Devotion: Monday, August 19, 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 12:49-51, where Jesus says,   

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

GOOD DIVISION? IT DEPENDS!

People are worried about division today. The complaint is that we are too separated. The solutions offered to our divisions are that we should be tolerant, accept diversity, and just learn how to get along. Now, I’m not a person who enjoys division; that’s for sure. When there is tension or division in our lives, families, and communities, a yearning for peace is a God-given impulse. That’s why it is strange to hear Jesus talk this way, isn’t it? Here He’s telling people that He has come to bring division, not peace. However, in other parts of the Gospels we hear Him saying, “Peace be with you” (e.g., Luke 24:36; John 20:21, 26; see also John 14:27). So, what gives? Is there good division and bad division? Is there good tolerance and bad tolerance? Is their good diversity and bad diversity? Is there good peace and bad peace? Yes! Then, how might we properly differentiate such things? Well, it all depends on what you trust to bring us together. And that’s what Jesus is talking about.

Jesus is talking about His solution to these things. He talks about the fire that He was going to bring on earth, the fire of His holiness and righteousness put in service to the Father’s justice and judgment. He’s talking about the work that He would do on the cross that would reconcile us to God and to one another. That’s the key. With Christ as the center of our lives, with His forgiveness as the key to our sense of self, with His words as the wisdom directing our words, and with His love as the motivation for our service, then there can be real peace, reconciliation, diversity, and tolerance. But without Him at the center, our efforts toward peace, diversity, and tolerance are all a sham.

Can the divisive Christ of our text also be the peace-giving Christ of the Scriptures? Yes, if you see His message not as some self-help, humanity-based proclamation for peace, but as a blood-bought, cross-earned message of peace and mercy offered as a free gift to you by grace through faith. When you see the cross, you see your Savior. His work on the cross overcomes the divisions of our sin, reconciles us to our heavenly Father, and, through repentance and faith, also bonds us to each other like nothing else can. The cross looks ugly, even divisive, but real unity and peace are found only there.

In Philip Yancy’s book, Disappointment with God, he relates a story where such ugliness brought real healing. It was about a family in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. Enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but the doctor chose another means. At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as he had found it in the jail—naked, scarred from electric shocks, cigarette burns and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison. It was, in fact, the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display.[1] That “proclamation” overcame incredible injustice and division.

Yancy goes on to say, “That’s what Christ’s cross does. The cross that held Jesus’ body, exposed all the sin, violence and injustice of this world for what it is. At once, the cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness but also a God of sacrificial love.”[2] The fiery work, the dividing work of Jesus is the only thing that can ultimately unite and reconcile us to God and to one another, both now and forever. That’s really something to think about in today’s world.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, teach me the full weight of the cross. Teach me to trust that when You divide and when You unite on Your terms, You always have my eternal best at heart. AMEN.


[1] Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (Zondervan, 1997), 185-186

[2] Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (Zondervan, 1997), 186

Word from the Center Digest: August 16, 2019

Surrendering Freedom, But Not the Religious Kind

by Craig Muehler

Religious liberty in the United States military is a constant topic of discussion as well as actual legal battles about this issue.  There are groups who are aggressively trying to restrict and eliminate religious liberty from our Armed Forces.  (For some most recent legal cases and challenges, please visit the First Liberty website.)

There are several cases outlined that have serious ramification for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Christians who have served and those who are currently serving in the United States military.  Without a doubt America’s military continues to remain a force that places a high value on the role of religion in life. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, there exists a robust historical framework for religion and religious expression within the United States military.  With that comes the constant battle from those who wish to restrict the free exercise of religion for our chaplains as well as all members of the military.  The LCMS has endorsed chaplains to serve in the military since the Civil War, when C. F. W. Walther endorsed Pastor Friedrich Richmann to serve as a chaplain to the Ohio Regiment in 1862.  The LCMS continues to send forth pastors to serve as chaplains in the military to ensure our LCMS men and women are able to receive Word and Sacrament ministry while they are selflessly serving our nation. 

