“You will be hated by all…”

Startup Stock PhotosA friend of mine once told me a story about his trips to the coffee house to sit, read, and, on occasion, discuss Christianity.  My friend didn’t go to debate, he was there because it was a comfortable place with nice chairs and room to spread out his books for study.  The coffee house wasn’t a big chain with green aprons, but a locally-owned place with good crowds and a great vibe.  He loved the place and got to know a few of the regulars.  Everyone got along for the most part, and he had some lively debates.
That is, until one night, when another patron pulled him aside and told him to be careful.  My friend and the patron had grown close, and the patron wanted to look out for him.  There were grumblings among some of the others that my friend needed to “watch out.”  This was, effectively, a threat.
Christians, more often than not, are not the instigators of another person’s feelings.  We don’t cause someone to become angry at us, or to hate us, or to think we’re being judgmental.  Often, the quiet Christian is harassed solely because they exist in the same space as the other person or people and are, well, being Christian.
“If I don’t cause the reaction, why does it happen?  Are these people just hateful individuals?” Not at all. Instead, those responses are internal to that person.  The feelings inside them well up and are driven out at the Christian, making them the target of all of the feelings.
So, then, one will ask, “What are the source of these feelings?  These are not people that normally live lives of anger.”  How can it be that seemingly passive or accepting people (read “tolerant”) become so vicious?
In the end, the answer is fairly simple for the Christian to understand, and folly to all others.  They have the Law written on their hearts, as we all do.  The very sight of Christians and Christian signs and symbols wrenches on their hearts and minds, and injects a feeling of guilt that bounces off of their hardened hearts and becomes hate as it leaves their lips.  They don’t hate you, though, but rather they hate Christ and all that He is.  They cannot stomach the thought of their sins, their breaking of the moral code of God, and they live in fear of the judgment that is theirs because of their sin.  They are not even aware of it.
And the worst part of this reaction is that we do the same things to God.  We, in our sinful lives, hate God.  Our stomachs turn and our sinful hearts turn away.  We strive to run from God as fast as we can.
“But, how can that be?” you say.  “I go to church, read my Bible and pray, and I believe.  How can I hate God?”  The key difference between the believer and the unbeliever is faith.  We have faith, given by the Holy Spirit through the power of God’s Word.  Because of that faith, the Holy Spirit turns us towards God and His Son Jesus Christ, and we are saved!  By the power outside of ourselves, we are made right before God.  We are because, as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
That’s the blessing of God’s power and the comfort of His merciful gift in Christ Jesus.  We are able to live freely in our faith, and able to complete the works of God for the world around us.
The unbeliever doesn’t have that comfort.  They don’t have the faith that saves them from the wretched guilt that eats their insides.  Without the Word of God, they are not even able to give it a name.  They just know that they hate that cross you wear, the Bible you carry, the worship music you listen to, or the book about your faith that you read.  They cannot understand because they do not have the language that we receive in our faith.
We live in a world that doesn’t understand us.  It doesn’t know Christ inherently.  God is only revealed to us by God’s Word.  This is why we must continue to speak it to the world.  Whenever we can, whether it is the quiet lunch conversation with the grieving co-worker, the smiling message of gratefulness and thanks to the grocery store clerk, or the words of forgiveness and strength to our friends and family, we can speak the Word of God and the comfort that comes in Christ Jesus our Lord through our words and actions.
Maybe, next time the person who sees you at the coffee house will, instead of shouting at you, ask about the Bible you are reading.

The President and the Layman

I’m going to reprint here, word for word, a post from Steadfastlutherans.org.  It is a letter from a layman to former LCMS President Kieschnick about his blog post regarding Newtown.  I believe this it is a summary of our position at DearChristianFriends.com and an adequate response to the words of President Kieschnick.

A Layman’s Response to President Emeritus Kieschnick’s Position on Newtown, by Pr. Rossow

February 25th, 2013Post by 

LCMS President Emeritus Kieschnick had some interesting comments on the Newtown incident  in his Perspectives column. Curtis Christiansen, the Head Elder from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Lincoln Nebraska; Pastor Clint Poppe) took exception to many things President Kieschnick said and sent him the following letter.

The letter was written exclusively by Mr. Christiansen. The first his pastor heard of it was when he was copied on it. We have held on to it for several days to assure that President Kieschnick would have received it in the mail before seeing it here. (He probably doesn’t read Steadfast anyway. It is a common cry among district presidents and synod officials that they don’t have time to read the blogs. If only it was because they were too busy visiting their parishes and holding them to our stated synodical standards such as Article VI. B of the Synod Constitution on unionism and syncretism.)

