Devotion: Monday, June 17, 2019

Welcome to “Word from the Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from John 8:54, where Jesus says,   

“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.

IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHO’S GIVING THE GLORY!

Washington D.C. is a place where people are really concerned about who gets the credit for things, who gets the glory. If it is a good piece of legislation, or a moving message or speech captures the attention of the electorate, our leaders will jostle with each other for days or even weeks for the glory. To many of our leaders, the glory of the voter is king. But such fame—seeking—thinking is more prevalent than you might think. Many of our children today want to grow up to be, you guessed it, “famous.” Many think that merely being noticed means money, wealth, fame, and freedom. Gone are the days of striving for a good education, developing a craft or skill, or learning an instrument. No, just be famous and enjoy the ride. From reality TV, to internet clicks, to advice like “to be famous, all you need to do is follow the formula SHOCK = ATTENTION = FAME,”[1] people merely want to bask in the adulation of other people. The author of the article, “How to Become Famous in 3 Shockingly Easy Steps,” even soothes our fame-seeking spirits by seeking to remove any sense of doubt or guilt. He claims, “There is nothing wrong with being famous. Just as there is no inherent goodness from spending your life toiling in obscurity.” His point? Scream away, get the attention you desire, enjoy the fame. Isn’t it any wonder that so many are confused today?  

That kind of lust for fame misses the real question of the essence of one’s life, doesn’t it? The critical issue isn’t whether millions of people adore you or whether you can get the attention of the “players” of this world. The real question is, “What does God the Father think about you and me?” Jesus says that even His work is ultimately to be judged by the Father. Receiving the glory of God the Father…now that’s what life is about. People forget that Jesus’ saving work didn’t just entail facing the eternal punishment our sins deserved on the cross (i.e., His passive obedience). Jesus’ work also entailed being obedient (His active obedience) to the Father in all things in our place. He lived fully the life we should have lived. He freely died the death we all deserved to die. And He freely offers His eternal life to us as a gift of grace.

As people who trust in Christ alone, we now get to live lives that honor God and serve our neighbor in HIS name…not out of compulsion, but out of freedom, out of the place of honor that Christ has made possible for us all. We’ll still struggle with our brokenness, our ineptitude, and even our times of rebellion, but that battle is now fought in Christ’s grace and mercy alone.

When the Father glorifies someone’s work, then you have something of lasting significance! Incredibly, the work that Jesus accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection, work that was glorified by God the Father himself, was work done for you and me, and for all people.  God the Father glorified the work of God the Son and the results of that work are delivered to all who believe by the power of God the Holy Spirit. That’s good news FOR YOU, whether you are famous or not.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help us to strive for excellence in all we do, not for our fame, but to give You glory and to serve others in Your Name. That’s an attitude that is sure to bless not only us, but those You bring into our lives. AMEN.


[1] https://skinnyartist.com/how-to-become-famous-in-3-easy-steps/

Word from the Center Digest: June 14, 2017

A Biblical President

by Rev. Philip Zielinski

In an April 13 interview with Jan Markell, host of “Understanding the Times” on Oneplace.com, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said, “In my lifetime, I have never seen a more biblical president than I have seen in Donald Trump.”

In our present-day polarized political discourse, it seems it isn’t enough to offer praise in support of one’s side; it must burst into a hyperbole of superlatives.

Rep. Bachmann sets a pretty high bar for comparison to previous presidents in her lifetime. Born in 1956, during the Eisenhower administration, she has lived during the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. The faith of these presidents includes a range of Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism; from regular attendance at worship to sporadic; from personal relationships with religious leaders such as Billy Graham to tacit brushes with popular figures for advice. Their moral lives are equally varied from publicly squeaky clean to notoriously womanizing and scandalous (both while president and before election).

But in the words of Michele Bachman, the current president is “more biblical” than any of these.

What makes a president biblical? Is it policy, personality, morality, popularity, or prophecy?

