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FriMay29

A year ago, I quoted Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton, who said,  

The true battle (of the 21st Century) will be between the modern society and the anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is a mere preparation for existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma; Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But it is not the greatest danger that we face.[1]

[1] Ramesh Ponnuru, “Robert Reich’s Religion Problem,”  National Review Online, July 6, 2004


It still amazes me how brash, condescending, and dismissive his statement is. I could argue that belief in God is actually the source of his individual liberties. This is because the Western concept of the individual grew out of the notion of two public sovereigns, the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor (which grew out of the biblical distinction between the things of God and the things of Caesar; see Matt. 22:17-21). I could also argue that modern science grew out of a biblical worldview that sanctified the investigation of the dirt-level of life, rather than eschew it like the elites of so many pagan cultures before us did. After all, if God created human beings, that establishes an inherent dignity to the physical, human level of life. And if God then visited humans at that level (a foundational Christian teaching), then of course the “elites” of our culture shouldn’t mind putting their hands in the dirt as well!

What discoveries we started to make when we were willing to sanctify the research that used to be thought of as “beneath” us. I counter Reich’s caricature of the uselessness of those who see life as “eternal” by pointing out the nihilistic focus that his worldview has unleashed on our culture and on our world. If life is eternal, then what you do now matters. If life is merely one thing after another until you die, then nothing ultimately matters. So, which of these two views gives purpose and meaning to each day? Bring on the conversation, because belief in one, true higher authority brings civility, humanness, peace, and even salvation in the midst of this sinful, broken world. Other false “higher” authorities, when unleashed, bring tyranny.

My reason for citing this quote today pertains less to that enduring discussion than to the way many are facing the challenges of COVID-19. Amidst the data emanating from our health experts and politicians, real fears are not being vanquished; they are intensifying. With every solution, people are facing the possibility of their own mortality and demanding that such things be overcome. They are instinctively seeking answers from a higher authority. At this moment in time, people are also struggling with the notion of who to trust and turn to amidst all of the fear, uncertainty, and even despair. And too many are being counseled not to look to God, but to science, technology, political efforts, and earthly power alone. Yikes! I chuckle a bit when I see politicians puff their chest out and say, “God didn’t do this; we did!”[1] Governor Cuomo, who I think is doing a fine job overall, seems to forget that even if he locks people down, the human body with its God-given immune system, along with the medical knowledge of God-given anti-bodies and potential vaccines that lay in wait for us to discover, are the things that can really heal and protect us.

[1] Ramesh Ponnuru, “Robert Reich’s Religion Problem,”  National Review Online, July 6, 2004

If the COVID-19 virus has taught us anything, it has taught us how fragile life is even now. It has also taught us that there are things bigger than our best efforts, things beyond our capabilities to master. All of our technology and power, as well as our very own lives, can suddenly be overwhelmed by something as small as this virus. As we face tomorrow, the Bible instructs us to number our days (Ps. 90:12). Why? Because our life is not our own. It is a gift from God. This “faith in God” perspective doesn’t run from reality. It faces it with the courage, perseverance, and the perspective necessary to put our knowledge to work for the good of others without fear. Science, technology, individualism, “survival of the fittest,” and all the modern “shibboleths” of so-called “higher authorities” can never produce this “faith in God” perspective on life, even amidst the bigger-than-life terrors of this world.

Think about it this way: What view of life would motivate you to stay behind and care for others when pandemics and plagues hit? What would inspire such care when there was nothing in it for you? What would cause you to suffer along with someone when you knew you’d be exposing yourself to life-threatening risks as well? What would cause you to do all of these, rather than to look down on others who couldn’t? Martin Luther, a giant religious leader in history, wrote about this kind of faith life during the devastating plague of 1527. His letter was entitled, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” Luther wrote compassionately about this, saying it was not “inherently” wrong to flee the plague, as long people ensured that someone of “greater faith” was there to care for their loved ones. He then said that those with “greater faith” to stay behind should not condemn those who could not bear the plague and fled. (Of course, he stayed). He wrote,

Yes, no one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me …” [Matt. 25:41–46]. According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.[2]

Faith in God binds us to each other in a way that no other belief can. In The Hill,[3] a political magazine in Washington D.C., Erwin M. Hawley also hails Luther’s “faith life” perspective in facing this COVID-19 pandemic. Such faith bears suffering with another because God bears with us in suffering too. What a way to live! This perspective value the lives of others as precious, even when sick or dying, because God values us as His created and redeemed people. What a way to face the fear of COVID-19! Does faith in God, trust in God, and belief in God as the ultimate “higher authority” change the way we live for each other? Yes, and for the better! In fact, I say there is no other “higher authority” that will do, especially in these days of COVID-19.

The Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz is the executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty.

 

Be Informed

Children need a mom and a dad. Author Suzanne Venker explains why boys especially need the steady hand of both to thrive in life.

Be Equipped

Dr. Anthony Esolen offers solid insight on love, marriage, and what to look for in a spouse.

 

Be Encouraged

“The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, by the blood of the eternal covenant, that great shepherd of the sheep, establish you in everything good for the working of His will in whom God is well pleased; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 

[1] https://www.westernjournal.com/god-not-gov-cuomo-tries-steal-glory-god-flattening-curve/

[2] https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/martin-luther-and-the-black-plague/

[3] https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/488675-the-plague-coronavirus-and-martin-luther-why-they-all-matter-now

FriJun05

So, Chris tells Jamie, “I just couldn’t cast a vote for someone who supports abortion.” And Jamie says, “You know, Chris, abortion’s not the only voting issue. Other things matter to elections and politics too. Seems kind of narrow-minded for you to fixate on just that one.”