It is a popularly held opinion that the strong LCMS laity of the 1970′s saved the synod in convention from the liberal, higher critical theology of the seminary professors. I believe it is true. My father was one of them. Mr. Christiansen’s letter to President Kieschnick suggests there is at least one laymen in the 2010′s who is equipped and courageous enough to rescue the synod once again. If you are a like-minded layman you may want to drop a comment on this post and show Mr. Christiansen your support. For that matter, Pastors are welcome to join in the edification as well.

Dear Pastor Kieschnick,

Recently you responded on your blog to the events in Newtown, Connecticut and the media’s response to events within our Synod.  In that article you stated “For them the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism, and legalism.”     As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran Christian in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your statement with a “YES”

Yes we are isolationist.  We believe that God has chosen us from the foundation of the earth, that he has called us out of darkness to his eternal light.  We believe in the words of St. Peter that we are “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences  of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” ( I Peter 2:9) .  So yes we are isolationists as those separated unto God.

We are isolationists, as said by St. Paul “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God: as God said I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2Corinthinans 6: 14 – 7:1)   So, yes, we are isolationists, as a temple of the living God.  Isolated in Christ, who as the light of the world, has isolated us from darkness, that we be the salt and light of the world.

Yes we are legalists.  We believe that the law curbs sin, shows us our sin, and is a guide in righteousness.  With the Psalmist we believe “The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”(Psalm 119:69-72).  Yes we are legalists for we believe we are to have no other Gods before Him.

Yes we are sectarian.  For we believe we are one body, as the apostle Paul taught us; “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22). So I guess we are sectarians as well.

What was saddening to me upon reading your article was what you implied with your statement; for it seems that you were implying that we are Monastics, Aesthetics, and Pharisees.  As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your implications with a “NO”.

No, we are not monastics.  We do not hide out in monasteries.  We serve God in our vocations as parent or children, as employee or employer, as citizen, as church member, to whatever vocation God has called us, we serve Him.   In our synod we bring comfort to the hurting through our World Relief Mission, through our Lutheran Laymen League and Lutheran Women in Mission.  And we do all this as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, as the mask of God bringing the mercies of God to a troubled and hurting world.

No neither are we aesthetics.  We do not hold back from the world because we are afraid that it might defile us.  We understand the apostle Paul when he teaches us; “Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.  If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, …… according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2: 16-23).  So No we are not ascetics.

No, nor are we are Pharisees.  We do not believe we are better than others, rather we have the humility of Christ to teach us as the apostle Paul said;  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).  We do not seek public displays of our righteousness as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:43).  Nor do we elevate bylaws and ecclesiastical supervision over the Word of God as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  (Matthew 23: 23)

Pastor Kieschnick, I have been a Christian for many years now and have learned that Christianity involves more than just telling people that Jesus loves them.  When we say publically, NO to things like adultery, abortion, and homosexuality we are doing this out of love for our neighbor.  For we know that these things are sin and death.  As the apostle Paul says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sin.” (Ephesians 2).  We do not say NO because we are pursuing righteousness through keeping the law, for we believe Christ is our righteousness, but rather out of love for our fellow man.  Even though these sins are the things of death; out of love for our neighbor, we proclaim another death, not a death in sin, but a death that unites us with Christ as Romans 6 teaches; “for all  of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.  We were buried with Him in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. “

But I also know that when we say  NO (either individually as a Christian or corporately as a church body)  to things like adultery, abortion, homosexuality and even syncretic worship, we will be reviled by the public and other religious bodies, as unloving, uncaring, and intolerant.  But as a Christian, we understand these things.  For our Lord has instructed us; “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19).  But with both the apostle Paul and apostle Peter we consider it a joy to share in Christ’s sufferings, that we may also rejoice in His second coming.

Yes, Pastor Kieschnick, Elijah did pray in the presence of hundreds of prophets of false gods.  In fact Elijah said there were exactly 450 prophets of Baal.  And here is what Elijah prayed, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”  Then the fire of Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is Go.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.” (1 Kings 18:36-40).

And, yes, Paul preached in synagogues and taught in the presence of people who rejected Jesus; and, what did he say “….And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.”  Therefore he says also in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.”  For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.  Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.  Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about; “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.”  (Acts 13:34-41)

When a pastor is invited to pray at an interfaith worship, are you saying they should pray as Elijah and preach as Paul?

