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Archives 2019

Archives 2019 (31)

In Luke 2 it says,

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 verses are Galatians 4:4-7, where the Bible says,   

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

 

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 verses are Matthew 1:20-23, where the Bible says,   

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

 

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 verses are Matthew 11:2-6, where the Bible says,   

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

 

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 Matthew 3:1-2, where the Bible says,   

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

 

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 verses are Romans 13:11-12, where the Bible says,   

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

 

In our Liberty Lectures around the country (For more information or to schedule a Champions for Liberty Weekend at your church or school, call us at 202-868-7291), we’ve talked about the one great threat to our religious liberty in modern America. It has to do with the Supreme Court “getting out of its judicial lane” by legislating rather than merely ruling as to whether a law is or is not constitutional. Alexander said in Federalist 78:

The message of how Almighty God creates, redeems, and calls every human life as His own precious treasure forever has changed untold hearts and saved countless lives. Lutherans For Life has completed a fourth decade of equipping Gospel-motivated voices for life, and the conversation continues to grow, declaring and demonstrating the sanctity of life in more congregations and communities than ever before, including high schools and college campuses. Print resources, digital materials, expert consultations, and ongoing conversations have reached some 200,000 individuals nationwide in 2019. Praise the Lord!

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 1:17-20 where the Bible says this of Jesus Christ:    

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

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 17:11-19 where the Bible says,    

11 On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from 2 Thessalonians 2:14-15 where the Bible says,    

14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

In talking about religious liberty in my travels around the country, I’m often faced with the charge that conservative, Bible-believing Christians may deserve the public attacks presently heaped upon them from politicians and the media because we’ve gotten too political. Many have also been led to believe that the Church’s stance on various moral issues is divisive and intolerant just because we disagree with the present libertinism of the day. After two years in Washington D.C., I can say with confidence that such a charge is unwarranted.

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 Bible reading is from Revelation 7:9–12 where the Apostle John recounts this vision of heaven:    

It’s remarkable how we are never told of the moment of resurrection. We know that He rose, and we are given accounts of His resurrection appearances, but not of the moment itself.

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 17:11-19 which says,    

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 17:1-4.    

Please join us in prayer for the family of Rev. Allen Henderson, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church and longtime chaplain to first responders.
Pastor Henderson was assaulted and killed Wednesday night outside the church in Fort Dodge, Iowa. We also remember the church family,
the community and, all who have been affected by this tragic event. May all find comfort in the cross of our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. See https://bit.ly/2ImhinV
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

American Lutheranism and the Founding Fathers - Lutherans in twenty-first century America can learn a lot from our Lutheran forebearers. See https://bit.ly/2kvr8va for more

Some corporations are requiring all employees to sign “equality pledges,” affirming their agreement with the LGBT agenda. But this violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, just as it prohibits other kinds of discrimination. Title VII is a powerful safeguard of religious liberty.  So says David French, who, though known for his association with a controversy among conservatives, is an attorney who has successfully litigated many such cases.

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 14:7-11 which says,

If you don’t know the story, you should check it out. It begins in Genesis chapter 6. Our Lord looked down upon the earth and saw that the wickedness was great, so much so that our Lord regretted that Ge had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart. And He added, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of heaven, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Gen. 6:6-7).

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.

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 Share this:

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.

Four Ways Lutherans Can Engage in the Public Square

By Timothy S. Goeglein

 In Washington DC, in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of America, there is a small park near Connecticut Avenue in the northwest part of the city.  Tall trees provide a kind of natural canopy above, and in the near-center of that vest-pocket park is a bust of one of America’s most illustrious Lutherans who is now largely forgotten.

He was John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1746-1807), a general in the Revolutionary War, but first and foremost, a Lutheran pastor born in Pennsylvania.  In 1928, the United States Congress authorized this monument to him because, among many other achievements in his remarkable life, he was a member of Congress, representing the 4th District of Pennsylvania.

Muhlenberg had also been a vice president of Pennsylvania when Benjamin Franklin was the president of that state. Clearly, public service was in the Muhlenberg family DNA:  John’s brother Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg was our nation’s first Speaker of the House of Representatives — a distinguished Lutheran lineage indeed.

Dramatically, Pastor Muhlenberg finished that sermon in his Woodstock, Virginia, parish on a Sunday morning with a flourish, removed his clerical robes to reveal to his congregation a militia uniform below, and set out to battle the British.

Tellingly, in that final sermon, he said:  “In the language of Holy Writ there is a time for all things … there is a time to pray and a time to fight … and that time has now come.”

More than 300 fellow parishioners joined him in battle, a drummer keeping beat as recruits came forward to join their pastor in the quest for American independence. 

