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Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is Matthew 21:23 which says, 23 And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”   BY WHOSE AUTHORITY? “Authority” almost seems like a dirty word today, doesn’t it? Many today even feel empowered by disrespecting authority. Children regularly dishonor their parents. Students dishonor their teachers more and more often. While critique and reform of the police are understandable, outright disrespect for them is not. And in America, government officials, who are supposed to be “public servants,” shouldn’t be able to disregard people, especially when it comes to their freedom to believe and to worship God freely without fear. Ever since the Fall, both disrespect for authority and the misuse of it have always been issues because deep in our hearts we all sinfully believe that God doesn’t know what’s best for us. We do. But the Lord tells us to honor Him, to honor His moral ordering of His world, to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12), and to honor those in authority over us, even “Caesar” himself (see Matthew 22:21). In so doing, He’s calling us to honor His preserving work, even as we put our faith in His saving work. That’s what is at stake for you and me today. It’s that serious. If we become a people who openly dishonor God’s will, it will become hard for us to remain a believing people, and faith in Him alone is what finally saves us. In our lesson today, Jesus’…
  WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s passage is from the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 55, verses 6-7, where he says, Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon him while He is near;  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.   THE OFFER OF GOD’S COMPASSION AND PARDON! People today are running around demanding apologies and retribution. It’s a very difficult time in our country because many don’t truly believe in “right and wrong” anymore, yet they are still certain that their accusations against others are just. Even worse, most really have no idea as to what should be done to change things for the better. Sinful people have a bad habit of pointing fingers at others and demanding that they change, as if those accusations somehow get them “off the hook.” Our text for today doesn’t let anyone get away with such things. The main question is, “What does God think about our lives, according to His standards?” And, when we fail to meet those standards, the next question becomes, “Is there any hope?” Isaiah calls us all to account before the LORD in thought, word, and deed, but also then invites us to return to God in repentance and faith. Real blessings only happen there. I was reminded about how destructive it can be when those questions are ignored. When I was in Germany several years ago, a young woman (not much more than 21) led us through the Dachau death camp.…
  WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020 Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Matthew 18:21-22 which says, 21 Then Peter came up and said to [Jesus], “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.   THE POWER OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS IN ACTION! C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until there is something (and I would add, someone) to forgive.”[1] Actually, forgiveness doesn’t even seem to be a “lovely idea” anymore. Resentment, revenge, retribution, and “gettin’ mine” seem to be the prevalent ideas of the day. Forgiveness? Who needs it? Maybe that’s the real issue. I really believe that at the root of many of our modern maladies lies the false bravado that 21st century people don’t need forgiveness anymore. And, as a result, they don’t much care to share it either. It may well be out of vogue because nobody seems to believe in sin either. Well, our text for today sets us straight, and makes a bold offer anew. Let’s start with Peter. He was a person much like you and me. He wanted in on the things of Jesus, but he wanted such things on his terms. Now, better than many of us, Peter at least seems to take his sin seriously. When he came to Jesus, he asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” From a human point of view, Peter takes sin and forgiveness very seriously, and he is…
  WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2020 Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is Matthew 18:20, where Jesus says, 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” THE POWER OF GATHERING! Who would have ever thought that gathering in the name of Jesus would be such a political statement with cultural and even legal ramifications? Who would have thought that the mayor of Chicago would send police to harass worshippers who were gathering amidst the COVID-19 crisis, while ongoing gang violence permeates their neighborhood? Who would have thought that Lutheran and Roman Catholic leaders would have to write their governor and demand that their congregations be treated as “essential” businesses in the community, you know, just like liquor stores, malls, and casinos? Who would have ever imagined that church leaders in California would be threatened with arrest and jail just for gathering God’s people together in worship? And, remember, in most of these instances religious leaders were faithful to the “scientific” calls for social distancing, proper hygiene, and mask wearing. Why would the church risk enduring the coercive punishment of the state in order to gather for worship? Because there is power in gathering together in the name of Jesus! Now, I might remind you that there are nefarious reasons for many of the shutdowns around the country. Why would these government leaders target the church so vociferously when protests and even riots are treated with relative indifference? But let’s not go there right now. Instead, I want to point out that gathering together in worship is way bigger than politics. As believers in Jesus, we earnestly desire to meet…

Dear COVID Couples,


I won’t lie. My wedding was perfect. We picked a date (even before we were engaged), we found an amazing venue, and our friends and family eagerly awaited the day they could join us to celebrate God’s institution of marriage. After the longest seven months of our lives, we enjoyed the robust singing of hundreds of family and friends in a beautiful sanctuary supported by the swell of Concordia Ann Arbor’s robust pipe organ as we vowed, “Yes, with the help of God.” Many stressors and plot twists arose as we planned our day, but with the wonderful support of our family and friends, we enjoyed the perfect day, exactly as planned.