In the context of her interview, Ms. Bachmann gives three criteria. One is that he has “done more to advance the pro-life movement and the pro-life cause than any other president.” Another is how he has demonstrated himself to be an ally of the nation of Israel. A third area is how he has disrupted the so-called “deep state,” resulting in something she calls an “end-time lawlessness” of tribulation and persecution. This would be of interest to the audience as “Understanding the Times” is devoted to looking for indications of Christ’s return, based on their novel interpretation of, in particular, the book of Revelation. (It should be noted that this “millennial” interpretation is biblically untenable and is rejected by the LCMS in favor of an “a-millennial” interpretation of the end-times. Read more here.)

Of course, we know biblically that God is at work through institutions like the presidency, the governor, the mayor, the police, etc., not to save the world, but to preserve it. So, for example, Christians can rejoice over what President Trump has done to advance the pro-life cause. And we can understand that “biblically” that not all of his, or any other president’s policies are able to be measured by biblical standards: tax policy, foreign affairs, immigration, religious freedom, and other work that falls to the civil government. Ironically too, it is possible for a president to be a biblical president by simply executing the office in faithful adherence to the Constitutional prescriptions and the oath of office – e.g. ,protecting religious liberty– even if it didn’t explicitly advance the cause of spreading the Gospel.

Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). In the Table of Duties in Luther’s Small Catechism, of Civil Governments, Luther cites Romans 13, “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” (Rom. 13:1). All earthly authorities as established by God. Christians pray for them that they may serve honorably as “God’s servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4). When officials fail or when governments become corrupt or evil, we can also give thanks to God that He has established other governments to restore peace and order upon the earth.

When we place our trust and loyalty in a human institution (like a president), we cannot blindly follow wherever he leads and declare everything he does that we like as “godly” and anyone who opposes him as “evil.” This loyalty is tenuous, at best, and leaves us vulnerable to confusing the message of the Gospel, forgiveness in Christ, with God’s care of His creation. Our neighbor may confuse our loyalty to a political party with our loyalty to Christ and compromise our opportunity to witness to them.

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (Ps. 146:3–4). Human officials are mortals, and they are also sinners. They are susceptible to temptation and the corruption of power. We have seen presidents with moral failings. This gives us reason to distinguish between the person and the office when praising them lest when there is a moral failing of biblical proportions, our credibility is not likewise sunk. Such scandals also give us opportunity to pray that they live out their faith in Christ through repentance, renouncing their sin, and seeking forgiveness. This would truly be a mark of one whose faith and life is deeply “biblical.”

President Trump has done God-pleasing things where he has been faithful to his presidential oath and where he has used his position to advance the pro-life cause. He is also subject to criticism, even biblical criticism, where he has had moral failings or if he has neglected his duties as president. Whomever is elected to the office of president, regardless of his or her personal faith affiliations, we can pray that they would all be increasingly biblical in their responsibility “to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1Peter 2:14).

The Rev. Philip Zielinski is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Valley City, Ohio.

Be Informed

“Social media has changed our world. It has changed the world’s perception of Christ and the Church. It has changed Christians’ attitudes and capacities regarding community, communication, preaching, truth, authority and much more.” – Rev. Matthew C. Harrison Read more about having meaningful discussions regarding the things that matter here.

Be Equipped

Abortion “advocates hurt their cause when they use figures that do not withstand scrutiny. These numbers were debunked in 1969 — 50 years ago — by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood. There’s no reason to use them today.” Read about the debunked myth that thousands of women died each year before abortion was legalized.

Be Encouraged

“There are so many pressures to hide the Gospel under a bushel basket, or to downplay our confession of faith. It is time to do the opposite. Let us proclaim what we believe, loud and clear, knowing why we do so.” – Rev. Timothy Pauls

Devotion: Monday, June 10, 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 John 14:25–27, where Jesus says,   

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

THE SPIRIT FOR TROUBLED SPIRITS!


