Word from the Center Digest: Good Friday, April 19, 2019

A word from the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz on Good Friday:

For Christians around the world, it’s Good Friday today. Yes, that’s right. The day that Jesus the Messiah died on the cross is “Good” Friday to us. Why? Because that’s what ultimate victory looks like in the Bible.: When Jesus allows His perfect life and His innocent death to be exchanged, substituted for our sinful life . . . real, eternal life is possible again for us, for those who put their trust in God’s redemption through His Son. On Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, one of the power brokers of that day, ironically and ignorantly snarled at Jesus, “Don’t you know that your life is in my hands?” Well, no, it wasn’t. It was in Jesus’ own hands to give up freely just for you and me. Good Friday is what being “set free” from sin and guilt is all about.

Today, in the shadow of the cross where the Son of God gives up His life so that we might live, we repent of our sin and shame, our guilt and greed, pleading to God for His mercy. We do that for ourselves and for our nation too. We watch this Jesus, the God-man like no other, march to and through the cross so that sin, death, and even the devil himself might be vanquished for all time. As we engage our culture, as we serve our nation, we are always mindful of the reason that we do all that we do. We do it so that people might know of this Jesus who has done all things well for all.

It’s Good Friday. It is finished. The victory is won. Easter joy is mere days away. But such joy is always anchored in Good Friday’s good work in Christ for you!

Every day, we proclaim to a broken world that God is good, that He does all things well. We proclaim that no matter what is going on at this very moment, He is at work to preserve and to save. Today we see the uniqueness of that salvation for each and every one of us. A blessed, “Good” Friday to you all.

  • Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, executive director, Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty  

________________

Major Issues in Congress

by Alec Fornwalt and Timothy S. Goeglein

We are in the midst of the 116th Congress, and there are three major issue areas just ahead that men and women of faith should have on their radar scopes.  All three portend a hot summer on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The first issue is a bill called The Equality Act, which is defined by its sexual orientation and sexual identity language.  The second issue is comprised of the pending nominations and confirmations of more of President Trump’s federal judges.  And the third area is a bevy of vitally important pro-life issues.

The goal of the Equality Act is to add so called “sexual orientation and gender issues” — otherwise known as SOGI protections — to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That Act was initially created to protect people from discrimination based on immutable or natural characteristics like race, gender and nationality. The Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list of protections, which would have far-reaching effects on the lives of everyday Americans, even if they aren’t religious.

The potentially negative effects of this radical change in federal law are enormous.  For example, in New Jersey and California, hospitals have already been sued for declining to preform “sex reassignment” procedures. In Georgia, a male student who identified as a female sexually assaulted a kindergarten girl in the school bathroom. In Ohio, a judge terminated the custody of biological parents for objecting to putting their young daughter on hormone blockers.

These are real-life cases that would only exponentially increase it SOGI laws are implemented and imposed on a national or federal basis.  The Equality Act may come up for a vote in June, and it is a major threat to our religious liberty and right of conscience.

The second issue, approving federal judges who believe the words of the Constitution have a fixed meaning and do not change over time, may not seem like a faith-based issue per se, but federal judges are constantly making decisions that affect and impact Americans of faith, often in major ways. The Supreme Court is the most well-known example, and President Trump has already had two solid Supreme Court Justices approved by the Senate. It is possible that the infamous abortion case Roe v Wade, which has resulted in more than 60 million abortions since 1973, may be questioned and seriously reviewed in the next two terms.  Appellate and district judges would likely have a large role in whether such pro-life decisions come to the high court for review.

Even though judges are supposed to be impartial, certain judges prefer to block policies or make decisions based on their personal or political beliefs instead of what the Constitution says. Here are two examples:  A judge in Washington, D.C., overturned the federal ban on transgender troops in the military despite a decision by the Commander in Chief, and a Christian funeral home owner in Michigan who couldn’t in good conscience support a transgender employee was sued in a district court and lost. Cases like these illustrate why it’s important for the Senate to fill as many vacancies as possible with solid judges that will uphold the Constitution.