Tragically, for so many of you, this will never be a reality. The shock at the prospect of not only having to alter your wedding plans, but perhaps even postpone or cancel them, is something I’ll never experience. But I won’t apologize for that fact. Why? Because you, the Christian couples of the COVID age, have an opportunity to seize. Instead of prolonging your engagement, consider marrying closer to (or even on) your original date. Ask your pastor to marry you on your original date, even if it’s only in front of a few family members. Prioritize the union before God rather than a party before friends. Such a task may be difficult; heartbreaking, even. Fathers want to walk their daughters down the aisle while a full sanctuary looks on, teary-eyed and joyful. Mothers want that dance with their sons at the reception. But consider this prospect: Instead of being the generation that mourned the loss of their weddings, be the generation that celebrated the start of their marriages.

Some of you might not be concerned. You might be sleeping over or already having sex. You might already be living together. Our bodies are gifts to be loved, shared and cared for, but consider how giving other your bodies before giving your vows de-incentivizes the need to solidify this holy union that God designed, even before sin. The fact of the matter is this: The less you prioritize a godly union, the less likely you’ll want to be married before God or, for that matter, at all. At this point, what would your wedding be celebrating? The union God has created for your good? Or just you two?

COVID has disrupted our economy and our livelihoods. Don’t let marriages be next on that chopping block. Face this pandemic together as husband and wife under Christ. COVID has re-awakened us to the reality of the changes and chances of this life; it’s not good for man to face it alone. Celebrate the blessing of your union when we can receive God’s gifts together once more. In the meantime, don’t put it off. Get married. God willing, start a family. Be the generation that shows that not even COVID can damage the Christian couple. Don’t postpone the wedding. Prioritize your marriage.

Emily Cockran is a wife, mother and instructor at Wittenberg Academy.

 

Be Informed

Big things are happening when it comes to religious liberty, but are they enough? Dr. Ryan Anderson notes that, “Through legislation and litigation, we need to make it clear that it’s lawful to act on the convictions that we are created male and female and that male and female are created for each other. Privacy and safety at a shelter, equality on an athletic field, and good medicine are at stake for everyone—religious or not.” Read more here.

 

Be Equipped

What is the future of abortion law in America today? Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life explains.
 

Be Encouraged

“While the fights among political parties and media outlets continue interminably, Christ has already won the final struggle against the devil. And regardless of the news cycle, Christ gives this victory to you.” – Andrew Egger, staff writer, The Dispatch

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

The Lutheran Way of Resistance and the American Revolution

Lutherans are often criticized for submitting to government authority no matter what, which is strange to say of a movement that had its beginnings in a rebellion against the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope and which was legally established only after the revolution of the Thirty Years War.


But Lutherans do take Romans 13, along with the rest of the Bible, seriously, and there developed a Lutheran theology of resistance to unjust governments formulated in the Magdeburg Confession  of 1550.

John Kleinig sent me a 2001 article by the Baylor Reformation scholar David M. Whitford entitled “John Adams, John Ponet, and a Lutheran Influence on the American Revolution,” in Lutheran Quarterly, 15 (2001): 143-157.  (Not available online except through a library’s ATLAS or EBSCO account.)

Whitford points out that John Adams, who was involved with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and with promoting the American Revolution arguably more than Jefferson, says that his influence was not Jefferson’s John Locke but John Ponet.  He was a Protestant English bishop who fled the Catholic persecutions of Mary Tudor (a.k.a. “Bloody Mary”) and lived in exile in Strasbourg, then a Lutheran city in present-day France.  Here Ponet interacted with Lutheran divines and became acquainted with the Magdeburg Confession, which served as the basis for his own  Short Treatise on Political Power.

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Veith’s article.

Be Informed

The Nebraska State Legislature [recently] approved by 33 to 8 the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, a bill that bans a late term abortion practice that involves pulling the arms and legs off of a living unborn baby.” Did you know? Click here to learn more about this landmark case.