Have you ever wondered why liquor is called “spirits?” Some say that such a designation began when monks in Europe during the 12th century believed that the spirit was removed from the “mash” during the distilling process. To this day, some European rye whiskey drinkers still pour out the first shot onto the ground (in order to give the angels their share).[1] I’ve also crassly heard that it might have to do with some people’s idea that drinking liquor is good for our “spirits.”  Unfortunately, that notion of “spirits for our spirit” is a more dangerous notion than one thinks. The idea that there is some substance or material that can “fill our souls” where it matters most is a sign of a culture or a people that is not properly “spirit-filled,” but has lost its way. Today, America, with all of its riches and wealth, seems to be on that path. The Healthline article, “Why Are Americans Drinking More?”[2] notes the disturbing trend that alcohol consumption has dramatically increased among Americans in the last two decades (well past moderation). In LCRL’s work in Washington D.C., we are reminded regularly of the crippling influence of other like-minded substances such as opioids and the crisis in communities all across the United States that is engendered by their misuse. So WHY are we looking for spirits in the bottle, and hope from pills? Why?

Why indeed. There are many reasons for the troubles we face. The Healthline article talks about our increased drinking as a result of modern technology, modern fears, and the increasing stress that life brings. Absent from any of their discussion were the spiritual battles that are raging today in our culture. In full view of the incapacity of materialism, people still are convinced that the material solutions to life are all that is needed. Sadly, they miss the main reason for the emptiness that so many feel today, namely the lack of a relationship with the God who created and redeemed them to be His own. They also miss the beautiful message that Jesus gives in this passage for today where He says that He will send the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who are His own.

We, as sinful people, will struggle with our brokenness and our inability to be all that we are created and redeemed to be. In the face of our fears and troubles, Jesus is calling us to do what Christians down through the centuries have always done. He summons us to put our trust in Him by the power of His Holy Spirit, and to let the comforting, advocating work of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word empower us to handle whatever we face today with His power and strength. That’s the “Holy Spirit for our spirits,” and that, or I should say He, will never let us down.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for sending us the Holy Spirit to create and sustain our faith in You and to comfort us when we face whatever this world will throw at us. Help us to put Your Spirit-filled Word to work for our blessing and strength. AMEN.


[1] http://www.drinkinginamerica.com/why-do-we-call-liquor-spirits/

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-are-americans-drinking-more#1

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, June 7, 2019

WHEN WILL IT STOP? NO MORE EUPHEMISMS, DYSPHEMISMS AND DEMONIZATIONS!

by Gregory Seltz

A year ago, I wrote you about Jack Philips and the Supreme Court ruling in his favor. It was called the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. Phillips was a baker and store owner who would properly sell anything in his store to anyone who wished to buy. But he refused to create a unique cake for a wedding of a homosexual couple because it violated his conscience and his religious beliefs. The Court ruled that the homosexual couple may have the right to believe what they believe about the hotly debated issue regarding the definition of marriage, but so does the baker. But, even more importantly, the Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission could not take a hostile position against the baker’s view of marriage. Ironically, right after that favorable ruling, Denver’s civil rights community tried to sue Phillips AGAIN! Another person filed a complaint demanding that Phillips bake a unique cake that violated his conscience. Wow! Phillips was demonized, caricatured, and maligned as a bigot and a homophobe in the first case. Why? Because he believed in the distinctiveness of the marriage between a man and a woman as unique among all relationships and as a foundational institution for a healthy society. And then, even after those who opposed him were chastised by the Supreme Court, Phillips was subjected to the assault once again. When will it stop?