With the upcoming synodical convention in a few months, I assume many will see the recent media attention and public outcry, as an opportunity for political expediency.  It provides an opportunity to question some in our synod, to promote tension and discord.  Our convention will probably be filled with overtures on unionism and syncretism, there will be calls for investigations, there will be outrage and disgust, new bylaws will need to be adopted, new administrators will need to be elected, and all these trappings of political intrigue will swirl through our convention.

But before we as a church body get sidetracked with all this business of unionism, syncretism, and try to answer all these questions of legalism, isolationism, and sectarianism; I recommend our church body ask a much simpler question of itself.  Are we going to serve God or mammon?  For too long our church body has been deceiving ourselves into thinking we can do both.  We have been too worried about whether other denominations accept us, whether society considers us relevant or outdated or isolationists or sectarians, we have worried about how many members we have and how big of a synod we are or are not, how fast we are or are not growing, about lack of money, about how we can dress up ourselves so that we are inviting, entertaining, and attractive.  But our savior instructs us that we cannot love both God and mammon, for ultimately we end up hating one and loving the other.  And, so, if we decide we want to serve mammon let’s do it whole heartedly.  Let’s join the Lutheran World Federation and the Ecumenical Council of Churches.  Let’s pray to Allah or the great spirit.  Let’s bless each other in the name of the feminine trinity and let’s sanction abortion, marry homosexuals, and allow everyone to the communion rail.  Let’s draw the masses in with our entertainment and take as much money as they will give us.  For surely this will increase our wealth, our status, our relevance.

And if we decide we want to serve God, let’s just softly and simply say NO, I’m sorry but I can’t  do that ,  I must obey God rather than  men.

Peace be with you.


Curtis Christiansen

The Egotistical Underpinnings of First Amendment Rights and the Societal Response, or It’s Just a Chicken Sandwich, People

There’s been a lot of rumbling around the media and the Internet as of late regarding the ability of a retail food outlet’s president to state, very plainly, his beliefs on the family and homosexual relationships. The backlash to his statements, and subsequent support for them, has been tremendous in both quantity and volume. After all this discussion, it makes me wonder about this debate, and who should be protected by the law for what they say versus who have the “correct” viewpoint and the reasoned approach.

Dan Cathy, the President of Chick-fil-a, which is for all purposes a chicken sandwich shop, decided to make public on a Baptist media program his opinion about homosexuals and their desire to be married under the laws of the U.S. Cathy spoke not out of turn, nor did he speak out to a media that would be less supportive of his comments in order to by antagonistic. Instead, he answered a question about his financial support for organizations that work to keep marriage between a man and a woman, and then explained the position he and his family-owned company hold on the subject.

As word of his comments spread, the community supporting gay marriage under the law stepped in and decried his comments as anger-mongering, evil (or, at least, the opposite of good), and discriminatory. Supporters of Cathy have claimed he was under his First Amendment rights, according to the U.S. Constitution, to make these statement. Detractors have decided to protest his stores and push to block their expansion into markets across the country.

At this blog, the biblical definition of marriage is the belief of record, whether the United States decides to allow the marriage of two men or two women to exist legally. And that belief is held knowing full well that two things can result from it: 1) People may choose not to read this blog because it preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified; that is the choice of any reader of any blog; 2) People may choose to argue, attack, threaten, decry, hack, or abuse this blog, and it will continue to preach about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Because, at the end of it all, we are all sinners (Romans 5:12). We have all done the evil we do not want to do (Romans 7:15). And yet, Christ comes for all, to die on the cross for the sins of the world. He died for all, that all might live (Romans 6:10). We need only to listen to His Word, and by doing so, receive the Holy Spirit and the faith the Spirit brings to us.

I’ve never actually eaten at a Chick-fil-a. Will Dan Cathy’s comments make me more likely to do so? Probably not if I’m not in the mood to eat chicken. Cathy can says whatever he likes. He will have to deal with the response society brings on him and his business. He will also have to deal with the judgement of the Lord when Cathy stands before him in his death. And then, his actions, his words, his thoughts will not save him. Only faith in Christ alone and His atoning death and suffering on the cross and resurrection on the third day will bring Dan Cathy, and all of us, to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

He is Risen! Hallelujah!

Responsibility and Contraception

Let’s face it, sex is fun.  It feels good.  Really good.  No one who has, can, or does partake of sex will deny that is one of the most enjoyable activities for humans.