American service members voluntarily surrender many freedoms and liberties when they join the military.  However, religious freedom is not one of them. Religion and faith have played integral roles in America’s military since before our founding. Today, service members continue to enjoy broad, robust First Amendment rights. Service members are free to engage in religious expression in a manner consistent with their faith.

The authority and discretion of military officials to curb such expression has to meet some requirements.  And those who find themselves the victims of First Amendment violations may allege constitutional claims against those responsible.  Religious liberty is a right protected by U.S. law.  This also applies to our LCMS chaplains and all who serve in our military.

Our LCMS chaplains have the constitutional right as well as policy and doctrine protections from the Department of Defense and Congress to conduct religious services, worship, teaching, fellowship, counseling, and ecclesiastical or sacramental functions in accordance with our LCMS doctrine and practice. Our chaplains provide for the religious and moral needs of service members and are able freely to exercise and appropriately express their own faith, and ensure service members are free to do the same, without substantial government burden, except when that burden furthers a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.  All have a right to be free from discrimination based on their religious beliefs and also be free from censorship based on others’ objections to their appropriately expressed religious and moral beliefs.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod continues to stay engaged and work to protect religious liberty in the military through its Ministry to the Armed Forces and through the work of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. We also work to protect religious liberty for our LCMS pastors who are serving as military chaplains and for our LCMS members who selflessly volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces.

Chaplain Craig G. Muehler is director of the Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces.

Be Informed

Should states be able to“oust parents and children from neutral benefit programs because they choose a religious private school”? Learn more about a new Supreme Court case taking up this important issue.

Be Equipped

Rev. Dr. Greg Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, and Congressman John Shimkus, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 15th congressional district, joined Kip Allen of KFUO to talk about religious liberty and how Lutherans interact with politics in American society. Have a listen!

Be Encouraged

“Dear Lord Jesus, you are the Great Physician. You know every one of our hairs on our head and number them. You know when a sparrow falls out of the sky. Look with favor upon all Your dear Christians the world over, in every dark and difficult prison, in every torturous situation, in every situation of mental fatigue and anguish and attack by states and other powers and false religions. We pray that You would grant justice and liberty in the world so all peoples may have the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience. And we pray that You may open doors even through the blood of Your martyrs for the witness so that more and more may believe in You until the Last Day. We plead it for Your sake. Amen.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Devotion: Monday, August 12, 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 12:22-23 and 29-31 where Jesus says,   

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…. And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

WHIP WORRY AND START TO LIVE AGAIN!

Worry. It’s the malady of the 21st century even though we are living in a time of abundance unlike any time previously in history. I recently read an article that pointed out that millennials are the most anxious generation ever in the United States. That may be true, but I think that everyone is more on edge today and I find it remarkable. Our grandparents and parents grow up in times of poverty, war, and strife, but they were able to adjust to it, and even respond to it with a sense of purpose, courage, and perseverance in the face of real dangers. What has changed?

The article that I read (a fairly typical article out there on the web) is entitled, “Why Is Anxiety So Common Among Twentysomethings?”[1] It cited things like “use of social media,” “unstable work and finances,” and “experiences of failure” as causes for growing anxiety among the young. Similar articles claim that these pressures are causing anxiety in other age groups as well. Fair enough. Social pressures, job pressures, cultural pressures, and personal challenges can all lead to increased anxiety and worry. But are these things really “different” today? I’m sure that modern society has created its own unique stressors so I’m not saying that today’s struggles are exactly the same as things in the past. But I don’t think modern challenges are radically different at their core either. People have always experienced times of extreme loneliness, societal pressure, social dislocation, and fear of the unknown. What’s different today is the solutions that are proffered.

