Devotion: Monday, December 17, 2018

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 verse is from Luke 7:31-35, where Jesus says,

“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

It Seems Like People Never Change, Do They?

Childlike or childish? That is the question. Jesus confronts a crowd one day and he calls them to account. He basically says that they are missing the whole point. The work of God is not merely for your amusement. It is rather for your life and salvation. He uses the example of children “childishly playing” to point out a brutal fact. Children are often not as “childlike” as we would believe, namely, joyfully trusting and obedient. All too often they are“childish,” fickle, inattentive, and even mean. It’s like when we were kids. One group wanted to play a happy game, but others said it was too silly. Others wanted to play something serious, but it was too somber or gloomy. Fickle, never satisfied, childish, unhappy no matter what we do. Does that sound like someone you know?

Truth be told, we are all childish at times. Just take an honest look at how we often treat people, even those we love. It’s often with actions that are the opposite of a “childlike” wonder and joy that honors others as gifts from God. Rather, our treatment of others could often be described as a “childish” misuse of a cherished relationship merely to get what we’ve wanted on our terms alone. But, the worst thing of all is when we are childish about the things of God. In our text, Jesus is calling us all not to play childish games with the things of God. When God calls us to repentance, He is calling us to take our need for Him seriously. When He calls us to faith in His forgiveness and mercy, He’s calling us to take His grace seriously too. Repentant faith in the person and work of Jesus -now that’s something to be received with childlike joy and wonder, not childish fickleness and discontent.

This text calls us to faith in Jesus, which calls us out of a childish arrogance before God to a childlike faith in Him because of all that He has done for us by grace. When it seems that people can’t ever change, remember that God can do what we cannot.  So, as you count down the days until Christmas, let the incredible message of the manger, the cross, and the resurrection bring you awe and wonder! And may that bring you hope and peace each day.

For even more good news today, Jesus suggests something along the lines of, “The proof is in the pudding.” Actually, He says, “Wisdom is justified by all her children.” This means that taking the message of John and Jesus to heart is a gift that always comes through, one that never lets us down. See the face of all the people who have come to such a faith as a testimony of God’s faithfulness for you too.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give us childlike hearts of faith in you this Christmas and always. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, December 14, 2018

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….

If Politics Can’t Solve Our Problems, then What Will?

It’s Advent! And those who engage the culture from a Two-Kingdom perspective[1] are fully aware that human efforts, whether political, economic, philosophic, or even religious, are incapable of bringing the fulfillment in life that humans crave and even strive for. Senator Ben Sasse wrote a persuasive opinion article last month in the Wall Street Journal that described the issue in even more stark terms. It was entitled, “Politics Can’t Solve Our Political Problems.” (See the full article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/politics-cant-solve-our-political-problems-1539364986.) But, here’s the problem for many today: if politics can’t even solve political problems, then how can it solve the deeps divisions and problems that exist between the people groups of our culture, or people in personal relationships that matter? If politics, even faithfully practiced, is thus incapable, then what is?

Unfortunately, the first reaction to our human “incapacity” is to deny that it exists. Just do a google search on the responses to Sasse’s article. Such a search will find many critics. Some actually accuse him of being lax in his work, uncaring for those who struggle. They assert that “if he would just put his political power to work,” all the problems of poverty, crime, insecurity, and humanity’s lack of fulfilment would just go away. Such views are unfortunate. They protest too much. Even amidst the technological, economic, and social changes of the last 100 years, one can see human depravity and brokenness throughout.

So, for those of us who are confident that Sasse is “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) about our human, political limitations, what prevents us from being pessimistically negative about these same issues? Simply this: God is at work in this world to preserve and to save! That’s the Advent message which still matters today. That’s a message that has public-cultural ramifications, as well as personal-spiritual ones. The Bible proclaims that God is at work in the world to preserve and to save. But those works are radically different. One is temporal and limited (Left-hand Kingdom rule); the other is eternal and limitless (Right-hand Kingdom rule). The first happens as God works through the vocations of even sinful people to preserve culture, to keep the peace, to keep things relatively civil and just. The second happens as He works through the perfect work of His Son, the Christmas child, to save each person in this world as a gift.