It’s important to note that sex creates people.  That’s what it does.  Having sex makes more people.  Again, this isn’t news to those of us who have had, or will have, sex.

What do more people create?  The answer to that is much more complicated.  So let’s talk about this not as “more people”, rather a person.  Because sex creates just one person (well, most of the time, but we’ll leave twins or more out of this).

The first thing sex creates is another mouth to feed, not just our own.  Sex also creates a relationship with the other person who is biologically part of the mouth to feed, whether you like that person or not.  Although, if you’re willing to have sex with someone, I would hope you like them a little bit.  Sex creates dirty diapers, sleepless nights, field trips, college tuition, brothers, sisters, and/or grandchildren (because sex creates more sex, no one will deny THAT statement).  Sex creates borrowed cars, boyfriends, sporting events, school pictures, punishments, cell phone bills, and trips to DisneyWorld.  Simply stated, sex creates responsibility.  Responsibility is a consequence.

How does contraception fit in to this responsibility and consequence?  Contraception allows for the removal of responsibility and consequence while leaving the capacity to feel good.  Perhaps that’s over simplifying the discussion.  But contraception means that one doesn’t have to consider what will happen after having sex.  Instead, one can just think about having more sex.  Without the risk of responsibility.

Because no one wants to be responsible, right?

On the Death of Christopher Hitchens…

Christopher Hitchens, prodigious author, raging atheist, and one of those for whom Christ suffered and died on the cross, has passed away from cancer.  His life was full of choices and challenges.  Heavy drinking and smoking, failed marriages, cancer of the esophagus, anger and bitterness to all major world religions, one must wonder why I would choose to memorialize him in this blog.

Mr. Hitchens, for all his faults and failures, worldly successes and fame, was a sinner, just as I am, and just as you are.  His life was an example of the hold that sin can have on someone, and the power of the temptation of the devil.

He is not, however, an example of the vengeance of the Lord.  Christopher Hitchens didn’t get cancer because God decided to punish him for the book God is not Great in 2007.  He is not dead because the Lord turned His wrath on this “evil man.”  Not at all. Instead, the Lord allowed Mr. Hitchens a long life, 62 years worth, and had him cross paths with many different Christians throughout his time on earth.  I dare to say that Christopher Hitchens was preached the Gospel more than most men.

Our God is a merciful God, as the psalmist says in Psalm 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  The Lord is so merciful, He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified for Christopher Hitchens.  That is not a God of vengeance, or a God of raging anger.  If the Lord had chosen to punish Christopher Hitchens, He would have destroyed him in 2007, or when he left his wife, or renounced his Christian upbringing as a youth.

Instead, the Lord gave Mr. Hitchens a long life, filled with struggle and temptation, the life He gives us all.  It is a life which knows sin, and all the pain that comes with it.  And through that pain and sin Jesus stands waiting, and we cling to the cross, and receive the salvation our God gives us through the faith He brings us in baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and hearing His Word.

I am sad for the death of Christopher Hitchens.  Death is not the natural, created state of man.  It is the result of sin.  His death reminds me that we all will die.  But in our earthly death, our faith brings us to new life in Christ Jesus for those who believe.  I hope that Mr. Hitchens was able to remember that Gospel he heard so many times, and that the Holy Spirit was able to work in his heart.  May God have mercy.

A House Divided…

I attend a church made up of three congregations.  There’s the 5:30 Saturday night congregation, the 8 AM Sunday morning congregation, and the 10:30 AM Sunday morning congregation.  Some of the 8 AM people pass through the 5:30 service occasionally, and the 8 and 10:30 people cross paths in the airlock of the 9:15 Bible classes, but even there, it’s less about the congregations coming together and more about a whole different group who happens to attend Bible study at the same time.  A house divided…

At what point does it become OK for a congregation to be this way?  We are there together to make up the Body of Christ, yet we can’t be together because we won’t sit in the other’s service.  We are divided not by time (although some have chosen when to go and make it a point to follow that choice), or because of a propensity to attend Bible class before/after the church service.  We are divided because of music and liturgy.

Our congregation has become the congregation of the Divine Service and the congregation of the Contemporary Service.  Those who attend 5:30 PM or 8 AM do so because they want to attend during the worship service from the Lutheran Service Book.  They enjoy the hymns and cherish the settings of the Divine Service, and want to go to church when they know they will be comfortable and able to worship in a predictable and reverent manner.  The Contemporary Service people go to 10:30 AM because they like the music, and the way the service changes every week, and how it fills them with faith and gives them hope for the week to come.