In this article, people were encouraged to “build trust in ourselves and connect to our greatest gifts; to get involved in the community, help other people; feel empowered, like you can change the world instead of being a victim of it.” It concludes, “when you put that into action, your anxiety doesn’t stand a chance.” Notice the absence of any thought of putting your anxieties into the hands of God. Notice that there is no spiritual dimension for resolving your anxieties in the truth that God really cares about you and that He is concerned about your welfare because He created and redeemed you to be His own. In our reading, Jesus speaks to us straight about whipping worries over the things of this world. “Seek [God’s] kingdom and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:31). Why? Because God knows that you need them, and He cares for you. Many of our grandparents and parents knew it, and nothing today prevents us from knowing that too. That’s the antidote for anxiety and worry, then, now, and in whatever the future might bring.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help me to bring my worries and anxieties to You in prayer, knowing that You already care for me and know what’s best for me. AMEN.


[1] https://www.bustle.com/articles/184650-why-is-anxiety-so-common-among-twentysomethings

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, August 9, 2019

Mob Rule and “Militant Democracy”

by Gene Edward Veith

Kevin D. Williamson points to two tactics that have become part of our political culture, introducing two words that Americans today need to know:  ochlocracy (mob rule, indirect as well as direct) and streitbare Demokratie (“militant democracy,” the notion that maintaining liberalism may require illiberal means).

From Crowder Isn’t a Threat to Public Safety:

Ochlocracy is an ancient concept that denotes, approximately, “mob rule.” But “mob rule” does not mean only riots and lynchings and other acts of extralegal violence. More commonly, ochlocracy functions through the legitimate organs of the state or through other entities, such as businesses and professional associations. In these cases, the threat of mob violence, or the simple fact of a mob demand, is sufficient to get those with power to act as the mob wishes, to do the mob’s dirty work for it and thereby relieve the rabble of the exertion of a riot. As Edward Gibbon tells the story, the mob need not murder its enemy — not if it can get the state to act on its behalf. See story here.

Be Informed

It is imperative that we pray for our country, now more than ever. Join us in praying for our authorities, communities, churches and families.

Be Equipped

How can you as a Lutheran Christian be involved in the world in a winsome, faithful way? Dr. Seltz gives you a crash course in Christian Engagement 101.

Be Encouraged

O Merciful Father in heaven, from You comes all rule and authority over the nations of the world for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. Graciously regard Your servants, those who make, administer and judge the laws of this nation, and look in mercy upon all the rulers of the earth. Grant that all who receive the sword as Your servants may bear it according to Your command. Enlighten and defend them, and grant them wisdom and understanding, that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness and unity. Protect and prolong their lives that we with them may show forth the praise of Your name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Want to read more about the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty? Click here for more resources.

Devotion: Monday, August 5, 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 12:13-15 which says,    

13 Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

HEAVENLY MINDED, EARTHLY GOOD!


Remember a modern charge against the Christians? “Believers are often so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good!” The charge assumes that even if the daily questions and the eternal questions of life are somehow interrelated, the daily ones are surely the most important of all. I think that’s the motivation of the person who came out of the crowd and challenged Jesus to answer an inheritance question. It’s as if he were saying, “Hey Jesus, I know that this stuff between God and me is important, but what about my inheritance? What about my brother giving me what I deserve right now? What do you say about that?” It’s as if he were saying, “I like the spiritual things you have been talking about, but now let’s deal with something that really matters.”

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t get sidelined by the question. Instead, in Luke 12:16-21, He tells a story about a man who has everything in place for himself this side of heaven. You might say that the man in Jesus’ story was too earthly minded because he had an abundance of what he needed. All was surely well for him, right? Now, people in Jesus’ day, like many today, tended to assume that wealth and prosperity were a sign of God’s favor. But Jesus refers to the wealthy man in His story as “a fool” (12:20). Jesus says that he passes away that very night and then God demands an eternal accounting of his earthly life. The implication of Jesus’ parable is that this man is found wanting concerning eternal things, and all his earthly abundance was of no help to him when it mattered most. Jesus warns, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (12:21).