Finally, the right to life issue is as vital as ever in Washington and around our country.  The major new pro–life film “Unplanned” has further propelled the issue forward. Policies have been ordered in states like New York and Virginia that would allow abortions essentially until birth. Conservatives in the federal government are trying to turn back these policies, and their legal efforts may eventually land in federal court.  Senator Lindsey Graham recently introduced a bill that would halt all abortions after 20 weeks, which is when scientists have proven that babies feel pain. This explains why the United States is one of only seven countries that allow abortion after 20 weeks. This bill failed to pass but is gaining major momentum.   

Another pro-life bill is the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would guarantee the right to life to children that survive failed abortions. House Leadership is refusing to give this act a vote, but Representative Steve Scalise recently brought the bill up on a discharge petition, which is simply a way to force the House to vote on the bill if it can muster 218 representatives to sign it. The “Born Alive” petition broke the record for the amount of signers on its first day, and now has 198 signatures, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi is preventing not only a vote but also a debate.

As abortion policies get more extreme, it is important that Americans of faith continue to help educated people in their communities about the ramifications of where the pro-life debate is wending.

The Equality Act, the centrality and importance of federal judicial nomination, and a host of pro-life legislation are on the fast track in our nation’s capital during this Congress.  All will have a major impact on the way we live our lives in the public square.

Tim Goeglein is the vice president for External and Government Relations at Focus on the Family. Alec Fornwalt is an associate in Focus’ Washington office.

Be Informed

Why is the pro-life movement asking for a moral revolution? Dr. Anthony Esolen explains.  

Be Equipped

The state of Illinois is attempting to pass legislation allowing abortion up until birth. Lutherans are fighting to preserve the sanctity of life. Hear Pastor Roger Drinnon of Southern Illinois review the issue.

Be Encouraged

“The Holy Spirit reminded me that the Lord loves me . . . that Jesus is always with me, even when I was on the hard, cold abortion table.” – Jean Amundson (Read more about Jean’s story of abortion, forgiveness and hope at https://eyesoflife.org/jean/

Devotion: Monday, April 15, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from Philippians 2:5-8, where the Bible says,  

BE A “FIRST RESPONDER” DISCIPLE OF JESUS!

St. Paul tells us to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” What do you think he means by that? Well, let’s unpack the “mind of Christ,” shall we? Jesus would be faithful to the Word of God, the words of the Bible, in thought, word, and deed. He would be holy and live a holy life in all things to honor the Father who sent Him into the world. He would seek to live a life of obedience that not only teaches and speaks about love, but puts such love into action. And here’s the kicker: He has this mindset, this purposeful action, NOT for himself, but for others. In fact, He does this for people even though they don’t deserve any of it. Wow!

Paul says that Jesus had godly status, godly stature, godly power, and godly perfection, and He put it all to work to save people like you and me. Just try to fathom that for a moment. Then there is even more!  All of us who put our trust in Jesus now have stature and status as children of God as a gift of His grace, and we get to put that to work for the lives of others with His power and in His Name!

I was trying to come up with a metaphor or a picture of what that mindset might look like. What would it look like to be a disciple of Jesus who puts all of his/her stature, status, and wisdom to work, not for themselves, but for others? I think the image of that kind of disciple of Jesus would be one that looks like a “first responder” of grace in the lives of the people whom God sends our way.

Just think about what first responders are. They are people who are well trained and well versed in the things that matter in their vocation. They are to be faithful to that training and willing to execute it at a moment’s notice whenever it is needed. Yet here’s the thing that makes “first-responders” unique. They are to put all that wisdom, all that training, and all that expertise to work, NOT FOR THEIR OWN GAIN, but for the rescue of others. I can’t think of a better analogy of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus than to be a “first responder.” It means to be equipped with God’s Word and the power of His Spirit, to become well versed in the challenges that are in this world, and then being willing to engage them as we put all that to work for the sake of others, especially those whom we love.