Both are valid and healthy ways to think about and participate in church.  Both services include the key parts of any worship service:  Confession and Absolution, the Readings, Songs and Hymns, a Sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and Blessings and Prayers.  Each service builds faith and brings the forgiveness of sins.  Each strengthens the children of God in the Body of Christ.  And it’s tearing us apart.

We are not to seek a church of faithful INDIVIDUALS!  We are the whole Body of Christ, His Bride the Church, and yet we would never set foot in the other’s service.  And why not?  Because we would say, “I don’t worship that way.”

It is a work of the Law to believe that church is only to be done as the Divine Service lays out, rubic by ordinary by proper, start to finish.  It is also a sinful heart who would criticize the worship of another because it is “repetitive” or “boring”.  We have become the circumcized and the uncircumcized of the early Christian church, divided by practice and by our view of the other’s worship style.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:14ff:  “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”  Christ is the One who gathers us up and brings us together.  We are not a church because we share a building.  We are a church because we share Jesus and Him Crucified.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” -Ephesians 4:1-6.

We are to love one another, not tear the other down or turn up our noses.  We are to worship with one another, not because we have to, but out of love for one another, and because we are the one body, with Christ as our head.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” -Ephesians 4:15-16.

I have sinned greatly in this as well, for I have stated, quite plainly, that I do not like Contemporary worship, and key changes during songs, and sermons from the communion rail rather than the pulpit.  I ask for your forgiveness, and the forgiveness of my Lord, for I have torn down the faithful worship of others.  I am not proud of my actions regarding the other service, and I will seek to understand and encourage those who would sing to the Lord a new song.

I ask of you the following:  attend a service you normally would not.  Share Christ with the brothers and sisters in your church, in your one congregation, at the table of the Lord.  Seek to build each other up, and understand the faithfulness that comes not from liturgy or from songs, but from the Word of Christ, and the Supper we partake in Him, and the Baptism we have received through Jesus our Lord.

Was the American Revolution Unchristian?

I’m beginning to do some reading on the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms (aka the Two Realms).  This is the concept that God is the ruler over all things, and all He rules over is based in two realms, His left hand (the “civil” realm) and His right hand (the “heavenly” realm).  But before I go any further, let me break this doctrine down very quickly (I’ll do a more in-depth post on the Two Kingdoms later…and special thanks to Pastor Joel Biermann and Concordia Seminary’s iTunesU videos as a source for information).

The “civil” realm is not just the government, but also includes the home, the economy, the environment, etc.  It is the realm of preservation, such as preserving peace and justice in the world.  It is the realm of the Sword, which the government (or those in authority, i.e. parents, teachers, bosses) wield to maintain order over the earth and those over which God has placed them.  This is a key point.  God rules over both realms, and as such, grants authority to those He wishes to have it.

The “heavenly” realm is the church, but not the little “c” church of this world, necessarily.  It is the realm of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  It is the realm of the Word, and is the realm of the work to bring salvation to those who believe.

The two realms are not opposed to each other.  They are not at odds.  Instead, they cross into each other and even compliment each other.  The work of the left realm is to maintain order and civility so that the work of the right may continue to save.  The right hand will bring peace and comfort to the soul, and allow the left to complete it’s task.

An excellent set of examples is the judge and the murderer.  The judge will work in the left realm, dispensing justice from the authority of the government to the murderer.  The murderer, who may repent and truly be sorry for his sins, will still be punished for his crime.  The judge does not let the repentance of the murderer sway him from his task of judgement, and the murderer does not expect that his repentance and forgiveness from God will remove from him the judgement he faces.  The murderer will be forgiven by God, but will receive the Sword of the left hand kingdom.  The judge will use the Sword, but may still work to spread the Word of the right hand kingdom outside of his job.

Still, both kingdoms are ruled by God.  He grants grace and forgiveness on the right, and sets up any authority He wishes on the left.  If God did not want an authority to rule, He would not allow it to be.

So, was the American Revolution against the will of God?  Did our forefathers sin as they overthrew the government which ruled them?  The answer is a resounding “Yes.”

Romans 13:1-2:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

But God works through the sinfulness of man to fulfill His purposes.  Were our forefathers wrong?  Yes.  Does that mean that our nation is inherently evil?  Not necessarily (although THAT’S a discussion for another time).  God uses our country to fulfill His purpose.  May He grant us the strength to do His will when it is our time to complete it.

Now, ask yourself this:  Are the Occupy Wall Street protesters right or wrong?  Are they doing God’s will?  And is supporting them sinful?

