Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meet My Needs

This is not going to make much sense to some of you, but your church is probably doing a better job meeting your spiritual needs than you might think, at least at first.

How often have people left a church because they did not think their spiritual needs were being met?  You hear things like: "I just didn't feel the Spirit there." or "I couldn't connect with anyone." or "It wasn't very uplifting."

People get their spiritual needs confused with their psychological, emotional, and social needs.  We think that we need to feel, or connect, or experience, when the truth is much more simple, much more concrete.

Jesus tells His Apostles what to do in order to meet the spiritual needs of those who will believe in their message: Baptize and teach them (Matthew 28), proclaim repentance and forgiveness (Luke 24), and forgive their sins (John 20).
You see, your real spiritual needs are to be called to repentance, forgiven, baptized, and taught the Word of God.  You need the Word of God given in preaching, teaching, songs, hymns, water, and bread and wine.  Only the Word can connect you with Jesus, rid you of your sins, make you righteous, and give you life everlasting.

You may not feel like your needs are being met, but ask yourself if this is really true.  Are your spiritual needs not being met, or were you just looking at the wrong kinds of needs?

Are psychological, emotional, social, or mental needs important?  Sure.  And the church does a better or worse job at meeting those in various places, but that is not why the church is there.

The church is there to give you what Jesus says you need: the forgiveness of your sins through the blood of Jesus.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You Stepped in it.

You stepped in it.

You did.

You stuck in your foot right into a big pile of mess.

You became angry and shot your mouth off.  You got caught looking.  You thought no one would notice it was gone.  You assumed the worst of someone's words.

And now you are going to do what every sinner's first instinct is in this situation: stand your ground.

You are going to fight tooth and nail for your position.  You are going to scream, "Its not my fault!" until you are blue in the face.  You will run from every accusation, attack every accuser, and bit every hand that reaches out to help you.

I've been there.  Trust me, it will only lead to one place:


Let me give you some advice: repent now. 

I know you don't want to.  I know you feel vindicated.  I know you think all those people you had so much admiration and respect for two weeks ago are all dead wrong.

But just repent.  It is a lot easier to simply admit your guilt.  Well, its not easy.  But it is faster.  Life will get back on track that way.

Repent and receive forgiveness.  That is what Christ has called us to.  That is where your answer lies.  That is what you need.

My friend, this is the purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He came to make repentance possible for the likes of you and me.

So take full advantage.  Admit your guilt.  Confess your sins.  Jesus Christ is faithful and just.  He will forgive.
And so will His servants.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

For Anyone Seeking Assurance of Salvation...

To The Men and Women of Various Christian Denominations Who are Seeking Assurance of Salvation,

I hear you.  I have heard you call into various Christian radio programs.  I have read your e-mails.  I have paged through your blogs.  You are out there.

You want to know if you are really saved.  You call into the radio program and ask the Christian host, some scholar or pastor, for reassurance that you are truly a Christian.

My best advice to you: ask a Lutheran pastor.  Because honestly, they are the only ones who can give you what you are seeking.

The Roman Catholic cannot give you assurance because they will tell you to love God and love your neighbor.  But the questions you are asking is: how do I know I have loved them enough?

The Calvinist will tell you that God is sovereign, that He is in control, and that you just need to trust Him.  But you are wondering how you can know if God, in His sovereignty, has chosen you.  And they don't really have an answer for that.

The American Evangelical will tell you to have faith and then you will be saved.  But you are asking the question because you are not sure that you do believe, or that you believe enough.

I know this is what they will say because I have heard and read their answers.  They point you back to the very person that you doubt: yourself.

If you are looking for assurance that you are saved, here is what a Lutheran will tell you: Jesus Christ has done everything that is necessary for your salvation.  He has lived, suffered, died, risen, and ascended for you, for the forgiveness of your sins, for the redemption of your life from death and hell.

Do you have doubts?  Lay them at the foot of the cross.  Jesus has done all.  Your salvation rests in His hands.  Your faith has been created by His Holy Spirit.  He has done everything that needs to be done.  He has given you everything that you need.