Can you imagine if that became the image of Christians in the minds of others? Can you imagine if people thought of us as well trained, deep biblical thinkers, who strive for holiness and excellence in all we do, AND ALSO REALIZED THAT WE STAND AT THE READY TO PUT ALL THAT TO USE, NOT FOR OUR OWN GAIN, BUT TO MEET THE NEEDS OF OTHERS, FOR THEIR LIVES AND EVEN SALVATION? Let’s constantly think about how we can be what Christ “gifts” us to be, and let’s keep encouraging one another to be ready to put ALL that to work in serving others in His name. There’s a reason that we value firefighters, policemen and military folks; they run into the fire, the battle, the fight, when everyone else is running for their lives. And they do it for the sake of others above all. That’s a mindset we all need and, by God’s grace, it’s a mindset that we can have and put to good use right now.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, continue to amaze us about all that you have done for us, and let that amazing joy empower our service to others with a first responder mindset! AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, April 12

Martin Luther Meets Thomas Jefferson . . . or Does He?

by Jordan McKinley

Have you heard one of your friends or family claim that Martin Luther’s now famous “two kingdoms” doctrine was the basis for church and state?

It’s not uncommon for people to make that claim that Luther’s doctrine was one of the early philosophies that later developed into what is popularly known as the separation of church and state (an idea that isn’t located in America’s founding documents!)? So, if someone has tried to convince you of this, hold up!

Here are two things to note: (1) The concept of a radical distinction between church and state actually comes from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, where Jefferson attempted to interpret the First Amendment for a group of men concerned about the lack of specificity regarding religious freedom in the Constitution.

(2) The “two kingdoms,” on the other hand, are a way in which God has ordered church and society so that the proclamation of the Word is not impeded and that justice is secured throughout the world to assist in the first endeavor. So, you see, church and state and the two kingdoms are quite different!

Think of it this way: God institutes the kingdom of the left hand, or the secular realm, for the punishment of the wicked and the rewarding of those who obey those in authority. St. Paul writes, “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. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” With these words, St. Paul reminds us that God gives human authority for the sake of keeping the peace.

But this is all in service of God’s right-hand kingdom, the kingdom of the Church. In this realm, God’s commands make disciples through Baptism, teaching the Word (Matt. 28:19-20) and the administration of the Sacrament of the Altar (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). These are the chief tasks of those given spiritual authority. To sum up, the Church is instituted that saving faith may be created and sustained among guilty sinners in need of the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation won by Christ on the cross and distributed through the means of grace. (That’s us!)

Where there is peace and good government, the right-hand kingdom is able freely to obey the Lord’s commands. But when the two kingdoms come into conflict, it is incumbent upon us as Christians to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). This is why we are to pray for peace and good government in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, not simply for our own sake, but for the sake of those who do not yet know Christ and His saving work. While many secularists might see these two realms in conflict with one another, we as Christians boldly confess that the Lord, who institutes both kingdoms, does so for the sake of saving men’s souls.

Remember that friend or family member who tried to convince you that the idea of church and state stemmed from the two kingdoms? Is he coming to Easter at your house? Is she meeting you for supper next week? Have that conversation again, and this time, feel free to clarify the differentiation.

Together with your friend, you might even peruse the Table of Duties in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, especially the sections dealing with bishops, pastors, and preachers, what the hearers owe their pastors, of civil government, and of citizens. Here, Luther lays out several short Bible passages for Christians to consider for their particular vocation or calling in life.

Two-kingdom theology can be a source of unending discussion, all pointing to a gracious God who has ordered church and society so that the proclamation of the Word is not impeded and that justice is secured throughout the world to assist in the first endeavor. Now that you’re ready, let’s get talking!

The Rev. Jordan McKinley is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, Ind.

Be Informed

Dig into a Bible study by the Rev. Jay DeBier that explains how, because of our citizenship in the kingdom of God (the right-hand kingdom), we are free to live to His glory in the earthly kingdom (the left-hand kingdom), which is also His!