Sasse reminds us that our work, whether in politics, business, or other forms of public service, is important, but it can’t deal with the ultimate heart and soul issues that still plague us at the end of the day. He calls us to something more. His answer, “The good news is it’s fixable, but it requires friendship, it requires more attention to place and family and shared vocation and work and neighborhood and worshiping communities.”[2]

A Two-Kingdom focus says more. It would value his list, but it would emphasize the last phrase of his answer as the most important of all. In fact, the ultimate solutions is not even the actions of the “worshipping communities,” but the actions of the One who is to be worshipped. God’s preserving work and God’s gracious saving work in the world help us look honestly at the work we can do. They also enable us to rejoice in the work that only God can do to heal the deep brokenness in every human heart. That perspective can go a long way in dealing with the issues that are before us today like never before.

 

 

[1] Two-Kingdom cultural engagement emphasizes that God is at work in the world these two different ways: First,  through the vocations of all people, believers and non, to preserve this sinful world; second, through the person and work of His Son, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ to save the world and to proclaim that forgiveness, life, and salvation as a unique gift of faith to all who believe. God at work in two distinct ways, to preserve and to save! Believers are to seek to follow His lead then in both arenas of God’s rule.

[2] https://www.sarahpalin.com/2018/10/15/important-ben-sasse-reveals-1-problem-america-says-politics-can-never-solve/

Devotion: Monday, December 10, 2018

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 verse is from Luke 3:1-3, where the Bible says,

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

A “Time and Place” Kind of Salvation

One of the reasons that I love the Bible and its teachings is that the message therein is so different from any other message in this world. There are many religious messages out there, but they are the opinions of sinful people like you and me, all trying to get us to follow some path for peace or tranquility; some are even brazen enough to speak about it as “salvation.” Unfortunately, like so much of our human posturing, both philosophically and religiously, they all leave us wanting and dismayed. The same can be said for “faith” in our scientific and economic prowess. In our culture today, we have so many material things, but our lives are just as broken as ever. And no belief in our superiority or myth about our unlimited potential or capacity can change that even a little.

The good news? Thankfully, there is another message in the world. It’s not a religious one, or a philosophical one, or a political one, or a scientific one, or even a utopian one. It is NOT about our prowess whatsoever. It’s about our need, our incapacity, our brokenness. And, even more importantly, it’s about a Savior who has come, not with judgment, but with His mercy, forgiveness, and grace. You see, the Christmas message is not merely a religious call to sinners to be better people. It is rather a proclamation of forgiveness, mercy, life and salvation, offered as a gift of God’s work on our behalf to those who are undeserving. Then that undeserved grace does indeed motivate us to live different lives, but as a response of utter joy and thanksgiving.

On top of the uniqueness of that salvation comes items like in our text. This good news of God’s grace comes to specific times, places, and people who witness to the uniqueness of this Jesus. They call us, not to some religious faith in ourselves or faith in our self-driven potential, but to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone. May this Advent season be one where you take these days seriously. May they serve as “time and place” opportunities for you to experience the unique events of the Bible, Christ Jesus’ coming to bring His life and salvation into our lives. Yes, there was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. There was a John the Baptizer who proclaimed it in order to point to a Savior named Jesus Christ, who came into human history, in time and place, for you and me.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for leaving your heavenly throne to be born on this earth and laid in a manger. You came in order to bear our cross and judgment so that we might be reconciled to God. May the joy of living that new life be a part of our Advent preparation this year. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, December 7, 2018

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….

Human Power Has Purpose, but Such Power Is Fleeting!

This Friday we remember those who gave their lives on that day that “will live in infamy.” We also are reminded that there are proper uses of power, destructive uses of power, and the overarching reality that human power is fleeting. Our guest columnist is Tim Goeglein from Focus on the Family and friend of the LCRL here in Washington DC. His article reflects on the power shifts in our government over the last several months and on the reality that true power for what really matters in life is always much more than mere politics.

THE SUPREME COURT, INVESTITURE, AND FEDERAL JUDGES

By Tim Goeglein

For FOCUS ON THE FAMILY w/ permission for the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty

The late/great novelist Tom Wolfe once posited that there would arrive a moment where fiction would lose its relevance because the reality of American life was so much more compelling and, at turns, unbelievable.

Such was the week or so after the midterm elections in Washington DC. It was a little like living inside a dynamic, almost surreal novel.

On Capitol Hill, the balance of power shifted from red to blue in the House of Representatives. The United States Senate went in the opposite direction, getting redder by the moment, albeit with new fights in the offing over potential recounts.

At The White House, the revocations of CNN press credentials, a terminated Attorney General, and an altogether palpable new buzz about the endless Mueller investigation and where it is wending, or isn’t, continued to dominate the headlines.