So, what’s the point? The point is that our eternal perspective on life should be both heavenly and earthly minded. Our faith in Jesus Christ, our receiving of His mercy and grace, aligns us again eternally with God and that eternal realignment affect show we live life here on earth too. If you understand the proclamation of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus, it changes everything, now and forever. Spend time with God in His Word, immerse yourself in His eternal perspective on your life, and I know that it will begin to change the way that you look at things here and now as well. Then things like family, friends, work, leisure, community, and service, begin take their proper place in our lives because our relationship with God is certain and sure. Knowing Jesus Christ by grace through faith is the key to it all. Trust Him and see.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give me Your perspective on my life. Then teach me to value Your wisdom and guidance in both the eternal and the temporal things of my life. AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, August 2, 2019

Bladensburg Cross: A Significant Milestone

by Gene Edward Veith

The Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, is a 40-foot cross erected by local residents and the American Legion as a memorial to Americans who died in World War I.  Today it stands on a highway median owned by a state commission.  The American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit arguing that the cross’s placement on public land amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion.  A lower court agreed, suggesting that the monument either be moved or its cross arms cut off (!), so that it would be shaped like an obelisk rather than a Christian cross.  (Why wouldn’t that be establishing the religion of ancient Egypt?)  But the Supreme Court ruled that the cross can stay.

Click here to read more.

Be Informed

Interested in learning more about the particulars of the Bladensburg Cross case? Read the Supreme Court’s decision by clicking here.

Be Equipped

When it comes to understanding the value and worth of a pre-born child’s life, things are getting even more dicey. See how court cases involving divorcing parents and their children, frozen as embryos, get at the core of what it means to be human.

Be Encouraged

Christ, the Son of God, He of gentleness and humility, wants us near Him, to receive and bear His yoke of perfect righteousness delivered. It’s as trusting and childlike as that. His yoke is easy and His burden is light because, as one of our forefathers in the faith put it: We do not bear grace; grace bears us. Anything we’re doing as the Church, the one Body of Christ in His mission field both near and far, comes with and under that simple premise. We rejoice and give thanks and pray for strength and mutual encouragement under Christ’s yoke, that we would gently place it upon the souls of our fellow weary sinners — wherever in the world we might find them.” – Rev. Kevin Robson, chief mission officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Want to discover more about the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty? Click here for more resources.

Devotion: Monday, July 29, 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 Colossians 2:6-8, where the Bible says,   

 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces  of this world rather than on Christ.

MAN, THAT’S LIVING!


I remember a story that was told to me to illustrate the truth that whatever you have earned or amassed in this life, when it matters most, “You can’t take it with you!” The story was meant to get us thinking about the meaning and purpose of living life now and forever. It was the story of an extremely wealthy man who REFUSED to believe that he couldn’t take it with him. He lived his whole life with a disdain for the idea. He lived life at a feverish pace, buying and selling, selling and buying, accumulating, accumulating, accumulating. His life was a demonstration of the principle that REAL LIVING IS THE PURSUIT AND OWNERSHIP OF MATERIAL THINGS! But he wasn’t satisfied with this. He wanted to take it with him. So, in his will, he left all of his money to himself. He was to have all his assets sold and buried with Him. He told the undertaker to bury him in his 1989 Cadillac Seville, dressed in his $2500.00 hand-sewn silk suit, with his money stuffed in the car.

In order to fulfill his wishes even at the point of death, he instructed the undertaker to hire a crane operator to lift the car with him behind the wheel with all the money stuffed around, and to lower all of this into his grave. While the car was being hoisted into the grave, one of the men who had dug the grave said to another worker, “MAN, THAT’S REALLY LIVING.”

Well, according to the Bible, NO…. IT’S NOT!! In fact, living like that is really being DEAD WHILE YOU LIVE! The painful reality of life is that ALL THE EARTHLY STUFF GOES BACK IN THE BOX WHEN IT’S OVER, literally and figuratively. But that’s why Paul calls us to focus our attention on our new life in Christ, now and forever. He points out that even the best things of this sinful world are hollow and deceptive without Jesus. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But money can’t save us and it can’t fulfill our lives. Politics can’t save us; it won’t give us the purpose in life that we so desperately need. Even our technology and education won’t amount to much when the big questions of life need to be answered. Only Jesus, and a relationship with Him, can do that because He is your Savior and your Redeemer, the one who can make God’s love come alive in you now and forever.