Be Equipped

Listen to the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz explain what the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty is and how it will speak for people of faith to those who make our laws and set opinion.

Be Encouraged

“Christians, therefore, live in two kingdoms. In one, they hear the Gospel and experience the love of God in Christ. In the other, they experience—and obey—the law. . . . [Luther’s] two-kingdom doctrine does not require rigid separation of church and state. Neither institution should interfere with the unique responsibilities of the other, but when each carries out its own divinely given purpose, it also supports the other’s work.” – Rev. Dr. Cameron MacKenzie, professor and chairman of historical theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.  

Devotion: Monday, April 8, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from Luke 20:17-18, where Jesus says,   

What then is this that is written: “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE?” Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.

THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS AS THEY SEEM!


Things aren’t always as they seem. There are many reasons for that. Often, we don’t have all the information.  We think we see the fullness of an event or understand the completeness of an issue, and we don’t. Why? Because we don’t have all the facts.  But sometimes things aren’t as they seem because we refuse to see what is standing clearly before us. That’s what’s going on in the text for today.

Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies in the Bible. Truly, He is the fulfillment of all the needs and hopes of a sinful humanity too, if we would only see Him as He is. You’d think that religious people would see that for sure. But back then, as today, people who trust in their own works, even religious people, fail to see God’s provision for their life and salvation even when it is standing right in front of them.

When Jesus uses the image of the cornerstone, He’s saying exactly who He is. He is the most vital part, the essential part, of God’s saving action for the world. It doesn’t matter whether religious people, or powerful people, or any people of “significance” admit it or not. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day, were irritated that Jesus would claim that significance for their lives. Who does He think He is? Doesn’t He know who they are? Yes, He does. And He knows exactly who He is. But it’s not about whether or not Jesus knows who He is or whether or not He properly respects their position in society. The point is that their rejection doesn’t affect God’s power to save, and it doesn’t affect the fact that Jesus is the Cornerstone of our life and salvation.  But it’s also vital to realize that our rejection of Him, no matter who we are from society’s point of view, leaves us powerless to be reconciled to God, without the life and salvation we need now and forever.

Jesus is the key element, the Cornerstone for our lives, the only One who can and does hold us together. Don’t let His offer to be the Cornerstone of your life devolve into a discussion of what happens if you reject Him or don’t take Him seriously. Why not begin to live in the joy that He is that, and He is that for you. Focus your attention on His work and His words in the Bible. See what He is doing for you as He journeys to the cross to accomplish your forgiveness and salvation. Trust also in what He calls you to do in response. That’s not just a solid foundation for your life, that’s “Cornerstone strength” to live your life abundantly IN HIM now and forever.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help us to take your Word seriously in our lives. Don’t let anything detract us from seeing our relationship with you as the most important thing in life each day. AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, April 5, 2019

Pro-Life, Pro-Marriage, Pro-Christ

by Peter Scaer

The pro-life movement must focus on the life issue, not be diverted by other aspects of the sexual revolution. Stay in your lane, they say. Don’t let your message become watered down. That’s the advice I hear from all quarters. My guess is that it’s born of fear, a lack of conviction, and perhaps ignorance of what we’re up against.

We are tempted to believe that if we are nice, we will be safe. And for a while the sexual revolution will be happy to pat the heads of those they deem useful. But make no mistake: The sexual revolution takes no prisoners. It began with claims of autonomy, of sexual liberation and freedom. But license leads to cruelty and ultimately oppression.

We’re heading into some dangerous waters. It’s no longer about the freedom to do what it is wrong and harmful; it’s about Christians no longer having the freedom to do what is right and helpful. We all know that Christians must bake the cake . . . or else. So also the florist and photographer. The list of casualties grows ever longer. And I am stuck singing, “You used to say live and let live.” And yet who says a word against it? We know Christian adoption agencies have been forced to close, and yet you tell me to stick to the life issue. Christian counselors are silenced, and we are silent voluntarily, perhaps to further our social advancement. And still they say to the pro-life movement, focus. Stay in your lane. A Brownsburg teacher is fired for not using the mandatory pronouns, and yet in Indianapolis, our Republican governor goes on and on about being a welcoming state. Or at least welcoming those who welcome the new ideology.