People of faith need to realize that this is not an evangelism issue or a fairness issue. Instead, this is a First Amendment issue that undergirds our right to proclaim God’s Word for the sake of ourselves and our culture. The “Jack Phillips” cases, both the first and the second time around, are about shutting down his right to have his public voice about marriage heard and also forcing him, through his art, to publicly acknowledge something against his conscience. The demonization of his view was part of the effort to stifle his speech; the final hammer would have been the government’s silencing of his voice by threat of law and punishment. That should frighten those on both sides of this cultural debate.

In a free society, issues such as these—differences about fundamental moral truths—are best left to people’s consciences in a culture of mutual respect. In down-to-earth terms, that means that people who don’t believe in today’s alternative views of marriage should be free to hold a differing position without being maligned, demonized, and litigated against. With more and more attacks on traditional, biblical morality, the time has come for forthright discussions about relationships, marriage, culture and so forth without the destructive force of government muddying up the issue. Thankfully, there seems to be growing pressure to demonize the demonizers or at least there’s societal pressure to let all views be heard.

And the biblical voice on this needs to be heard, not just in the church, but also in the culture and for the sake of the culture. The biblical view of marriage is more than a casual view of Christians. Marriage is a unique relationship whose essential role can be demonstrated sociologically, psychologically, physiologically, and yes, even theologically. Those of us who hold this view understand that marriage is more than a relationship. It is, by definition, an institution. Today, this institution has been maligned, rejected, and now diminished to merely a relationship of convenience. But much of Western culture is imploding because of its disdain of marriage. Our cities are exploding because of our disregard for marriage. Our entire culture is wallowing in sexual confusion because of its diminution of marriage. However, at least for now, the Supreme Court has said you can’t dismiss the perspective of marriage being a unique institution among various relationships as bigoted, homophobic or sexist, which it is not. In fact, those of us who hold the traditional, institutional view of marriage believe that such a view can actually be beneficial to all, so let those discussions/arguments begin.

It is time to push back on those who insist on smearing and maligning people of conscience, people of faith, people who actually put love into action, even toward those with whom they disagree. The Supreme Court reminded us that the state cannot disparage such a view, nor hold it in contempt with a “hostility towards religion.” Yet that didn’t stop the State of Colorado from trying to do it to Jack Phillips again, just with a little nicer tone. We are the ones who must demand that the euphemisms, the dysphemism, the caricatures, the personal malignments, and the demonizations cease so that robust, honest, and forthright conversations can continue. The former needs to stop so that the other can resume! This effort demands our prayerful attention today for the sake of the church, yes, but also for the sake of our culture.

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

Be Informed

Did you know that when Colorado baker Jack Phillips was first sued, the LCMS was quick to join an amicus brief for the U.S. Supreme Court in his support? Read more about the Synod’s support of religious liberty here.

Be Equipped

Learn more about the case against baker Jack Phillips and why some charges against him were dropped. Click here to listen to an Issues, Etc. interview with Joy Pullman on the topic.

Be Encouraged

“Despite seeing cultural changes that are contrary to God’s Word, numerous legal challenges, and shocking Supreme Court decisions, we need not fear. We are people of hope and joy. Jesus said, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). It is our joyous task to proclaim the Gospel of free forgiveness in Christ to all (Matt. 28:19). We are a people of joy (Eph. 4:4). We are not angry people. And we are people of hope (Rom. 5:3ff.). We know the end of the story. That’s the bottom line as we deal with the intense challenges of our day. We will be compassionate (Luke 6:36). We uphold the basic human rights of all people (no matter their sexual orientation). All are God’s creation. We are all sinners under the Law, and Christ invites all to repentance and faith (Matt. 9:13). “ – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Devotion: Monday, June 3, 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 John 17:20–21, where Jesus says,   

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

CONFIDENCE FOR LIVING? KNOWING A SAVIOR WHO PRAYS FOR YOU!


John 17 is called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus because it specifically demonstrates His commitment to intercede for His disciples and His Church. Isn’t that amazing? Not only is Jesus the world’s Savior, He is also intimately concerned for those who believe in Him and follow Him. As a believer, when you realize that you have a Savior who even intercedes for you before the throne of God the Father, that should give you tremendous confidence in living your life boldly in His name each day here on earth. It’s a great comfort to know that the one who lived, died, and rose again for you and me, has even got you on His mind and in His prayers. Wow!