On This Day

On this day, we remember so many things. We remember the smoke, the sirens, the screams, the gray clouds roaring, the multitudes of people who lost identity and became one huge ash-covered mass of population.

We think about the faces on fliers, hung on streetposts and walls through the city, searching for the lost. The bright sunshine, an irony to the darkness of the day, shone throughout the morning. There were no clouds to cover the empty skies.

We think about the firefighters and the police officers rushing in, the people who didn’t run out, the soldiers who perished not on the battlefield in some distance land, but in the headquarters here at home. We think about “Let’s roll!” and those who fought back for us.

Most of all, we think about sin, the cause of our suffering. It’s Sunday, and maybe that’s appropriate. For today we remember that we live in a world filled with sin. We live in a world filled with death and destruction and pain and loss. How much more then do we need salvation?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

“It is finished.”


Civility and the Pundit

On Being Civilly Obedient, or How I Learned to Turn Off the Political Pundits and Love the Government.

It’s amazing what a good class on the Book of Concord can remind you of, and teach you, in a 57-minute class.

We were reviewing Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession, and discussing who grants the government authority, and who gives the government to us.  And, oddly enough, the answer is quite clear.

Government is from the Lord.  Not the individual politicians mind you (although we are all God’s children), but the role of government is God-given as the authority over our lives, the protector of our society, and the institution that God established.

What a difficult concept to comprehend! Our government, made up of the sinful humans (as we are all well aware of many days) who make decisions that drive us crazy and make us question our sanity for electing them, is a blessing for which we should be thankful.

It is an American right to decide on the direction and purpose of our government, and to choose those who would lead us.  It is NOT our Christian right to criticize, denigrate, and hate our politicians.  As much as politics can upset and frustrate us, we are not to look down upon or disrespect those in authority.  The meaning of the Fourth Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism says it well, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”

Can you say that you cherish the President, or Congress, or the police officer by whom you were caught speeding?

It is true that God commands us to follow Him first, and to submit to authority when it does not conflict with His commands.  But how many times do we use that argument to speak poorly about the members of our government?  Political pundits on television, radio, and the Internet skirt, bump, and sometimes run over with a Mack trunk the Fourth and, many times, the Eighth Commandment.  Have you?  Is it regular water-cooler discussion for you at the office, when you are with friends or family?

Always remember to pray for those in authority, who make the difficult decisions when leading us, for the families of those who serve us, and for ourselves that we may be loving and patient with them, and that we may cherish them in their God-given duty.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-3

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” – Romans 13:1

Ten Second-Graders are Missing at School…

So, I was listening to Issues, Etc. (yes, I know, you hear that a lot on this blog), and I heard a message from the Susan B. Anthony List.  It’s a group that works to elect Pro-Life female candidates to political office.  This blog’s purpose is not political, it’s to spread the message of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.  But what I heard made me stop and do a little math.

1.25 million abortions occur in the United States every year.  There are 124,000 schools (public and private) in the U.S.  My son is starting the second grade, and he has a class of 16.

There are ten children missing from his class…

There are ten children missing from every single class in the United States…

That’s 110 children missing from my son’s school, a private Lutheran school with funding problems directly related to low attendance.

I’m not blaming mothers who “choose” to abort their children for the school’s financial problems.  I’m pointing the finger at myself, someone who “stayed out of the argument” in college because “it is the law.”  I’m accusing myself of a lack of support for his school because I didn’t make a point to say that it was wrong to take away ten of his friends and classmates.  I’m expressing my contrition over the fact that I haven’t considered 110 little sets of ears which could hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 110 children who could learn about, live with, and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  I am the sinner.  And my son is suffering the ill effects of my sin.  God forgive me.

50 million people have died because of abortion since 1973.  The oldest would have turned 38 this year, and would have had their own children, who would also be in my son’s class.  More voicing singing God’s praises on Sunday morning…

So, consider this.  I once heard this from a man who is much more thoughtful and faithful than I:

“Image that a politician stepped up to the microphone and said the following:

‘A woman has the right to choose if she should have to live with her second-grader.  A woman should be able to decide if her second-grader should be allowed to talk and whine and ask questions and want to play and be fed and clothed.  A woman has the right to choose who should be around her own body.  A woman should have the right to choose to abort her second-grader.’

We would call that politician insane!  We would run him out of town and call for his head!  And yet, we elect individuals who are saying the same things, only about children 8 years younger.”

There will be ten second-graders missing at school next month…