What to do?

In all of this, we must remember who is Lord and who is that we aim to please.  Children are given to us as trust from God.  Ultimately, we must obey God rather than men.  Remember, there is only one Lord, and it is God’s Son alone who is our Savior.

And now it’s parental rights. Well, that makes sense. We stand and smile, offering our blessing upon that which God frowns. But there are real consequences. If the state can redefine marriage, then parents have no natural rights. If children do not belong to the mother and father, then there is no family, only power. Perhaps, in the next election, the campaign slogan can be, “If you like your children, you can keep your children.” And you might fall for it again. And yet, as parental rights are stripped, do you still tell me to focus on the life issue?

Hardly anyone says a word. Groups push the revolution, and we smile. And the unwelcome guest is the one who defends the truth. The LGBT revolutionaries are taking children from parents who will not play along, who will not give their children puberty blockers, hormones, soon to be followed by disfiguring surgery. You may be the parent, but the state knows better. And the court will take your children. This has long been a matter of logically seeing how this plays out, but now it’s just observing what’s already happening. Do well to remember that the “T” is for totalitarianism. And if we marginalize, ostracize, fine, fire and silence Christians, well, there goes your life movement too. So much for staying in your lane.

So, what to do, dear Christians?  Be strong in your faith and your confession.  Do not forget your first love.  And do not forget the One who loves you.  I might add, this is the time to return to the Scriptures. Read Genesis 1-3.  See what our Lord says about marriage in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.  And then remember that our Lord laid down His life for you.  You, the Church, are Christ’s precious bride, washed clean by the blood of Christ.  Be strong and be confident.  Knowing that Christ loves you and is strong to protect, boldly confess Him with your mouth and in your lives.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer is associate professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the Master of Arts program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Be Informed

Learn why Michigan Orders Faith-Based Adoption Agencies to Violate Their Religious Beliefs.

Be Equipped

Listen to the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz discuss issues concerning people of faith in current events, current culture, and the court system. Check out Free to Be Faithful: Religious Liberty in Culture and Courts.

Be Encouraged

“Be strong in your faith and your confession.  Do not forget your first love.  And do not forget the One who loves you.” – Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer

Devotion: Monday, April 1, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, where the Scripture says,   

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

The Gospel in a Nutshell!

People often ask me to share with them a verse or brief section that summarizes the Christian message. Many will offer John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” That’s surely a good one, maybe the best for many. But my favorite little section is from 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. In these verses Paul describes what the sending of His only begotten Son was all about. It was about reconciling a world that was in rebellion, back to the One who created it in and for perfection. It is about bringing together that which was separated because of human sin. It was about not counting our sins against us, when they should not only be counted, but should determine our destiny. It is about replacing the despair and the brokenness of our sin with the hope and the righteousness of Jesus himself. God was IN CHRIST reconciling the world to Himself, yes, and, for those who put their trust and faith in that reconciliation, we now are ambassadors of His hope. With Christ as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Reconciler, we can reach out a hand that is full of His grace so that others might know Him and trust in Him too. That’s the Gospel message and the Gospel empowered life in a nutshell.