Confidence to live boldly in this world is a tremendous blessing. It’s important to know that such confidence doesn’t come from our own wisdom or strength. It comes from God’s Word, His presence in our lives, and the knowledge that we really matter to Him. And we do! Jesus even has us in His prayers. The writer of the book of Hebrews confirms that in chapter 7 where he says, 24 “Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (see also Romans 8:34). When the right person has you on His mind, that makes all the difference in life, doesn’t it?

I recently learned this lesson here in Washington D.C. In February, we had a big gathering of our educational leaders here in the Capitol. My task was to get well-known, dynamic D.C. speakers for our conference. One of those speakers was to be Dr. Ben Carson. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to make a connection with his office. I called. I emailed. I left messages. But, to no avail. At a meeting with one of our Lutheran Congressmen, Rep. John Shimkus, he pulled me aside and said, “Greg, next time you need to talk to someone like Ben Carson, just give my office a call. We’ll help set that up for you.” I also met another person later that week, John Gibbs, who just happened to be on Dr. Carson’s staff. Suddenly, access wasn’t so difficult. Suddenly, where there was previously anxiety, there was now confidence that I could accomplish the work that was before me. It gives one confidence to know who to talk to and who can talk for you in the things that matter most.

That’s the lesson of John 17. When it comes to what ultimately matters, namely our relationship with God, we know who to talk to and who talks for us, Jesus our Savior. With our salvation already accomplished by His effort, and with our lives empowered by His Word and His prayerful concern, we can have confidence to face the challenges we encounter each day. 

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, what a joy it is to know that You have us always in Your thoughts and Your prayers. Give us confidence to meet the challenges of the day because of all that You have done for us. AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, May 31, 2019

Why Abortion Can Never Be an Inalienable Right

by Gene Veith

Kansas is predominantly a pro-life state with a pro-life legislature.  But abortions–even late-term abortions of viable children–will be legal in Kansas even if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade.  This is because the state Supreme Court ruled that under the Kansas constitution abortion has to be seen as an “inalienable” right.

In 2015, the state of Kansas passed a law prohibiting “dilation and evacuation abortions,” the technique used in late term abortions of dismembering a child in the womb and then extracting the parts, piece by piece.  An abortion provider filed suit to challenge that law, and the case made its way to the state Supreme Court.

In April, by a 6-1 decision, the court overturned that law, ruling that it violated the Kansas Constitution.  Why?  Because that document includes language guaranteeing “equal and inalienable natural rights.”  The court made a leap from the that principle to the non sequitur that the phrase “allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”  Therefore, completely disregarding the viable child’s inalienable rights regarding his or her body, the court ruled that “dilation and evacuation abortions” must be allowed.

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

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

Be Informed

Planned Parenthood is suing the state of Alabama over its recent pro-life legislation. Click here to read why.

Be Equipped

Have you ever talked to someone who says abortions are just a small part of the services Planned Parenthood provides? The Family Research Council has the numbers that prove otherwise, like the fact that Planned Parenthood “aborted 911 babies every single day in fiscal year 2017.” Click here to discover more statistics that will shock you.

Be Encouraged

“I see with eyes of life when I see a mother’s face when she feels her baby move for the first time. I see with eyes of life when I see a mother realize she is dearly loved by God.” – Cheryl DeWitt, founder, Redeeming Life Maternity Home, Sanford, Fla. Read more about how an LCMS pastor and his wife are caring for women in crisis pregnancy situations here.  

Devotion: Monday, May 27, 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 Acts 1:7-11 where Jesus says to the disciples,   

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

HIS ASCENSION, YOUR EMPOWERMENT!