The Muhlenberg name remains an illustrious one:  John’s father Henry Melchior helped found the first Lutheran presence in North America; Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College is named for their family; and General/Pastor Muhlenberg went on to a famous friendship with George Washington, closing his military legacy as a brigadier general and later serving in the House and Senate.

I share this story because it remains a misnomer among some Lutheran Christians that we engage in the public square at our own peril. That it remains perhaps wiser and more prudent to hang back, disengage, and defer to others to do ‘the dirty work’ of politics.  But there is nothing in our Lutheran legacy – beginning with Luther himself – to suggest that we somehow compromise our Christian witness or testimony if we also actively seek and work toward the common good.

There are four steps we might consider, rooted in our faith, to engage in the public square in a manner consistent with our belief that the realm of the church and the realm of the state are in fact never to be confused or conflated with one another. This distinction remains a central and immutable part of our Lutheran theology.

First, we need to build relationships with the men and women who represent us – on the city or council; in state government; and at the federal level. It doesn’t mean we are honor-bound to convert them; it means we are to cultivate strong ties, with grace and diplomacy, so that as the men and women who represent us make major and minor decisions about how public policy will be shaped, they will take into account what we have shared from our Lutheran-based worldview.  This is Christian citizenship at is finest.

Second, we need to educate the rising generation of young Lutheran Christians about the important distinction between the realm of faith/revelation and the realm of government/state. Too often, this important distinction is difficult to discern and reason in an often confusing cultural moment likes ours. It is more important than ever that we emphasize that the church is strongest and best when it is the church, but that we as Christians have obligations in the government and state borne of service and goodwill – it is a way of serving and loving our neighbors without confusing the role of our churches with the role of those who govern us.

Third, we have to better define what vocation means.  Some men are called to the pastorate; some women are called to be deaconesses.  That is right and fitting and proper. But there are ample other Christians whose vocation is serving in government; working for the state; seeking to impact and influence public policy; and to produce, write, edit, and assimilate information as news that allows a constitutional republic to function well according to the principles of self-government rooted in the United States Constitution.

Fourth, we need to be bold and steadfast about speaking up and speaking out – both when we strongly agree with a public policy consistent with our faith, and when we strongly disagree with another policy that negates the natural law that is a gift to us.  For instance, Congress is in the midst of gathering congressional names for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.  That is a marvelous pro-life, pro-dignity policy.  It is worthy, and we should make our voices known.  Diplomacy whose genesis is faith is a gift to our nation.

The temptation among Christians is to take the temperature of the chaotic and dysfunctional culture, and to imbue ourselves with a sense of despair and discouragement.  But despair and discouragement, we know from Scripture, is a sin because it negates the hope of Jesus Christ.  We are not seeking an earthly victory; as Christians, we know that the important victory of all of history has already been won by Our Lord and Savior.

The kingdom of the state and the kingdom of the church are, in the words of the late Chuck Colson,  “kingdoms in conflict.”  We Lutherans understand that organic tension.  Colson famously observed:  “Salvation will not arrive on Air Force One,” meaning that the state and government will never ‘save’ us.  Our salvation is rooted in Jesus Christ alone.

There is much work and service to be done by Lutheran Christians in the public sphere in 21st century America. We must never allow it to become, in the words of the late Richard John Neuhaus, a “naked public square.”

As with Pastor Muhlenberg, we are blessed with a theology that distinguishes the church from the state, and while we are citizens of both – with obligations and duties in both – our final home is elsewhere, with Christ.  While we are on this side of eternity, the chance to serve and love our country and our neighbor and our community is as depthless as the Lord’s love for us.  Engaging is a good, right, and humbling call.

 Timothy S. Goeglein is vice president of government and external relations at Focus on the Family in Washington DC.

Be Informed

Rev. Michael Schuermann, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Sherman, Ill., and his wife, Katie, talk about the Illinois Reproductive Health Act, what’s at stake with this legislation, what it means for women, and how Illinois residents can respond. Click here to listen!

Be Equipped

If you think others’ views on marriage don’t impact you directly, check out this brief video about the decline in marriage in America and why it really does matter . . . to everyone.

Be Encouraged

Where Jesus is, you will find true joy. Don’t take this for granted! One of the great strengths of Lutheran theology is that it’s built upon Christ and saturated with Him … which means that joy permeates all that we believe. This constant presence of Jesus in what we believe is one of the reasons why it makes perfect sense to be joyfully Lutheran.” – Rev. Tim Pauls, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Boise, Idaho

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.”

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?

Today’s reading is from Galatians 6:9-10, where the Bible says,   Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.