Reconciled, we can be reconcilers. With lives in the grip of His grace, we can reach out with a reconciling hand to a world caught in its own self-centered desperation.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “CHANCING ONE’S ARM?” It’s a phrase about putting the power of Christ’s reconciliation to work in our lives. The phrase is associated with the oldest Christian site in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  One of its doors is called the “Door of Reconciliation.” There’s a rectangular hole hacked out of its center. In 1492, two prominent Irish families, the Ormonds and Kildares, were in the midst of a bitter feud. As the feud grew and turned into an all out fight, the Earl of Ormand and his family and followers took refuge in the chapter house of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and bolted themselves in. However, as the siege wore on, the Earl of Kildare concluded the feuding was foolish. Here were two families worshiping the same God in the same church, living in the same country, and yet trying to kill each other. So Kildare called out to the Earl of Ormand and pledged that he would not seek revenge or indulge in villainy. Instead, he wanted the Ormands to come out and the feud to be over. But the Earl of Ormand was convinced that it was a scheme full of treachery and refused to come out of the Cathedral. So Kildare grabbed his spear, chopped a hole in the door with it, and thrust his hand through.

There was a tense moment until his hand was grasped by another hand inside the church. The door was opened and the two men embraced, thus ending the family feud. Reconciled to God, they could “chance their arm” to each other.

But here’s the point. Jesus didn’t just “chance his arm.” He gave His body, His life, for our eternal salvation. Because of that fact of reconciliation, we who trust in Christ can take a chance on each other each and every day.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, challenge us today to put the power of our reconciliation to God IN YOU to work in the relationships we have in our lives. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, March 29, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s topic/issue….

BE HONEST, IT’S NOT ABOUT FAIRNESS

One of the difficulties of my new work in Washington is to convince fellow Christians that taking a stance on God’s ordering of the world—whether it’s “thou shall not steal” (e.g., the right to private property), or “thou shall not murder” (e.g., the sanctity of life), and even the moral teachings of the Bible (which are in stark contrast to the sexual libertine movement of the culture today)— is a godly thing to do. We are naturally reticent because we too are broken and sinful compared to those laws, just like everyone else in the country (see Matthew 5:21-37). But this isn’t about saying that WE are better or that WE are fundamentally different than other human beings, whatever their persuasion. This is about defending the notion that there is a God in heaven who has created and ordered the world in which we all live. He is the one who establishes what is right and wrong. And, thankfully, He doesn’t just write that in the Bible. He has written those moral truths into the consciences of every human being, even into the fabric of the natural world itself (see Romans 2:14-15). To not proclaim the world’s ordering by its Creator is to shirk the responsibility of being a preserving voice for the sake of the culture and the church.

That’s why it is so demoralizing to read things like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ support of the so-called “Fairness For All” legislation (For more information, see the article, “CCCU Deal Doesn’t Fair Well,” February 04, 2019).[1] Such a law would equate all kinds of sexual behavior as if they were all the same. But, even worse, it would misuse constitutional protections by classifying such behaviors as civil rights, not just legally permissible behaviors. Immediately, there would be various behaviors that would be in stark contrast to the teachings of the Bible about chastity, as well as sex within the confines of the commitment of marriage, making biblical teaching to the contrary virtually illegal. It’s important for Christians to understand that this isn’t a proposal then for “Fairness.” This is a proposal to silence dissenting moral voices in our culture today through the coercive power of the state.

That’s a key reason that the LCRL is in Washington D.C. We are here to stand against such coercion, to fight for the right of the church to maintain its unique, biblical voice in the public square that is, by biblical definition, FOR ALL on God’s terms. We are not asking for the state to propagate our view by fiat. But we are arguing that the principle of “live and let live” be honored in our direction too. In the case of the “Fairness For All” legislation, exactly the opposite is intended. At this time in our culture, with virtually no restrictions concerning one’s personal sexual behaviors, this legislation would eventually force the church, as well as her  schools and universities, to accept and even advocate for behaviors that the Scripture does not endorse or condone. It would also demand the violation of clear biblical teachings of the foundations, the direction, and the limitations of one’s sexual behavior that are meant for our own good, for the sake of love and true intimacy. Again, the Fairness Act is not about fairness at all. As the article states, “Fairness for all means the persecution of many.” [2] Christians need to understand that advocating for God’s ordering of the world by supporting the biblical view of the institution of marriage, or the fundamental moral teachings of the 10 Commandments are part of our job as citizens who are advocating for a fair, just, and humane society. For such a society to exist, there are moral directions, moral foundations, and even moral limitations that exist for the good of all. Dialogues about these differing points of view must be free, open, and uncoerced. In summary then, it should be noted that “Fairness For All” already exists. It’s called the First Amendment where our political speech and the free expression of our religious liberty are enshrined as fundamental rights for all. Bargaining them away in some euphemistically labeled “Fairness” bill will leave those fundamental liberties in tatters.