 

 

 

Be Equipped

When it comes to matters of faith and life in the church, are religious restrictions allowed or do they infringe on religious liberty? The Family Research Council explains.

 

 

 

Be Encouraged

“More than 61 million unborn children have died as a result of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. However, through the right-to-life movement’s determination to protect mothers and their children, we continue to see evidence that our efforts to educate America about the unborn child’s humanity, and our efforts to enact protective pro-life legislation, are having a tremendous impact in moving our nation away from Roe and Doe’s deadly legacy.” – Carol Tobias, National Right to Life president

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

 

It’s Friday, September 11. But no matter what day 9/11 falls upon each year, the events of that Tuesday morning in 2001 will be forever be burned into my memory. On that second Tuesday in September, I was confronted by the scenes of New York City’s burning towers on TV in California just before 6:00 a.m. We had just moved from New York City to Irvine, Calif., that summer. Ironically, I had stood on the observation deck of the Towers just two months before. And, even more ironically, had we still been living in New York that day, I would have been downtown leading a Bible study on Wall Street at 8:00 a.m. Then, after the study at 8:45 a.m., I would have been walking to the subway station under the Twin Towers to venture back to the Church for All Nations just as the first plane hit.


On a day when I would have been in the heart of the business district of New York City freely sharing how faith in Jesus can change the lives of the power brokers of Wall Street, another ideology was planning to demolish all the “power buildings” of my country, buildings like the Twin Towers, Wall Street, the Pentagon and the White House. In the weeks after that first 9/11, our country came together with a unified zeal, committed to defending our homeland against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But that soon changed. Very shortly thereafter, the mantra was no longer, “Why are they so evil?” Instead, the question became, “Why do others hate America so much?” Why, indeed? Like a battered spouse, we made others’ evils our responsibility and demonized healthy patriotism and respect for the many blessings of America for all. Just recently, I saw a protestor holding up a sign that said, “Religious Freedom is Christian Terrorism.” The men who flew those planes into our buildings could have said the same thing.

Is America worth defending? Is America worth dying for? I point you to an article by Dinesh D’Souza titled “What’s Great About America”[1https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/lcms-views#same-sex-marriage">said by clicking here.

 

 

Be Equipped

Dr. Joel Biermann takes a closer look at voting and the American conscience. Listen to this recent podcast from Issues, Etc. on your way to work!

 

 

Be Encouraged

“We should be out in the forefront leading on economics, on trade, on race, on class, on every subject that matters for what our founders called the “general welfare;” because we have a lot to offer, not just to protect our own rights, but for the good of all of our fellow citizens; because as religious believers, we know that serving our fellow citizens—of whatever their religious faith, whatever their commitments may be—serving them, aiding them, working for them, is one of the signature ways that we show a love of neighbor.” – Senator Josh Hawley, Missouri

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

 

[1https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/whats-great-about-america

The doctrine of the two kingdoms is most often applied to the Christian's obligations to the state, but it also illuminates the cultural controversies which are causing so much confusion in today's church.


Should Christians get involved in politics? Yes, as part of our vocation in God's secular kingdom. The goal should not be necessarily the election of Christian rulers, nor to make America a "Christian nation." Rather, it should be to apply God's law in our social relationships and to establish justice and righteousness in our land. Abortion, for example, is a monstrous crime against the weakest and most defenseless in our society, and Christians are right to work against this evil, as against many others. Christians in politics must play by political rules, whether hard-ball power plays or the arts of compromise and consensus building. The church should be gentle and loving, while never compromising its doctrines. The rough-and-tumble of the political process, however, means that Christian politicians should not be prevented from exercising power or from making a tactical compromise by the charge that to do so is "not Christian." That confuses the kingdoms. Christian politicians, however, like all politicians, must exercise their power justly and in accordance with God's law.

Can a Christian take part in the expressions of the surrounding culture? Yes. Christians are still part of their culture and can be expected to share the tastes of their neighbors. A Christian can enjoy, perform, and get involved in secular art forms; they need not be religious, but they are subject to God's law. Christians need to draw the line at music or any other form of entertainment that violates God's canons of morality by tempting us to sin.