Paul says that real living starts and endures when we receive Christ by grace through faith, and then continue to live in Him, “rooted and built up in Him” to serve others with the thankfulness that such a life engenders (Colossians 2:7).

So today, it’s back to basics. How’s your relationship with Him? Are you connected to Him by the reading and contemplating of His Word? Are you living in the promises of your Baptism? Are you connected to the gifts of His Supper? Are you hearing His Word in worship? That’s the essence of living! Then are you also growing up in your faith as you mature in your service to other in His Name? That too is important (see Ephesians 4:13-15) because you are made alive in Him for the sake of others!

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is when Jesus says that we are to receive the kingdom of God “like a little child” (Luke 18:17). There Jesus is talking about the attitude that trusts in Him as a little child trusts in his/her parents. YES, RECEIVE THE KINGDOM LIKE A CHILD! But also GROW UP in that faith in service to others. We should all want to grow up in that CHILD-LIKE FAITH, not GROW OUT OF our child-like faith, because that’s what real living is all about!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give me the child-like confidence that trusts in your word always, even as I seek to grow up, living life maturely and capably for others in Your name. AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, July 26, 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 issue is….

ABORTION – WHAT’S ZIKA GOT TO DO WITH IT?

In one of the meetings that I’ve attended recently here on Capitol Hill, I was distressed to hear that some of our most heated moral and policy debates are not being legislated out in the open. No, they are being decided behind the scenes through enacted language by unelected bureaucratic agencies, through budget proposal and reconciliation procedures that precede policy, and through actions that make some of the most divisive moral battles a fait accompli when such issues are finally legislated in Congress – often times contradicting the voted opinions of the electorate. What all this means to each of us is that we must engage in fundamental moral issues like the sanctity of life, the religious liberty of the First Amendment, the institutional nature of marriage as a monogamous, life-long relationship between and a man and a woman, and the liberty to educate our children as we so choose long before they become issues of concern to our legislators.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Do you remember the Zika crisis? That was the crisis several years ago where defense against a mosquito-born illness was suddenly in need of federal funding. Though having nothing to do with preventing such a mosquito-born illness, Planned Parenthood was to receive some of the Zika funding (for more information, see  https://www.dailysignal.com/2016/09/16/zika-funding-might-result-in-raise-for-planned-parenthood-despite-gop-controlled-congress/). When Planned Parenthood was “classified” as a general health organization for the welfare of poor women and not what it really is, an abortion organization, they too could qualify for Zika funding. Going forward, if this generic understanding of Planned Parenthood’s identity would have been codified into law, then they would have qualified for other funding as well. This issue finally came to light and the funding was stopped. But the seriousness of the issue of language was clear. Whoever frames the “debate” early in the culture tends to win the battle in the legislatures later. And when “behind-the-scenes” procedures start to determine the language of the debate, the big questions of our culture are often lost long before the ultimate issues are finally engaged politically.

It has been said that politics is downstream from culture. I think that is right. We here at the LCRL will continue to alert you to Congressional “behind-the-scenes” shenanigans that often are thwarting open, honest debate about the fundamental moral issues of the day. At the same time, we all together need to be engaging these issues long before they “hit the Hill” in conversations with our families, as well as in our churches and communities. We need to keep fighting to frame the sanctity of life debate as “Pro-Life, Pro-Woman, Pro-Family, Pro-Community,” instead of allowing us to be caricatured as “anti-abortion” or “anti-choice.” When it comes to religious liberty, we must demonstrate why this right is fundamental to all of our freedoms and fundamental to our civility and shared common humanity, rather than letting it be caricatured as bigoted traditionalism that has no place in a modern society. And, with the marriage debate, we have to frame the debate in terms of the institutional nature of marriage, limiting the state’s nefarious, but often necessary involvement in our relationships, and support marriage between and a man and a woman as fundamental for the protection of children. We reject how it is presently caricatured as a relationship civil right granted by the state, reducing the question from the institutional nature of marriage to merely another relationship among many. Finally, what about educational freedom? It’s about access to choices in education for all, instead of limiting public education to the modern, secularized, value-free version that often is inflicted upon our children when we are monetarily held hostage by our taxes to only one option.