[1] https://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WA19B06&f=WU19B02

[2] https://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WA19B06&f=WU19B02

Devotion: Monday, March 25, 2019

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 reading is from 1 Corinthians 10:11-13, where the Scripture says,   

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

POWERFUL REMINDERS, POWERFUL INVITATIONS!

I don’t read through the Old Testament as much as I should. How about you? Very often when people read through the pages of the Old Testament, they get lost in the stories, the names, and the events. Yet we should read it again and again and again, but why? What’s it all about? What makes those people any different than the people of other nations, with other stories and other events?

Good questions. And here are a few answers to bless you as you engage God’s Word which is His letter of love, life, forgiveness, and salvation for you!

1. The people in the Old Testament are no different than you, me, or anyone else. We all are 100% sinners through and through. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and deserve nothing but judgment and death for our thoughts, words, and deeds. (Be honest with yourself here, you know what’s in your heart and mind!)

2. Though the people of the Old Testament weren’t special in and off themselves, the God of the Old Testament was and is. And their uniqueness was because God chose them to be a promised, forgiven, and graced people who would embody those promises for all the world to see, inviting every tribe and nation to put their faith in Yahweh, the God who would save and redeem the entire world by grace.

They were, as Genesis 12:1-3 reminds us, people who were blessed to be a blessing so that all the nations of the world would be blessed by the God who brings life to undeserving, rebellious folks like us. We’re just like them, sinners through and through, who have been saved by God’s actions alone, actions of grace offered to all by faith as a gift.

So, just read some of the Old Testament stories with that in mind. As I do, I often wonder why God didn’t just give up on all of them and start fresh. But then I’m so very thankful that He didn’t do that with them and He doesn’t do that with me. It’s amazing to see God’s mercy in action in the lives of people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Deborah, Samson, Jonathan, David, Solomon, Ruth and others, and to realize that that same mercy and grace are available to you and me, in the One who fulfilled all of God’s promises for salvation by sending Jesus into the world.

Those stories are powerful reminders of God’s grace, but our reading for today points out that they are also warnings to us about what sin and evil can do in our lives. Their stories remind us that when it comes to the things that matter, things like faith, a purposeful life, family, relationships, and so on, “if you think that you [on your own, with your strength alone] are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). However, those Old Testament stories are even greater invitations to trust in the One who did not leave us in our sinful state, but came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10).

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, remind us of the futility of trying to live life on our own. But also remind us even more of your invitation to live life joyfully and abundantly by grace through faith in You. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, March 22, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s topic/issue….

IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT “LEGISLATING MORALITY.”

Have you heard about the “Johnson Amendment?” You need to know about this. It has created the silly notion that Church bodies and church people have NO right to talk about the cultural, moral issues of the day, even within their churches. Otherwise, they’ll risk their “tax exemption.” Under a mistaken application of the “separation of Church and State,” there are groups who claim that the church, its leaders, and its people have no right to publicly engage controversial, cultural issues because they shouldn’t be “legislating their morality.”

That opinion belies the common-sense truth that all laws and policies are legislating some form of morality and it stifles dialogue on these issues with the misuse of governmental coercive power. Tony Perkins, in his article titled, “Figures of (Free) Speech” (February 04, 2019), argues that the church’s voice has been a blessing in such matters throughout our history. He says,

The most powerful voices speaking into the crises of slavery, segregation, genocide, or     abortion have usually come from the pulpit. So it’s no surprise that when Christians’ political influence increased, so did the Left’s attacks. For almost 65 years, one of the most powerful weapons in their toolshed has been a piece of seemingly irrelevant tax policy called the Johnson amendment.[1]

Truth be told, then, some of the great issues of the day were first addressed as moral issues within the church whose voice then ventured out into society at large. Even the fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in our constitutional Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence are truths that are rooted in the religious truth that we are created in the image of God.