I want to do something different today. Instead of focusing on one of the lessons that was used in many Sunday services yesterday, I’m going to speak to you about a reading that will be heard in some churches THIS THURSDAY. Yes, Thursday. This is a special service that is still celebrated in many Christian Churches around the world. It’s the Feast of Jesus’ Ascension. It is a day where people who believe in Jesus celebrate the fact that Jesus, the One who lived, died, and rose again from the dead, also ascended into heaven and took His proper role at the right hand of God the Father, the position of power over the universe. Yes, the crucified One is the One who is coming again to judge both the living and the dead. Why? Because He is the One who lived and died for all so that all might live in Him.

That’s all part of the ascension proclamation. But there’s more! And this should be an even greater wonder. Jesus “went away” as it were, so that you and I could be even more blessed. What? Yes, that’s what I said. Actually, it’s what Jesus Himself said. In John 16:7 he says, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Ephesians 4:8 says that Jesus ascended so that He could pour out His gifts to people. So, not only is Jesus’ ascension a declaration of the power and the position of Jesus over all things, His ascension is also a wonderful declaration that the ascended Jesus has indeed unleashed the Holy Spirit as His comforting, advocating gift to us. He has empowered us with His word to bless and to share with others. He has not left us powerless; instead, due to the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are more powerful than ever before because the Jesus who walked this earth, who died on the cross, and rose again, who now reigns in ascended power, can be with us in ways that are even closer than a brother.

Ascension….It’s not just an event in history that leaves us praising Jesus in awesome wonder. It’s a day to reflect on the fact that even the Ascension is something that Jesus did FOR US TOO. He ascended so that we could be empowered by His enduring presence, empowered by His gift of the Holy Spirit, empowered to wield His word in all its fullness to others so that they might be blessed by Him too. Ascension, empowerment, and living life to its fullest in Christ! Let the Thursday celebration begin.

Word from the Center Digest: Friday, May 24, 2019

Publicly, Loudly, and Boldly: Proclaiming the Truth of JesusChrist

by Rev. David Ramirez

Error is never content with toleration. Falsehood is never content with equality. The lies of this world always seek dominance over the truth of Jesus Christ.

Cain murdered Abel (Gen. 4). Esau plotted to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41). The evil queen Jezebel sought to destroy the worship of the Lord and kill Elijah (1 Kings 18-19). Haman attempted to wipe out the Jews in the Persian Empire (Esther 3-9).

Violent resistance to the Gospel also plagued the Church in the New Testament. In the book of Acts we read how the Jews who had rejected Christ persecuted the Church. Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:54-60). Saul arrested and imprisoned many Christians before his conversion (Acts 8-9). Unbelieving Jews throughout the Roman Empire whipped up the civil authorities against believers (Acts 14).

This should not surprise us as Christians! Jesus told His disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Jesus was indeed reviled, persecuted and rejected. As St. John wrote, “He came to his own,and his own peopledid not receive him” (John 1:11).

Where Christianity has been persecuted or declared illegal, the Church has followed the example of the apostles who refused to be silenced by the Jewish authorities of Jerusalem, saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). God Himself instituted civil government. Civil authorities are to be servants of God who punish evil conduct and support that which is good for those over which they have authority (Rom. 13:1-7). Therefore, no earthly government has the right or authority to forbid the preaching of the Gospel since their authority comes from God and there is nothing better for a land and a people than the salvation of their souls. The apostles defied the command to stop preaching because they knew that they were proclaiming the truth, and said, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:30-32).

Praise be to God that the United States of America have historically tolerated the preaching of the Gospel by long-standing laws and customs. Though religious liberty is not mandated in the Bible, we should see it as an important part of our appeal to federal and state governments to tolerate the Lutheran Church. We should hold civil authorities to their word that they, in the very least, will not hinder the proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ.