It was all head-spinning, and unresolved.

Yet the third branch, the judicial branch, and especially life at the Supreme Court, seemed to be almost safe, sane, and steady by comparison.  After the late-summer folderol and vitriol over the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, that august body eagerly settled into its regular routine, hearing major new cases and welcoming on Thursday 200 guests for one of the most majestic, simple, ancient ceremonies in the life of the court – the Investiture of its newest justice, aged 53.

At just after 10 a.m., a bell rang; seven of the nine justices entered the courtroom from behind red velvet curtains, berobed and looking solemn, after which Chief Justice John Roberts officially swore-in Justice Kavanaugh.  The Bible was placed just-so, the new justice raised his hand, pledged his oath, and when it was over, no one clapped or spoke.  The court’s chief usher, wearing a morning coat, read the presidential commission making it all official ‘in the year of our Lord 2018’ and it was over, ten minutes from first to last.

Again, no one clapped or spoke – the silence of freedom.  The President and First Lady sat to the left of the court’s mahogany dais, and said not a word; in fact, they were not asked to speak. This was the quiet power of the third branch.

Another bell went off; the justices exited behind the curtains; and it was history.  The guests flowed into an elegant, silver-trayed reception of goodwill and friendship, and the life of the court rolled on, seamlessly and without fanfare. The justices mingled, out of robe, and there was absolutely no political talk.  It was civil, magnanimous, and of grace.  Festive.

The President and his small retinue departed from the back of the court; the helicopters overhead dissipated into the clouds; and the few members of Congress present, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said their good-byes.  No cameras; no microphones; no flash bulbs.

Sometimes power is circus-like, and we are seeing plenty of that in Washington DC in the post-midterm election life: politicians jockeying for power in the House and Senate; much speculation about new Cabinet members and pending resignations; and massive debates over special prosecutors, and new congressional agendas. The list is long.

Yes sometimes power is of quietude, and in the shadows.  It is tangible, but more ephemeral. 

After all, someone was missing from the dais at the Supreme Court: 85-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  She had fallen the evening before in her chambers, fracturing some ribs.  She was mentioned at the Investiture, and later, only indirectly.  Yet it prompted undoubted speculation that two members of the court are in their 80s, and power is fleeting.

Perhaps the most substantial domestic achievement of the Trump presidency thus far is:  Two Supreme Court justices; 29 appellate judges; and 53 district/specialty court judges. That is massive by any historical benchmark.

And we are only 24 months from the next election.

Tom Wolfe was right: the real is sometimes more compelling than fiction.

Devotion: Monday, December 3, 2018

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 verse is from Luke 19:37-40, where the Bible says,

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Blessed Is the One Who Comes in the Name of the Lord, really?

It was quite a day, that Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. Jesus, the Christ, the “Coming One” was indeed making His entrance into the city. It was a day of great rejoicing for many; but others reacted with harsh criticism (see the Pharisees’ complaint). Just as sad was the reality that a good portion of the crowd shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” was shouting that truthful statement for the wrong reason. Many of them had seen Jesus do incredible miracles like giving sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus, and even raising Lazarus from the dead. As a result, they figured that this Jesus was the political “savior” they had been hoping for. For many, all of Jesus’ miracles meant that He had the power to do what they really wanted, to inaugurate a political kingdom that would overthrow the brutal Romans and put the Jewish people back in charge of Palestine. Sadly, some of those same people were perhaps even shouting, “Give us Barabbas and crucify Jesus!” days later. Why? Because Jesus’ work would not live up to—or should I say live down to—their hopes and dreams.

It seems much the same today, doesn’t it? For many, Jesus doesn’t live up to our hopes and dreams. Now, like then, the “Coming One” is praised initially, until people hear the real reason why He came then, and why He still comes today. Jesus came to bring forgiveness, life, and salvation to people who then were, and today are, dying in their sin. Sadly, both then and now, many settle for the fool’s gold of this world, when the enduring treasures of God are truly at the door of their heart. Don’t let that be you this Advent season of preparation.