Can a Christian, then, like rock music? Yes, for the most part. This does not mean, however, that Christians should demand rock music in church. The secular kingdom, again, must be kept separate from the spiritual kingdom. Churches must keep themselves distinct from the surrounding culture.

To return to our earlier categories, a liberal would have little trouble accepting any brand of currently popular music and would even import it into the church. By this way of thinking, the church must always give in and conform itself to whatever the culture is doing. A Christian who believes in Christ above culture would reject secular music and try to devise a completely distinct Christian style, to which every subsequent piece of music should conform. A Christian who believes in Christ against culture would allow the world its own music but never listen to it, developing instead a separate Christian musical style.

A Two Kingdoms approach would allow the Christian to enjoy secular music, even, for those with the God-given talent, to pursue a musical vocation. The Christian's standards for this music would be God's moral law, but also God's aesthetic laws, which were built into the created order and human nature by God himself. The Christian musician might express his or her faith artistically, but the work would be assessed not primarily by its theology but by its aesthetic merits, which also come under God's dominion. The music, though, would not have to be explicitly religious at all it is part of God's dominion even in its secularity.

This same Christian musician, whether a rock 'n' roller or a concert violinist, would very likely object to electric guitars or chamber music in church. Art designed to please and to gratify the senses has its place, but worship belongs to the Word of God. Here, theological truth must take priority. The purpose is not to entertain the congregation but to convict them of sin and convert them to Christ. The audience is not the culture but God, whom the entire congregation is seeking to glorify in his terms, not ours.

Ken Myers has said in his brilliant book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes that the contemporary church has reversed Christ's injunction to be in the world, but not of the world. Instead, he says, we are not in the world with our separate schools, bookstores, music companies, and other cultural institutions, so that we seldom interact with non-believers and yet, we are of the world. Our music, stores, schools, and corporate structures, may be separate, but they are exactly like their secular counterparts.

Recognizing God's double sovereignty over all of life can enable Christians to be engaged in a positive, transforming way, with their culture without succumbing to the deadly, spirit-quenching sin of worldliness. It is a formula for both faithfulness and relevance.

Dr. Gene Edward Veith is the author of some 20 books regarding Christianity and culture. A retired English professor and college administrator, he also directs the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. Reprinted courtesy LCMS Life Ministry

Be Informed

Listen to Dr. James Rogers discuss whether a Christian democracy is possible with the hosts of Issues, Etc.

Be Equipped

Could you make the case for the importance of parents and their authority? Learn why parental authority should be “upheld by church and state alike” in a recent article from the Public Discourse.

Be Encouraged

“God wants you to vote for the people, principles and platforms that will uphold and advance His justice in the world. In other words, you should vote in ways that will best serve your neighbor and his needs.” – Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann, professor of systematic theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2020 Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Matthew 16:24-27, where Jesus says, 24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
  WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 24, 2020 Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Matthew 16:13-17, where the Bible says, 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.

There is a lot of theological talk in the world these days. Words like original sin, love, and repentance are bandied about by many directed at Christians. Of course these words mean something different to actual Christians than they do to those who use them in the world. So, original sin is not that inherited nature that chafes at God’s commands and wants to go his own way, but rather some inherent hatred of those perceived to be different.


Love is not what the Bible defines it to be: the action of keeping God’s commands, as St. John wrote: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to [God’s] commands” (2 John 6). Love is simply accepting whatever someone says needs to be accepted because they accept it. Repentance is not returning to the Lord and His will in contrition and faith, but checking your privilege or some other popular thing today.

There are other words, too, that are used in this way. Words like Pharisee and hypocrite. These words have specific meanings in the Bible. The Pharisee or hypocrite is one who play acts, who covers up his sin by a show of goodness or righteousness and pretends and acts as if he has it all under control. But the world uses this against Christians to point out that Christians are not perfect. I don’t know any Christians who thinks he’s perfect, who doesn’t know they are in need of a savior from their sin. Are they perfect in this? No. But that’s the point. That’s why we come to church, why we hear God’s Word read and preached, why we study it in Bible Class and meditate on it at home with our family.

And so when these theological words are used, the Christian automatically agrees because the Christian understands them biblically, and recognizes that it is indeed godly to be a sinner who is repentant and loves. And so the Christian hears them and demurs. The Christian steps back, considers his life in light of the commandments of God, and turns to the Lord in contrition and faith.