As members of LCMS congregations, it is important for us to remember that God calls us to be faithful and active citizens, reminding those who hold public office that they, whether they know it or not, are God’s servants (Rom. 13:4). However, it is also vital for us as the Church to recognize that the Lord rebukes and judges the civil rulers of our land through the ministry of the Word. Martin Luther wrote in his Commentary on Psalm 82, “This first verse [of Psalm 82] teaches that to rebuke rulers is not seditious, provided that it is done in the way here described: namely, by the office to which God has committed that duty, and through God’s Word, spoken publicly, loudly, and boldly” (emphasis added; AE 13: 50).

Luther understood that a prophet must preach God’s Word to the king as Joseph (Gen. 41), Moses (Ex. 7-12), Nathan (2 Sam. 12), Daniel (Dan. 2, 4-6), and John the Baptist (Mt. 14) all did. May the Lord grant us such preachers in our day and faithful laymen who stand firmly on God’s Word so that our nation may follow the Lord and receive His blessings.

The Rev. David Ramirez is pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Union Grove, Wisc., and is currently completing a Master of Sacred Theology in historical theology. His thesis focuses on Martin Luther and religious liberty.

Be Informed

Download “Protecting Your Ministry,” a booklet that providesdetailed information on the legal issues impacting churches, schools, universities, seminaries, and organizations.  

Be Equipped

Click here to listen to Pastor David Schultz share a lively discussion with LCMS Texas District President Michael Newman and the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty on the role of religion in governance and support for those working to protect religious liberty.

Be Encouraged

What shall we do? Continue to pray. Learn. Educate others. Speak up. Defend. Participate. Raise up our youth to speak out. Our Lutheran Confessions say public redress is a good work of God. St. Paul appealed to Caesar. We, too, will make our legal appeals for religious freedom, referring to the Bill of Rights. We must also act very wisely to protect the church from attack.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Devotion: Monday, May 20, 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 John 13:34-35, where Jesus says,   

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

A NEW COMMAND? BETTER, A NEW OPPORTUNITY!

A new command? It sounds like the oldest command on the books. Love one another? Isn’t that what everybody tells us to do? Yes, and no. Love is probably the most misunderstood, misused word in the English language. Everyone says that they know what love means. They confidently assert that they know what they are trying to do when they are seeking to “love another.” Unfortunately, the truth of what really is happening in the name of love is often much different, even when we have the best intentions. In fact, life seems to be an unending litany of people using and mistreating each other all in the name of love. All of us tend to do what is in our best interest and not the interests of those whom we say we love. So, what is in this new command that will help us? What is unique about Jesus’ words that actually turn His “new command” not just into another thing we can’t do, but a “new opportunity,” a new way that we can live life abundantly?

It’s in the words, “As I have loved you!” That’s what makes this love different than any other discussion about love. It’s about how Jesus loves. It’s about Jesus making His love available to us, and then available to others through us. You see, we are the kind of people who all too often seek to love others the way that we want to love them. That’s why our efforts at love and kindness fail. Yet it’s not that love fails; it’s that we fail love. Here in this lesson, the embodiment of love, Jesus the Messiah, is telling us straight. Yes, love matters, but it is the love that He brings, that He embodies, that He makes available to humanity. We are to receive and share love ON HIS TERMS. That’s real love in action. That’s love that lasts. That love keeps on loving even when our best efforts fail. Jesus gives His disciples both a new command and a new opportunity. He says that they can love…you and I can love too…when we receive His love as the gift that it is by grace through faith. And when we have shared in His love as the gift that it is, His love empowers us to give it away to others IN HIS NAME.

1 Corinthians 13 is often called the “love chapter” in the Bible. It says things like, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy…it is not proud….Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Yes! Unfortunately, people often read this and forget the most important part. This is the LOVE that God embodied for you in Jesus Christ. It is HIS love. Only when we receive His love as a gift by faith can we begin to truly share it with others. Our love on our terms will always fails in the end. This love in Christ? It never fails. That’s why it’s not just a new command; it’s a new opportunity for you and for those whom you wish to love.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help us to see the uniqueness of Your love in all of its truth and power. Help us to receive and to share it as the gift that it is. AMEN.