As you begin your Advent preparations for Christmas, see the fullness of the coming kingdom of God’s grace in the “Coming One,” the King, Jesus. And don’t let the naysayers then or now prevent you from seeing the awesomeness of the eternal life and salvation that Jesus alone brings  for your life NOW AND FOREVER. In a sinful world, it seems like the true message of God often suffers rebuke, criticism, and rejection, even as other people hear it and still believe. I pray that this season you let the Lord Jesus have His say in and for your life. Let Him speak to the depth of your need for His love, His forgiveness, and His salvation, so that your “blessed be” words of praise to Him might be rooted in faith in the gift of salvation that He brings. Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord, really? Yes, really! For you and for me in Christ alone!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, in these weeks of preparation for Christmas, you call us to repentance, to see our need for you. May that repentance burst forth into the praises that only faith in you can bring. With that, please bless us all. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, November 30, 2018

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….

Why Government Intrusion into Our Lives Is the Issue.

One of the reasons the LCRL is in Washington D.C. is to protect the Church’s public voice from the intrusion and coercion of the government. In many ways, it is unfortunate that such a work must be done today. But when you read about the persecution of groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, the question isn’t, “Why is the State doing this to them?” The question is, “When will the State’s coercive intrusions ever end?” It seems that when the government gets involved in your life, even if it is wrong, it tends to take forever to make things right. Unfortunately, that is the case here.

The Little Sisters of the Poor is a group of women dedicated to serving the elderly poor in the name of Christ. As they say on their website, “Our lives are made up of many humble, hidden tasks. We serve the elderly day and night, striving to meet their physical needs, to make them happy and to minister to them spiritually. We accomplish our mission together as a community, each one bringing her gifts and talents to the work of hospitality.” It is a group dedicated to bring joy in the midst of the challenges of this life. Yet the government sought to impose an abortion ideology on them through their health insurance plans.

First, the good news. The religious liberties of the Little Sisters of the Poor and others were restored and protected at the federal level. Recently, a 2017 regulation was enacted that gives religious nonprofits, including this order of Catholic nuns, legal protection from the Health and Human Services health insurance mandate. (That regulation was the result of the 2016 Supreme Court decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which told the Health and Human Services Department of the U.S. government to revise its rules). That’s right, the Supreme Court made its ruling, and religious liberty was upheld.

Now, the bad news. That ruling didn’t stop the encroaching government from coming after the Little Sisters of the Poor in another way. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Little Sisters are in Federal Court again. Why? They are fighting the State of California’s refusal to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling. The State is suing to end their religious exemption. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption, forcing the nuns to legally defend themselves and their ministry once again.

Here’s the point: When a dedicated, faithful, caring group like the Little Sisters of the Poor becomes a legal target of the government, it’s the government that’s out of control. It’s outrageous that such a group, dedicated to service and life, should be forced to acknowledge and support the practice of abortion which violates their conscience and their dedicated service. It is even more disgraceful that such a group might be put out of business if they don’t.

Pushing back on such intrusion is a Christian’s proper use of their 1st Amendment rights in the United States, putting one’s temporal liberties to work to rightfully protect our public work for others in the name of Jesus. It’s not the intrusion of the Church into politics that’s the issue here. It’s the government’s growing intrusion into the work of the Church that should concern us all. It’s time to reflect on  why the Constitution enshrined religious liberty as the first amendment of the Bill of Rights, one that is fundamental for a free, caring, serving people. It’s also time to more clearly defend such liberties, not just for ourselves, but for all, and, in this case, in behalf of the Little Sisters and the elderly poor whom they serve.

(PS – At the time of this writing, this litigation was ongoing. In the last week before this article posts, the President signed an executive order of  “Religious Exemption” for groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, protecting their right of conscience in this regard. The tragedy is that it had to come to this. But, thankfully their religious liberty and ours has been upheld (For now?).)

 

 

1
http://littlesistersofthepoor.org/our-life/mission/

Devotion: Monday, November 26, 2018

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 verse is from John 18:36-37, where the Bible says,   

 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 

Two Kingdoms, One Mission!

One of the hardest things to deal with in this world is to face the never-ending reality of sin and pain. Often Christians are tempted to believe that Jesus came into this world to make this “sinful world just a little better.” We are tempted to think that Jesus merely wishes to give us a bit of grace so that we can really change things or at least endure things. While it is true that trying to lead a moral and ethical life, to serve our fellow human beings in His Name, can make this world a little better, the Bible teaches that Jesus came to give so much more.

There’s a tension in that. His Kingdom isn’t just a “better” place. It is a perfect place. It’s a Kingdom IN this world, FOR this world, but not OF this world. Jesus inaugurated that Kingdom His way, through the cross, so that all might receive it by grace, through faith, in Him alone.

Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse of this Kingdom in all its glory. St. John says,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

He alone makes all things NEW! And the day is coming when what we know is true by faith, will be true by sight as well. But in the meantime, God calls us to receive Christ’s Kingdom by grace through faith. He calls us to share this kingdom not by force (the way of this world), but by service (the way of His Kingdom). Jesus clearly differentiates His Kingdom from all others. He teaches us to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). But He clearly teaches that even Caesar’s authority is given by God for God’s purposes and not Caesar’s own (Romans 13:1). Earthly authority, like that of Caesar and Pontius Pilate, is real. However, it isn’t to save, but to preserve this sinful world so that the message of the saving Gospel, the message of the coming “new heavens and the new earth,” can be proclaimed for all to hear, calling all “out of  darkness into His (Christ’s) marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

This past Sunday was “Christ the King Sunday” in many Christian Churches around the world. On that day, Churches celebrated the fact that Christ’s Kingdom is here and now, but it is a radically different Kingdom of forgiveness, life, and salvation as a gift of God’s grace. His Kingdom is here in the midst of a world that is passing away. It’s a comfort to know that God is always at work to preserve the world so that He might ultimately save the world.

May we never forget which Kingdom lasts forever and ever. May all your work, all your leisure, all your life be focused on that reality because, when all is said and done, it is the one thing that matters. And it is the one thing that gives purpose to all that we do each day. Two Kingdoms, one Mission….God is always at work in the world to bless and to save. Be a part of His preserving and saving work for others. You’ll be glad that you did!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, amidst all the distractions of this world, please keep my heart and mind on your Kingdom, the only Kingdom that lasts. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, November 23, 2018

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….

Thanksgiving – For Freedom’s Sake!

Have you ever asked why America celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday? When I was the Director of the Cross-Cultural Ministry Center at Concordia University, Irvine, we had students studying for ministry from all over the world.  They often asked, “Why does America ‘celebrate’ Thanksgiving? What is Thanksgiving all about?”

It seems that “Thanksgiving” is fairly unique to the United States. But that shouldn’t surprise us. From our beginnings as a nation, we have taken time to reflect on the fact that God is part of the American Experiment. In fact, it can be persuasively argued that individual liberty is a political reality because of the of notion that there are issues that are bigger than the state. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the individual dignity of every person are things that transcend politics and economics. They flow from the reality that we have inherent dignity as people created in the image of God. We are people who have inalienable rights because of it. And, because God is the source of those rights and liberties, we are called to live faithfully toward Him and toward our neighbor in all of our pursuits.

That spirit is woven into the fabric of the Republic. At the founding of the country, George Washington declared that the nation should celebrate a day of thanksgiving, “to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.” Virtually every leader before and since has acknowledged the importance of such a day. Ben Franklin called for a day of Thanksgiving. Thomas Jefferson called for a day of Thanksgiving. And, amidst the bloodiest moment in our history, the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called the nation to its higher principles, proclaiming the first “Annual” National Day of Thanksgiving, in Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863, saying:

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity…

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…….to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend… they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged,
and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

As Christians, we know that we have more to be thankful for than merely God’s providence. Our thankful hearts are overflowing because of God’s ultimate, saving work in the world in Christ Jesus (which is why we go to church on Thanksgiving too!). But, even if people don’t believe in the fullness of the eternal freedoms that come from God, one can still be thankful for His providence. It calls all citizens to be thankful to our Creator who has given us liberty and life to be used faithfully and freely toward Him and toward others. Let that be part of your worship and prayers on Thursday, as well as when you carve the turkey and root for your favorite team!

 

1  https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Notable-Thanksgiving-Day-Proclamations.html?soid=1108762609255&aid=IHL42aImm4Q
2  http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs155/1108762609255/archive/1122993729317.html

Devotion: Monday, November 19, 2018

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 verse is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, where the Bible says,

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Thanks-Living!


Thanksgiving can lead to a life of thanks-living, especially if you know the one to whom you are to be “thankful.”  This is the week that Americans are to pause and to reflect upon the providence of God in our lives, and to give Him thanks and praise. Someone has said that such an attitude, the “thankful, attitude of gratitude to God,” might indeed be the key to a joyful life. I think that’s what Paul is trying to teach us in the reading for today. For those who believe in Jesus, your lives are secure in His Name because of what He has done for you. Because of that certain reality, one can “rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances.”