And that’s the point of the world using these words. That’s why the world trots out these words and flings them in our face. They equivocate the meanings, knowing that Christians will do just that. So these theological words are not used to further the conversation, to come to a meeting of the minds, to reconcile one to another. These words are used to silence Christians. They are used as weapons to get Christians to step back and shut up.

This is a tool of the devil. The devil wants nothing more than Christians to be silent. He desires nothing more than for our consciences to burdened so that we don’t enter the fray. He delights in nothing else than a Christian who begins to doubt his own place in God’s kingdom because of how the world sees him. For he prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour.

Here’s the point I’m making: The world is not on your side. The world delights in the fall of Christians because the world is the devil’s domain. He has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. And so we are not citizens of this world and its kingdom. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, a better city, up above, not made with hands. We have a hope not of this world, a hope that is never failing and never fading because it rests upon the Word and promise of God, established in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and given to us through Word and Sacrament.

The world and all its might will try to take this away from you. It will try to convince you of its own ideas of original sin, love, and repentance. But God and His Word is your shield and sword. It is your defensive armor to deflect all the attacks of the world and all the flaming darts of the devil.

Therefore, cling to that word and hope. Do not be swayed into silence or retreat because of these attacks. As in the days of Nehemiah, we must rebuild and fight at the same time. Our fight is not an offensive battle. That battle has already been won through our Lord’s atoning death on the cross. Our battle is a defensive battle, one of standing our ground firm in the faith, not giving in, but contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, always being ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, clearly stating what we know to be true because of God’s Word.

Indeed, we are all sinners in need of a savior. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all sick and in need of a physician. But this need is not defined by the world. It is defined by God. It is written in His Word, so that it may be definitely known and firmly believed.

So, stand firm, resolute in your conviction. Let your life and conversation reflect the resurrection of Jesus Christ for all sinners, drowning out the rage of this world’s angry mobs. And listen to the Word and promise of God. For this promise is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. And thus do the angels rejoice over you who repent in this way, of real sin as defined by the Bible.

The Rev. Jason Braaten is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Ill.

Be Informed

Momentous decisions are being made impacting religious liberty. Focus on the Family Vice President and Washington observer Tim Goeglein and moderator Kip Allen discuss the events today on Free To Be Faithful” and you can hear it all by clicking here!

 

Be Equipped

Wondering why religious freedom is so important, especially today? Check out a recent Issues, Etc. interview with Emilie Kao of the Heritage Foundation.

 

Be Encouraged

“The peace that comes with such faith is truly freeing. It removes the anxiety of fending for one’s self and frees Christians to focus on their neighbors — both the weak and the strong, both those who love and those who hate. The eye of faith that looks to God in heaven enables an ever clearer and more loving view of the neighbor on earth.” – Rev. Jonathan Lange

Those of us who grew up reciting Luther’s Small Catechism for our suppers will recall the Table of Duties, the last of the Small Catechism’s eight parts, and the most difficult to learn by heart. In the typical congregation’s catechism curriculum, there wasn’t much time left at the end of the season for the Table of Duties, so it didn’t always get the attention it deserves.


The Table of Duties or Christian Responsibilities is a catena of New Testament passages gathered under the heading of the “three estates or ordos” (tres ordines) of temporal life: the ordo ecclesiasticus, ordo oeconomicus, and ordo politicus, often labelled Church, Household, and State. Priest, Parent, and Prince. These are orders or authority structures established by God for the temporal well-being of everyone, whether believer or not.

When everything is functioning properly, the three orders work together in a cooperative and complementary way with Priest, Parent, and Prince staying in their respective lanes. This is not the distinction of “two kingdoms” – temporal and eternal – but a distinction of temporal orders and authorities. In the eternal kingdom of God, the three coalesce into one, but in this life and world, they are distinct. Like the separation of governmental powers, the distinction of authorities ensures that no one estate holds all three authorities at once. These are, after all, in the hands of sinners. What could possibly go wrong?

The ordo ecclesiasticus, or “Church,” is not necessarily the Christian church. “Religion” or “spiritual authority” might be a better name for it. It is the spiritual authority that orders temporal life under God, reminding us that, like Hebrew National Hot Dogs, we are all answerable to a Higher Authority. It flows from our natural, intuitive knowledge of God and the fact that we are uniquely spiritual creatures. Adam was the priestly image of God in God’s temple, whether the Earth in the cosmos (Genesis 1) or the Garden in a wilderness (Genesis 2).