If we fail to engage these conversations early with those who matter to us where we live, where we work, and where we worship, we may lose the language that frames the debate. And, if we lose the language, we’ll find more legislation that conflates things like Zika funding with organizations like Planned Parenthood that have virtually nothing to do with the policy, but everything to do with bending our culture to a particular, partisan perspective and will.

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

Be Informed

The National Pro-life Religious Council is a Christian coalition which acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and is called to affirm and witness to the Biblical standard of the value, dignity, and sanctity of human life.” Check out their website by clicking here!

Be Equipped

Did you know that “1.21 million Americans are aborted annually whereas only 20,000 infants are adopted.  This means that for every 1 infant that is adopted into a loving family in the U.S., another 61 babies are not given the chance for life”? Learn more from the March for Life.

Be Encouraged

“The forgiveness of sins does not yet remove all your aches and pains, all your sadness, doubts, fears, and selfish desires. Not yet. But you have hope. God is not yet done with you. He will bring it to completion in the Day of Jesus Christ. Thus are you called to live by faith, not by what you see or feel or think, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” – Rev. David Petersen, to mothers who have lost children in miscarriage 

Want to read more about the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty? Click here for more resources.

Devotion: Monday, July 22, 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 10:38-42, where the Bible says,    

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42  but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

THE ONE THING NEEDED!


The reading today seems to be straightforward, right? When it comes to what really matters in life, what endures, there is one thing that supersedes them all. And, in our text, Mary chose what was better. In the translation above it says she chose “the good portion.” I like that. “Portion” is a word that often relates to dinner, to eating. Did you take the good portion of the prepared meal? Jesus uses the word amidst Martha’s effort at dinner, seemingly contrasting the serving of her good food for Him with the food of His teaching for Mary, and for all. He’s gently sharing with Martha, with you and me too, that when His superlative FOOD IS AVAILABLE, WHEN THIS SAVIOR IS IN YOUR MIDST, SET EVERYTHING ELSE ASIDE. Why? Because there’s nothing like being with Him, sharing His love and His word, and receiving His life as a gift of grace. NOTHING. DON’T MISS IT because nothing else compares.

What must it have been like to sit in Jesus’ presence? For the women in the text, that was the place of blessing. Those were “life and salvation” moments that would last a lifetime and more. So, today, we too should assume the same position. Take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus in personal devotion and worship.  Like Mary, choose the good portion of Jesus’ teaching, His love for you. It’s the only thing that lasts! It’s not that Jesus was devaluing Martha’s work. He was just putting it in proper perspective. We do the same when we pray in our liturgy for “faith towards [God] and fervent love toward one another” (e.g., Lutheran Service Book, p. 166) We pray, first and foremost, for a faith that sits at the feet of the Savior and receives His mercy, forgiveness, life and salvation as the gifts that they are. Then we are empowered to get to work in love, not to solidify that relationship with Him, but to express His life for us to others.

So, think about it this way today: did you notice how Martha’s “good stuff” was taking place in the kitchen? But Jesus BEST GIFT was taking place in the living room. It’s as if one room has priority over the other. Now, I remember the joys of both rooms in our home when I was growing up. It was great to eat mom’s cooking in the kitchen. It was great to talk with my parents over a cup of coffee. But it was even better to sing Christmas and Easter songs by the piano in the living room with my family, with our friends, and our guests. It was great to have a devotion from God’s word about life’s ultimate matters gathered around the fireplace, cozy on the sofa amidst those who love you. Maybe our text is suggesting that being alive in Christ calls us to prioritize the things of the “LIVING ROOM,” the place where we sit at the feet of the Savior, sharing His words, sharing His gifts, sharing our prayer time with Him, receiving first the best portion. Then we are ready to move out to “the kitchen” where we practice hospitality IN HIM for others.

