they bend over backwards to please men and seek to be liked by everyone.

No wonder that they get so angry at people who do take a stand, who do insist on truth, who do believe in absolutes. That just drives these guys into a tizzy. They have so bought into the tolerance baloney that they in fact become the most intolerant folks around.

We don’t need “nuance” when it comes to crystal clear issues like the sanctity of the unborn or the institution of marriage. Here we stand on the rock and shout, “I cannot be moved. I can do no other.” We stand on the solid ground of the Word of God, not the shifting sands of the relativists, postmodernists and secular lefties.

I am not ashamed of truth, and I am not ashamed of proclaiming black and white in an age of 99 shades of grey. As always, Tozer nailed it when he wrote, “The most fervent devotees of tolerance are invariably intolerant of everyone who speaks about God with certainty.”

At the end of the day these wimps channelling the tolerance mantra are really just cowards. Dorothy Sayers described all this perfectly: “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

BTW, for anyone thinking there is nothing all that wrong with being a bit wimpy or cowardly, let me refer you to just one passage – Rev. 21:8. Who is it that leads the list of those cast out and judged? Yep, the cowardly. In a time of war there is no place for cowards, wimps, and men-pleasers. We need soldiers who will go to battle and risk all for Christ and his Kingdom.

And it will be costly. As Leonard Ravenhill said, “It’s going to demand a lot of courage before too long – to really live and maintain the true Christian life according to the Word of the Living God.” Or as Tozer remarks, “Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”
Bill Muehlenberg - CultureWatch

Thursday, September 13, 2012 - Don Kriefall
Boxing God - Common Sense for a Senseless World

Those “unenlightened, traditional Christians that adhere to the doctrine of “Sola Scrptura” and uphold the authority of Scripture are often accused of putting God in a “box”. The progressive Christian looks upon those traditional Christians as “Bible Thumpers” that simply are following a book of outdated rules. Those progressives look at Scripture and see an archaic book, written by uneducated men, that contain interesting stories that are, unfortunately, wedded to the time and place where they were composed. That the authors of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit is something that only weak minded individuals would believe, say those enlightened by this modernistic religion where God is doing all kinds of new things. Jesus said in John 16:13-15, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” That our Lord and Savior told the Disciples that He would guide the Spirit in revealing the truth to them is of far lesser importance to the leaders of the progressive ELCA than striving for social justice.

Fact of the matter is that these so-called enlightened progressive Christians that currently hold authority within the ELCA do not put God in a box when they refuse to acknowledge anything that does not fit with what their expectations of God are. They infer that God is doing "new" things that, astonishingly, tell them only what they want to hear. Their doctrine of love, acceptance and tolerance extends only to those who think and believe as they do. Those progressive Christians that create a god in their own image are doing nothing short of fighting God. They are so hung up on the “law” that accepting the authority of Scripture is simply not tolerable. Listen to Nadia Bolz-Weber in her rant against the Christianity that has boundaries that she happens to personally disagree with. I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, but there she is, addressing the national youth gathering of the ELCA, in jeans and a tank top, showing off all of her tattoos that were etched upon her skin by a fellow drug addict. She proudly displays those signs from a former life that almost cost her life on this earth, but fails to use them to teach the young and impressionable a lesson. Yes, she extols the fact that it was by God’s grace that He lifted her out of a life of drugs and despair, but she offers nothing about faith in the Risen Christ and why God so loves His children. The story of her finding an appropriate church had nothing to do with God’s love or repentance, but all to do with feeling welcome in a “tolerant and enlightened” church replete with the appropriate diverse membership that was acceptable to her expectations. Her ideal church is not one that welcomes all sinners, but one that recognizes no sin, has no need for repentance, and has a god that meets her expectations, made in her own image.

So, while those that uphold the authority of Scripture supposedly place God in a box, progressive Christians literally punch Him in the mouth as they deny the very truths they are called to uphold. Bishop Mark Hanson was the keynote speaker that addressed the Lutherans Concerned conference in July of this year. In that address he stated, “I am so grateful for the church we are today—a church committed to welcoming all while valuing our differences and respecting diversity. Through this unity in diversity we show forth the body of Christ.“ Let me take creative license here and interpret for you Hanson’s real intent in this message. “I am deeply disturbed at the state of the church today. So many traditional Lutherans fail to see the advantage of secularizing our church. Affirming members within their sin allows us to take the high road and fit in with society, rather than undertaking the daunting task of bringing the lost to Christ. Lifting up the gospel of radical inclusiveness over the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings the ELCA greater respect in the eyes of the world, rather than being viewed as a backward thinking organization that clings to their Bibles. And becoming a new creation when Christ fills your heart, well that is overrated. Denying oneself has such a negative connotation, people feel much better pleasing themselves without having to give up those things that the selfish nature desires. Unity begins and ends with the diversity that is the ELCA.”

It is true that the leaders of the ELCA do not put God in a box. They continue be engaged in a battle, fighting against Him, striking our Lord with body blow after body blow with each “new” thing that disregards our Lord’s will. But understand this, Psalm 145:17-20, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” Continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seek the lost in order to lead them to Him.

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