The ordo oeconomicus, or Household, is also part of the created order, established in the union of man and woman as “one flesh” for the bearing and nurturing of children and the economic exercise of God-given vocations within the fabric of community. “It is not good for Man to be alone.” “Household” is not the atomized nuclear family of the modern suburb, but an extended network knit together into a vocational community. In the ancient world it would have included household servants and their families. The family farm or the family-owned small business come to mind. You sometimes hear people say of the company they work for, “We’re like a family.” We are made to work, not sit idly at home playing video games, and our entire economic life is an extension of the household, whether we work at home or at the office or factory.

The ordo politicus, or State, is the governing authority of society. In our day, it tends to be front and center, though, in fact, it is the third, last, and least of the three temporal orders. The State is not part of the created order, but comes as the result of the Fall, a kind of add-on patch to deal with the pandemic of sin. It is established by God (Rom. 13:1ff, 1 Peter 2:13ff) as His ministry of the sword to curb sin and maintain outward order in a disordered world. There is nothing quite like those flashing lights in the rearview mirror to curb our anarchist driving habits, is there?

The current pandemic has caused something of a wobble in the order. The ordo politicus seems to have taken over everything by executive order. While public health and safety are certainly within its purview to protect, management of economic and spiritual life are none of its business. The prince makes a terrible parent and an even worse priest. Free markets and the freedom of faith allow the three orders to do their proper work. Totalitarians, and any who would lord themselves over others (Luke 22:25), always try to collapse the three orders into one rule under their control, the final step, of course, being one world order. Unus ordo seclorum.

Like King David, who couldn’t resist taking a census, the State can never resist tinkering, often with disastrous results. Instead of permitting everyone to pursue their own enlightened self-interest, the State has taken it upon itself to determine what interests are in fact enlightened. It has also taken over the authority of Parent by defining what constitutes “marriage” in terms of “legal rights and privileges.” We used to ask permission from parents to marry; now we seek permission from the Prince. The State has appointed itself the moral and spiritual judge of society telling when and how human life begins and the legal limits of the right to life. In other words, the Prince has become Parent and Priest. Push back a bit further to first century Rome, and you’ll see the ordo politicus up to the same sort of things with Caesar and the Caesar cult, pictured in the Revelation as two beasts and a dragon. When Prince becomes Priest, the devil is always in the mix (see Revelation 12-13).

Little wonder then, that at a time of global pandemic when the State is called upon to mobilize resources, maintain order, and protect its citizens, it reaches for the totalitarian sword as our elected officials channel their inner Caesar. It’s an easy grab. This is how it can shut down an economy, deprive people of their livelihoods and the ability to exercise their God-given vocations, and declare a society’s spiritual life to be “non-essential,” all by executive order. Who needs Parent and Priest when the Prince can do it all? It’s both efficient and effective.

Temporal life is a delicate balancing act of actions and consequences, risks and rewards, ethics, economics, morality, reason, and faith. It’s like juggling a chain saw, a bowling ball, and a wine glass – you have to keep everything in motion at once and treat each object for the thing that it is. The Prince cannot save us from a viral pandemic any more than he can manage an economy, save the earth or change the weather. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:9).

The present strategy to shut down the economic and spiritual orders to flatten a contagion curve or stop a virus in its tracks is sure to have dire unintended consequences long after this pandemic is over. The damage to our households and economy will bring far deeper death, destruction, and despair than even the most dire predictions by the CDC. The stifling of society’s spiritual voice will in fact subvert the very respect and loyalty the State requires to function. This current crisis did not set us on this disordered road. We’ve been happily strolling on it for quite a while and haven’t taken much notice as the State quietly invaded the Household and the Sanctuary while we amused ourselves. It was time for a wake-up call and a tiny virus particle tripped the alarm.

Some may be tempted to take up the sword and start swinging in rebellion. But as Peter learned, our aim is bad and we manage only to lop off the ears of innocent bystanders. Jesus would say the same to us as He said to Peter that night in the garden: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:51). The Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli died in the battlefield. The only sword we have at our disposal is the Word of God wielded in prayer, a far mightier and sharper sword than any executive order. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The crucified, risen, and reigning Lord Jesus Christ is still the Lord of the Church, as well as the Household and the State. He has all authority in heaven and on earth given to Him, and He knows best how to set things back in order so that the three ordos can do their proper work. The Table of Duties will guide us.