Have you ever heard a conversation like this? Have you ever had a conversation like this?

Have you ever heard a conversation like this? Have you ever had a conversation like this?

Have you ever met someone like Chris or Jamie? Have you ever felt like Chris? Like Jamie?

Is abortion an election issue? No and yes.

No, abortion is never just an election issue. But yes, abortion is always at least an election issue. Here are ten reasons why:


1. Abortion isn’t just a political issue. Abortion has to do with facts and truth about the science of human life—embryos and fetuses are living human beings as much as you and me. Abortion deals with the physical and psychological welfare of the most vulnerable among us—it kills children and makes mothers suffer. Abortion executes the injustice of discriminating against one another—unborn babies face deprivation and dying based only on their age, appearance, experiences, environment, or abilities. And abortion involves moral assessments and enforcements—who has the right to life, who has the authority to take life, when may we limit one’s lifestyle because it infringes upon somebody else’s survival?

2. Abortion isn’t just a single issue. Abortion is a conclusion that comes from a whole set of principles. It relates to economics, medicine and health care, justice and civil rights. It shows how one understands the roles of government and law—shouldn’t we protect the weakest? It affects one’s sense of the community’s commitments to our underprivileged and endangered—wouldn’t we want to make up for what they lack rather than take even the little they have? It informs how one feels about our relationships to each other as citizens in a society—can’t we care instead of discarding? And abortion has long-term consequences and global implications for both individual bodies and entire populations.

Click here to read the remainder of Pastor Salemink’s article.

Be Informed

During the recent pandemic, church members have been stepping up to care for their members in big ways. But “as churches are trying to adapt and serve, some government officials are targeting churches and treating them worse than local businesses. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom has intervened on behalf of several churches.” Click here to learn more.

 

 

Be Equipped

The end of life can be deeply painful and challenging, often marked by anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Yet Christians working in hospice have opportunities to serve patients, families, and churches in these critical moments.” Hear from people working to show mercy and compassion to the suffering and dying, sharing Christ’s words of comfort and peace.  

 

Be Encouraged

“As you love the Savior, and through Him the members of your family, seek to remember how it is when Christ attends a wedding. He is not only to be a permanent and prominent Guest in your home; He should be its most visible centerpiece, enriching your marriage and empowering your relationships with others.” – Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former “The Lutheran Hour” speaker, a Life Quote from Lutherans for Life

 

FriMay22

As children of Adam, we tend to be hedonists. We want to be immersed in comfort and pleasure. While it is true that God created people to bestow His good gifts on them, by turning away from God through the lie of the serpent, people attempted to find an alternative source of pleasure, which was destined to fail. All people found was death; there is not and may never be life apart from the One who is the Giver of life.


That is why we should not be surprised when our thinking of Christian life gets distorted in many ways. Christ said He came so that people “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), and we are tempted to understand it in terms of possessions in this life. St Paul said: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”(Phil. 4:13), and we find delight in thinking that we must be successful in this life, for our God is strong and powerful. Alas, by our nature, we do not want to recognize that the Lord’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We naturally want to be on the winning side of things, all the more in our Christian life, both individually and collectively. “We are the champions.” The old man in us is anxious to see growth, prosperity, respect and admiration from everybody else, Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Christian message, however, and the God in whom we believe run contrary to our human aspirations of the old Adam. The scandal of Christianity is found in its insistence on exclusivity. There is only one truth, only one way to salvation. By default, all other religions are misleading and paving the way to hell. That makes Christians not “friendly” in the eyes of the world. That is embarrassing. And so it may cause some to compromise in the matters of faith with the hope that it will result in more peace and stability in society. That is not likely to happen. The perception of being part of a “Christian society,” once fairly common, is quickly disappearing.

As Western society rapidly reverts to the non-Christian moral values, it becomes more important to study the rich experience of the Church with respect to persecution and martyrdom. The main lesson we can learn from it: This is extremely serious. It is a matter of life and death. And shallow Christianity that is individualistic and psychologically oriented is absolutely doomed in that epoch.

Christians suffer because Christ suffered

Christians may seem increasingly small and miserable in this world. We should not be surprised. After all, our Lord looked miserable on the cross, and it only with the eyes of faith that we can see Him there for what He is: almighty Lord and King.

It is important to realize that our sufferings caused by persecution are not incidental to our faith. If it were so, then the cross of Christ would also be incidental, just one of the steps in “salvation plan” to get over and forget about.

So, you are a Christian? Congratulations! You belong to the faith where you are expected to suffer in this life. Christian sufferings are inherently Christological, and in that they reflect the nature of God as He truly is.

Read more about Rev. Streltsov’s five ways to prepare for persecution here.

 

The Rev. Alexey Streltsov is a pastor in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. This article is reprinted from the June/July 2014 The Lutheran Witness.

 

Be Informed

Military chaplains, and all who work to defend our religious liberty, need our prayers as they respond to this global pandemic. Learn more from Chaplain Craig Muehler!

 

Be Equipped

Looking for ways to care for others, rather than worry about yourself, during this pandemic? When it comes to valuing every life, and especially those of the ones God has placed in your midst, KFUO has you covered!

 

Be Encouraged

“It was many long years before Elizabeth had the joy of seeing, in her own body, that God had not forgotten her. ‘He looked on me,’ she said. The proof was the baby growing inside her, though she was an old woman by that time. But you and I don’t need to wait so long. God has looked on us, too. The proof is the baby growing inside of Mary—God’s own dear Son Jesus, Who came to be your Savior. In Jesus, you can see that God has remembered you. He has looked on you with love—He has even made you His own child. You are not forgotten. You are beloved.” – Dr. Kari Vo, Lutheran Hour Ministries, a Life Quote from Lutherans For Life