But no matter how you envision it, the point is this: one thing matters; one thing is needed. Why? Because it empowers everything else. It directs everything else. It sustains everything else. That one thing starts with being a receiver of all the things that God has done for you in Christ Jesus by grace through faith, which gives courage and strength to venture out into this world with a real gusto to serve those He brings into your life. One thing is needed, and that one thing you can receive from Jesus, now and forever.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give me a greater sense of your great work for me and for all through your cross and resurrection, so that I might put that grace and love to work in my life for others. AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, July 19, 2019

The Father Almighty: Changing Hearts, Saving Lives

by Michael Salemink

It’s been a difficult time for Gospel-motivated voices for life.  The governor of Illinois signed into a law a very permissive relaxing of regulations on abortions, including the repeal of the state’s previous prohibition on “late-term” abortion.  In addition, the governor of Maine signed legislation redefining suicide to exclude doctors prescribing lethal doses of pharmaceuticals to desiring patients.

This further endangers the lives of the least of these among our neighbors.  The culture is telling individuals with terminal illnesses, chronic conditions, depression, and despair that death solves their difficulties . . . and at the very moments when their deep suffering calls for our greatest compassion and assistance.  The culture is teaching that human worth and purpose depends upon attaining certain ages, appearances, or abilities.  The culture is tempting individuals experiencing surprise pregnancies that violence and trauma offer their only salvation from their anxiety, isolation, and obligation.

Jesus wept.  Almighty God loves nothing more than the human lives He creates, redeems, and calls as His very own treasures forever.  He graciously lends them to us from fertilization to final breath that we might receive them as precious privileges and share life with them in His image.  The sinful world’s spineless acquiescence to the devil’s deceptions and selfish disregard for the Lord’s joy and His gifts moves the Heavenly Father even more than us.  He cares enough to enter as the divine Son born of Mary into the mess we’ve made. 

Yes, Jesus suffers, that He may withhold no mercy or love from humankind.  Jesus dies with and for the victims and the advocates and the practitioners of abortion and assisted suicide.  And Jesus rose.  Christ is risen.  His forgiveness prevails.  His grace reigns.  His Word and His ways work.  His good and gracious will comes to pass.  If wretches like me and you can be saved, if helplessly dependent creatures such as us are worth having, then any and every genetic member of our race has sacred significance. 

We have now new opportunities to declare this truth with courage and demonstrate it with compassion to the nation as well as to the neighbors right in front of us.  The Lord our God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone but desires that all should be saved and come to know His name, His love, and His kingdom.  Even as we grieve, let us not respond with hostility but with steadfast gentleness and respect.  Let us rejoice to resolve ourselves toward finding motivation, getting education, taking action, and sharing it in our every moment and every movement.  And let us not doubt that the Father Almighty will change hearts and save lives; only let us watch and pray that He would invite us to witness and participate in this miraculous work.


The Rev. Michael Salemink is executive director of Lutherans For Life.

Be Informed

Diapers. Tiny socks. Gently used strollers. See how one congregation is caring for moms, babies and families in need—in both body and soul—through a program called Swaddling Clothes.

Be Equipped

Erin Bode sings the truth of God’s perspective in Christ. He sees with eyes of life. Stories flow from each of us, brimming with life. Click here to watch Erin share these stories through words and music, creating intimacy with her audience and communicating a “hope that’s alive and a faith that will carry [us] all the way home.”

Be Encouraged

“When you know the names and faces of the families that these diapers will be given to, when you know their struggles and challenges, it reminds you of how God loves us individually, how Christ’s salvation is a gift that is given to us individually too.” – Katie Fiene, director, Swaddling Clothes

Want to read more about the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty? Click here for more resources.