Don't trust in your love.  Don't trust your own faith.  Trust Jesus.  Faith in anything else is shaky.  He alone is the Rock upon which nothing that is built will fall.

Rest assured.
No, really, rest.

Be assured that you are saved by the grace of God in action through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.      

In Christ,
A Concerned Lutheran Brother

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Read a Book (especially one written by someone with different beliefs)

Lutherans have very distinctive beliefs and firmly held convictions about the radical nature and content of the Gospel.  This is a good thing.  Lutherans who confess the articles of the Christian faith as explained in the Book of Concord have a firm grasp of who Jesus Christ is and exactly what He has done for redeem us from sin, death and hell.

This is not something they should give up.  This is a distinctive that must endure for the sake of the whole Church, for the sake of the whole world.The Good News of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed, and no other.

However, this great positive can sometimes manifest itself as a negative when Lutherans become overly critical of other Christians (or non-Christians) who write books.  Our knee-jerk reaction is to criticize everything that is wrong with the book, and never to consider what it might have to teach us.

The problem with this hyper-critical attitude is that it is a denial of the Gospel.  (More on that later.)

Why do Lutherans seem so surprised, shocked, and dismayed when they open a book written by a Baptist and, lo and behold, it contains Baptist theology?!  I would think most people in the world would be slightly less than scandalized by this, responding: "duh".

When we read books written by people from other faith traditions, confessions, philosophies, and worldviews, we should expect that there will be differences among us.  It would be ridiculous to expect that a Lutheran could pick up a Baptist, Roman Catholic, or atheist book and agree with all of the content.  Yet we often react to these writings as if that were exactly what we expected.

So rather than being scandalized by the differences, how should we react to the writings of others, especially those from different faiths or confessions?

First, we must always repent.  Yes, repent.  Remember that judgement for God's people often comes from the hands of pagans.  Just read Judges, Kings, or any of the prophets.  Those who are not exactly like us, who may hold very wrong beliefs, can and will be the instruments of God to call us to repent of our sin.

For example, if an atheist wrote that Christians are responsible for all of the evil in the world, that we have caused more harm than good, my first reaction is to criticize him, to point out all the good that Christians have done through the centuries, to give historical evidence (of which there is plenty) for how much of a positive influence Christianity has been in Western culture.

But my criticism would be shielding me from repentance.  Have I, in my life, given those outside the Church a reason to think evil of Christians?  Have I taken to heart the words of I Peter 2:11-17, living a life of good deeds so to silence those who are ignorant?  There is indeed much to repent of.

That is how criticism can lead to a denial of the Gospel.  If I honestly believe that there is nothing for me to repent of, that other human beings cannot possibly have any valid points to make to me, then I am denying that I am a sinner.  And thus I deny that I need a savior, THE SAVIOR, Jesus Christ.  This should not be so.
When reading the books of others we should also look for reasons to rejoice.  What in this book is good?  What is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, or excellent (Philippians 4:8)?

Repentance is certainly something to rejoice in, for it is the gift of God to His people in Jesus Christ (Acts 5:31).  Is the Gospel proclaimed in this book, even if veiled?  Is the author moving in the right direction theologically, even if he has not quit arrived yet?  Have I gained some historical, grammatical, or logical insight?  Did I learn anything of value?

Then, after we have learned what we can, after we have repented, taken the plank out of our own eye, and rejoiced where we can, we can ask what we have to offer this writer or author.  How could I call them to repent?  What might I offer that they would rejoice in the Gospel of Christ?

Please understand that this is NOT a plea to overlook our differences, but to take them seriously on more than one level.  There are many bad books, books full of half-truths and lies.  And these should be corrected.  But in correcting them, we should not miss out on God correcting us or blessing us through them.

To simply be critical is the knee-jerk reaction of a guilty sinner.  Let us rather be eager to repent, quick to listen, and ready to offer correction where it is truly needed.