The Rev. William Cwirla is pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, Calif.

 

Be Informed

Now that the State has deemed the risk of spreading coronavirus low enough to reopen non-essential business, we respectfully believe that it is our right and duty to safely resume public ministry to the faithful even without the support of the Governor.” Learn more from District President Lucas Woodford regarding COVID-19 restrictions on worship.

 

Be Equipped

How did religious liberty fare when it comes to recent Supreme Court cases? Check out this rundown.

 

Be Encouraged

“When politics becomes the end-all and be-all of life, desperation sets in. Political victory must come at all costs. Those, how- ever, who have the gift of faith in the One True God can engage in public discourse with a confident tranquility.” – Rev. Jonathan Lange

 

In the current casting down of monuments and former heroes, one historic figure who deserves to be cast down has been largely overlooked:  Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, whose crusade for birth control was motivated by her racist beliefs.

 


But that may be changing, as this icon of feminism and the pro-abortion movement may be inspiring some iconoclasm.

So says Alexandra DeSanctis in an essay in National Review entitled How Long Will Margaret Sanger Last?:

I wonder. . .whether these crusaders will train their gaze on one of our nation’s far more serious offenders of racial equality: Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. She was, after all, a foremost proponent of the eugenics movement — motivated by her particular animus toward poor non-whites — and her campaign to legalize birth control was motivated in large part by her desire to prevent the “unfit” and “feeble-minded” from reproducing.

After several decades of brushing aside pro-life critiques of its tainted history, Planned Parenthood is now fielding similar complaints from some of its own employees. Just last month, more than 350 current and former staffers of Planned Parenthood’s Greater New York affiliate — along with several hundred donors and volunteers — published an open letter condemning Sanger as “a racist, white woman” and arguing that the organization is guilty of “institutional racism.”

Read more from Dr. Gene Edward Veith by clicking here.

Dr. Gene Veith is the author of some 25 books, a retired literature professor, provost emeritus at Patrick Henry College, and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

 

 

Be Informed

A recent survey found “more than two-thirds of American adults agree that keeping the government out of religious organizations’ internal disputes is an ‘important facet of separation of church and state.’” Click here to learn more about the survey.

 

 

Be Equipped

Learn how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Becket Fundstepped in to defend the Minnesota Catholic Conference and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Minnesota when Governor Tim Walz issued an unjust order, subordinating religion to the economic interests of the State.”

 

 

Be Encouraged

“Fruitful conversation can only begin with an eye toward the neighbor. Selfishness driven by fear poisons participation. Self-preservation chokes out selflessness. But love motivates engagement in a completely different frame of mind.” – Rev. Jonathan Lange

 

If we’ve learned anything from the civil unrest over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that is a sad fact of human existence is that we’re not all brothers and sisters as politicians and celebrities have imagined us to be. 

The world is not a family. We are separated by hatred and that hatred brings death, not life. The only way we can become brothers and sisters is by passing out of death into life. This can only happen when our hatred is swallowed up in love. When He who was begotten of the Father’s love from eternity and became our flesh and blood brother in time was nailed to the cross, it was then that love confronted hatred in the battle of the ages. And in that battle love did not give way to hatred. It did not appease it. Love defeated hatred.


When Jesus laid down His life for us He bore our sin. He bore our hatred. He bore the hatred of the whole world. I cannot understand it, but I know it is true because the Bible says so. St. Paul says that He was made to be sin. But that was not by committing a sin for He never did that. It was by having sin reckoned or imputed to Him. In that imputation of sin He who was love begotten and love incarnate overcame all hatred. He overcame it by love. He loved when all the hatred of the world was laid upon Him.

What a battle this was! The purest of pure love that could not give way to hatred nevertheless suffered every effect of pain and guilt and judgment and punishment that hatred brings. In His laying down His life for us all Jesus destroyed the power of hatred with the power of His own pure and eternal love.