Here’s a way to begin to put that faith to work in your lives. Martin Luther was a man who literally reformed the Christian Church because he rediscovered the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the power and joy of faith that trusts in Him alone. Because of that faith, Luther  practiced the power of thanksgiving and “thanks-living” every day. Note the daily morning and evening prayers that Luther encouraged us all to pray. Ready?

, HE SAYS TO BEGIN YOUR DAY THIS WAY:

In the morning, when you rise you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

     I THANK YOU, MY HEAVENLY FATHER, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this
night from all harm and danger; and I pray You to protect me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my
doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your
holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And then you should go with joy to your work…

LUTHER ENCOURAGES US TO CLOSE EACH DAY IN THE SAME SPIRIT AS FOLLOWS:

“In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

     I THANK YOU, MY HEAVENLY FATHER, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, your dear Son, that You have graciously
kept me this day; and I pray You to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this
night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me,
that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And then lie down in peace, and sleep.

That thankful attitude permeated every day in Luther’s life because Jesus, the one who lived, died, and rose again for him, that Jesus was with him always. That kind of love creates real thanksgiving. And thanksgiving rooted in faith in Jesus empowers a thankful life now and forever.

Put those prayers to work today. Start to bracket all your days with thoughts of Thanksgiving to God in Christ at the beginning and at the end of things. Such a life of faith, even when things seem uncertain, can boldly proclaim that I will put today’s Bible verses into action.

16 “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for [ME] in Christ Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your constant love, your certain Word, and your enduring promises. May that be my focus each and every day amidst the trials and tribulations of this world. Give me the power of a thanksgiving life because of all that Jesus has done for me. AMEN.

Word from the Center: Friday, November 16, 2018

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….

Stop Litigating Cultural, Moral Differences, PLEASE!

One of the main efforts of our Lutheran Center For Religious Liberty’s work in Washington D.C. is to partner with various, like-minded organizations to roll back the weaponization of politics today, especially as it concerns valid differences of opinion as to how we are to live our lives faithfully and morally. There are legitimate differences of opinion in our culture today as to what healthy relationships are, what healthy sexuality entails, and the definition and purpose of marriage as a relationship and as an institution within  a healthy society. Sadly, it’s not merely that such disagreements are more prevalent. Today disagreements are increasingly not allowed and the strong-arm of the State is being used to silence those who disagree with the prevailing accepted notions in popular culture. Bakers are losing their businesses, educational institutions are being threatened, and hard-working, honorable people are losing their jobs as well. A case in point is Georgia’s persecution of a faithful Fire Chief named Kelvin Cochran (For a more detailed account, see https://www.theglobaldispatch.com/city-of-atlanta-to-pay-kelvin-cochran-for-unconstitutional-firing-67553/).

Cochran was a dedicated and decorated city employee who suddenly came under fire because of a devotional book that he had written on his free-time, and not at work. It briefly described his Christian views on sex and marriage—views that are very traditional and mainstream. He was immediately suspended for 30 days, directed to attend “sensitivity training,” and then summarily fired even though a thorough investigation showed that Cochran was a very good leader and had never discriminated against anyone. His crime? He had a different view of the purpose of sex and the institution marriage and family as compared to the libertine views of the “thought police” in our society today. For that he was to be punished and quite severely.

Our plea? Stop litigating cultural, moral differences, please! Think for a moment about the widespread destruction of marriage today and the ensuing chaos in our neighborhoods with the STD’s, the broken relationships, and the growing callousness between men and women emanating from the sexual revolution (devolution?) of the 1960s. In light of all of that one would think that Cochran’s call to men to return to chastity, committed love, and family would be welcomed as the benevolent solution that it is. Instead, we are criminalizing viewpoints that once were rightly considered mainstream and just.

The LCRL’s position on many of these cultural issues is to protect them as issues involving freedom of speech andfreedom of religion, defending our dissenting voice in a culture that should value such a dialogue. Such issues should be engaged via dialogues of persuasion and not by the politics of coercion. Thankfully, the courts sided with Cochran and ruled that the city of Atlanta had indeed violated the chief’s first amendment rights. The courts determined that Atlanta’s rules restricting non-work speech, like the book for Christian men that Cochran wrote, were too broad and allowed city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagree. But it should give us pause that such rules are being written in cities around the country. As a result,merely holding a biblical view of marriage and family is now considered a legitimate cause for one’s termination, no matter how well a person does his or her job. The work of protecting a Christian’s and the Church’s right to have a public voice in our culture prayerfully goes on.