For those of us who see a differentiation between God’s work in and through the church, and God’s work in and through the state, we realize that the main role of the church is not “moral” in nature. Indeed, proclaiming the moral truths of the Bible leaves us all as sinners who still need to be saved. But it’s not either/or…. it’s both/and. Christians need to reflect the biblical truth that there is a penultimate message and an ultimate message. The Church needs to proclaim and defend God’s creative ordering of the world (which preserves His world through moral law and order), even as we proclaim God’s salvation of such a world through the person and work of Christ alone. The first has legislative responsibilities and challenges. The second is to be proclaimed freely and uncoerced so that all might hear and hopefully believe!

Instead of threats from the state about muting the church’s voice about morality and salvation, the state should mind its own business and stick to the limited role it has in our lives. And the church needs to utilize its public voice properly so that its moral role in the world is never seen as its ultimate charge which is, rather, to proclaim the forgiveness of sin that comes from the grace of God alone in Jesus. With the state, it’s always about “legislating morality” and the church has a role in advocating for just, fair laws for the preserving of a humane and civil culture. It also has the role of proclaiming that even the best “legislated morality” cannot cure what ails humanity. Only Jesus can do that. “Both/and” is the way to go. And the Johnson Amendment mucks up the work of a free people.


[1] https://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WA19B05&f=WU19B02

Devotion: Monday, March 18, 2019

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 reading is from Philippians 3:20-21, where the Scripture says,

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

ULTIMATE CITIZENSHIP!

Citizenship, belonging to a country, or a nation, or an empire mattered in the ancient world and, truth be told, it matters today. Citizenship established an identity in an impersonal world. It meant protection; it meant rights; it meant privileges. In our text, Paul, while not denigrating the temporal citizenship that the Philippians had as Roman citizens, reminds them of the vast differences between being a citizen of a particular country and being a citizen of heaven by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ for all. To say it simply, one citizenship lasts, and all others eventually fade into the ashbin of history. Paul reminds them, and he reminds us, of the eternal differences between the citizenship that we have in the country of our birth and the one that lasts. The latter comes from our “rebirth” into the family of God by the work of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us all of the enduring identity that comes from being redeemed by Jesus Christ and reconciled to the God who created us for eternal life in the first place.

Citizenship. In the centuries surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus, the temporal nature of the great kingdoms of this world were revealed. Rome would fall, just like Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and others did before. In fact, all human efforts to establish lasting citizenship, peace, security, and meaning will fail. That’s why the Bible’s message is so powerful. The life and salvation that Jesus offers are able to deliver what He promises. Paul reminds us today that God will place “all things into subjection under [Jesus’] feet” (1 Corinthians 15:27). As a result, Jesus has the power to bring everything that He has promised to fruition. There is even the promise that because He lives, because He is resurrected from the grave, our bodies will also be transformed to become what we were created and redeemed to be IN HIM. That’s pretty powerful stuff!

The truth of that citizenship should give us pause. And it should give us a mindset about the things of today. We are citizens of two kingdoms, one that lasts and one that is fading away. To that end, we need to prioritize things in our lives. We are to strive for excellence in the “here and now,” yes (we’re in Washington D.C. to do just that!). But we strive for that in all our vocations and duties to give God glory and to serve others in His Name! That’s the purpose of His eternal Kingdom at work in the “here and now.”  It provides confidence, power, and even the protection of knowing that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).”  That’s the ultimate and eternal citizenship which really matters.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help us to be grateful for the life and work we have in the “here and now.” May we always remember that our ultimate citizenship and allegiance are to You, the only One who gives us life here, now, and forever. AMEN.