Word from the Center Digest: May 17, 2019

BE HONEST: IT’S NOT ABOUT EQUALITY

by Gregory Seltz

The Congress is at it again. As I’ve shared before, a tremendous challenge of our work in Washington, D.C., is trying to unpack the “political speak” of much legislation. The particular title of a piece of legislation is often designed to convey confusing, rather than clarifying, messages about what the bill is actually trying to do. Part of our job here then is to confront the marketing strategy, unpack the often-disingenuous messaging of certain policy provisions, and convey to you the operational reality that a particular bill seeks to accomplish by its implementation. And sadly, the title often conveys the exact opposite of what will happen if a bill becomes a law.

Such is the case with the so-called “Equality Act.” It’s not about “equality” at all. As Andrew Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention states, “The Equality Act represents the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America” (see Breakpoint’s, “The Equality Act vs. Religious Freedom: Equality for Me, but not for Thee” for more information).[1] It will elevate gender identity and sexual orientation to civil rights protected classes, literally dismissing religious liberty objections from the public dialogue. Equality? No, that’s more like domination, suppression, and silencing. And that’s the problem. The title “Equality Act” sounds non-threatening; it seems like a “live and let live” oriented attempt to merely open up honest dialogue with mutual respect. Yet the passage of such a law would do exactly the opposite. It would not only demonize traditional, biblical morality concerning all kinds of sexual behavior, but actually make it illegal. It would force many Christian ministries to embrace all the ideas of the sexual revolution/devolution, no matter the chaos they’ve caused and continue to cause in the culture and in people’s lives, or else.

That’s one of the reasons that the LCRL is in Washington, D.C. We’re here to engage these issues at the source. We’re here to dialogue with legislators and to challenge them to be truthful and honest about what they are actually seeking to do with certain policies and laws. Religious liberty is protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution for a reason. Religious liberty, in thought, word, and deed, has been a foundational blessing to the American culture. It has contributed to the freedom and the tolerance that so many cherish today, especially among those issues that are matters of conscience or based in morality. It is ironic that such a blessing is now being turned against the very worldview that created such an environment.  Efforts like the “Equality Act” seek to make biblical teachings about the moral nature of humanity, the institutional nature of the family, and the political equality that comes from being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) illegal by policy fiat.

In dialogues such as these, it is vital that people are honest about what they speak and what they seek. When it comes to fundamental moral issues, the state should respect differences of conscience. When it comes to issues of relationships, the state should realize that it is a guarantor of individual liberty, not the cultural arbiter of what a healthy relationship is to be. The First Amendment protects the church here, but we must continue to make our voice heard because there are many today who wish to remove those protections. And the LCRL is here to keep such important discussions up front and honest for all.

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

Be Informed

Wondering why the Equality Act isn’t so equal after all? Click here to learn more.

Be Equipped

Riding in the car on the way to work? Listen to Dr. Ryan Anderson explain religious liberty and what’s at stake when it comes to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification (SOGI) laws.

Be Encouraged

“We must refrain from the dangerous tendency to divide America into smaller and smaller sub-groups defined first and foremost by our grievances. We are one nation, under God, and we are already blessed with a Constitution and First Amendment that protects every American without criminalizing our most sincerely held religious beliefs.” – Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family


[1] http://www.breakpoint.org/2019/03/breakpoint-the-equality-act-vs-religious-freedom/?utm_campaign=BreakPoint%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=71239102&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8a6kpum1bGkSoDRounJgdEKZ4V9fOqs-rhGzqJvTBnGTK42Ap7-rCgKu_6zmdmrMJa0Ln81oElHnp0BGR5I_i7VtaezQ&_hsmi=71239102