This is the love in which we trust. This is the love that overcomes the world. This is not only the motive and the power for our love; it is the very love with which we love one another. That is to say, when we love one another as Christians we are simply saying “Amen” to the love that God has for each one of us. We are agreeing with Jesus. We are saying “yes” to His laying down His life for our brothers and sisters. That’s what love is. It is not a human thing. It is divine. It is from God. It is from God to us. And it is from God through us to one another. It is eternal but we can’t leap up out of our time and space to catch it, as if it is floating up in heaven somewhere and we must find our way to it. It comes to us here and now where we live whenever God speaks His Gospel to us. The Gospel is always the word of God forgiving us our sins, setting us free from guilt, bringing peace to us, and rescuing us from death and punishment all for the sake of Jesus laying down His life for us all. This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to suffer on the cross to take away our sins and set aside His judgment against us.

So don’t talk about love as if it originates in the efforts of humanity. Love is of God and He who loves is born of God.

We ought not to be surprised if the world hates us. The world loves its own. Christians are those who, in looking within themselves, see nothing but sin and death. Christians are those who have found in Christ alone the love to replace hatred. And so, Christians do not respect the religiosity of this world. If the love of which we are capable were sufficient then Jesus died for no purpose. If human efforts could prevail then Jesus has done no more than to provide us with a moral example. But if every form of love that has its origin within the human heart is inadequate to bring us true and lasting life, then every human effort to overcome hatred must fail.

The unbelieving world does not want to admit this. This is why people reject the Christian Gospel and its doctrine of love. They want to believe in their own love and they don’t want to admit that their love fails, producing the very thing they seek to overcome. Politicians will pontificate about this kind of love. Celebrities will scold us for not doing it. The media will hype it. But the human race does not have the power to bring real love about. And when they try to, it always brings not real love, but more hatred and violence. And that is because love is seen as no more than a synonym for niceness, sentimentality, and appeasement. And that is weak and mild.

A sentimental and humanistic notion of love often parades itself as being Christian, deceiving Christians. But God’s love for us is not mild or weak. It does not appease. It confronts us with the truth that we are sinners. And that while we were yet sinners, while we were enemies of God, Christ laid down his life for us. The key to love is in the blood of Jesus poured out on our behalf. It doesn’t come from us. It originates in God who does what love requires for us all.

And so neither is the love God expresses through us to one another weak or mild. It rejoices in the truth. It doesn’t rejoice in evil. If a brother or sister in Christ needs what we can give we give because this is what love requires. This isn’t simply a matter of giving to charity. It’s a matter of doing whatever it is that love requires at the moment that love requires it. Love doesn’t need a rulebook. It needs only an opportunity. But what does it do? What do the Commandments say? Love honors father and mother, not despising parents and other authorities. Love respects human life and helps those in physical need. Love honors the marriage vow and avoids sexual sins. Love respects private property. Love protects the reputation of others. Love is content with what God provides, not seeking to take advantage of others in getting more. Love does whatever is to the benefit of others without asking for anything in return. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives even when the one who has sinned repeats the sin again and again. Love lays down its life for the brothers and the sisters. Love never fails.

But we fail. Every single Christian in this world fails. We fail every day. And when hatred bubbles up within us and the world, speaking for the accuser and slanderer of God’s children, would convince us that God’s love for us has been exhausted by our repeated failures, our God silences the devil’s lies with the Gospel. That Gospel reveals to our penitent hearts the unfailing love of Christ who laid down His life for us. That holy death, wherein love conquered hate once and for all, remains the source of God’s forgiveness of all our sins.

And so Christ invites us to His supper, and we come as we are. He feeds us with His grace. He forgives us all our sin, cleanses our guilty conscience, and delivers us from the devil’s power. This is what His love does and will continue to do for us all the days of our lives. We know this is true because Jesus laid down His life for us. And that, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is the source and strength of every act of love we will ever do.

The Rev. Jason Braaten is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Ill.

 

Be Informed

“One LCMS sailor, facing a months-long submarine deployment, was prohibited from attending a farewell communion with his congregation but allowed to attend a ‘pre-deployment’ party the following day.” Learn more about a new government order regarding COVID-19 from Rev. Craig Muehler here.

Be Equipped

Washington observer Tim Goeglein joined moderator Kip Allen to discuss the many decisions and events impacting Christians and all people of faith in the year 2020. Click here to listen.

Be Encouraged

“Lutherans are not bound to silence in the public square. We are free to be faithful — free to speak and free to act in love for our neighbor and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The needs of our neighbors compel us to act. The promises of God fill those actions with hope and joy.” – Rev. Jonathan Lange

  WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 17, 2020 Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Matthew 15:21-28, where the Bible says, 21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.