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Archives 2021

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Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s Bible passage is John 8:31-36 which tells us of this remarkable conversation:    

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

 

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s passage is Mark 10:46-47 and 51-52, where the Bible tells us,   

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”…51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

IN CHRIST, THE BLIND REALLY DO “SEE”


I’m always amazed at the healings that Jesus performed in His ministry. There were times when He confronted and cured people’s debilitations, and then instantly made them go away. The deaf would suddenly hear, the blind would see, and the lame would walk. There were even a couple times when dead men were raised again to life! Many of these healings were amazing, seemingly beyond belief. One, of course, was the ultimate healing. That’s the time when Jesus took upon himself our sinful life and suffered our eternal death on the cross, and then rose so that we might have the promise of eternal life with Him as a gift of grace. In today’s reading, it’s a temporal, but devastating, issue. Bartimaeus is blind as a bat. Jesus matter-of-factly asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man answered with the obvious, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Then Jesus reminds him, “Your faith has healed you.”

Elsewhere, Jesus reminds us of a greater blindness and a more empowering sight (see John 9:39-41). He reminds us that the blindness of unbelief is far worse than mere loss of sight. But the sight that comes from seeing Jesus as our Savior is more precious than all the beautiful visions in this world. You see, we, don’t just suffer from poor physical eyesight like Bartimaeus. No, we all suffer from something much worse, poor “I”-SIGHT. Max Lucado defines this not as a mere blurring of what you see physically, but a sight that distorts your view of yourself. He writes,[1]

Some see self too highly…Brazenly self-assured and utterly self-sufficient, the I-focused have long strutted beyond the city limits of self-confidence and entered the state of cockiness. You wonder who puts the “air” in arrogance and the “vain” in vainglory? Those who say, “I can do anything.” And don't we also know the other extreme: “I can't do anything”? Forget the thin air of pomposity; these folks breathe the thick, swampy air of self-defeat. Roaches have higher self-esteem. Earthworms stand taller. “I'm a bum. I am scum. The world would be better off without me.”

Two extremes of poor I-sight. Self-loving and self-loathing. We swing from one side to

the other. Promotions and demotions bump us back and forth. One day too high on self, the next too hard on self. Neither is correct. Self-elevation and self-deprecation are equally inaccurate. Where is the truth?

The truth is not to be found by looking at our skills and successes. It’s also not to be found in our weaknesses and failures. The truth, the ultimate healing, is to be found when we look away from ourselves and look to our “healing” Savior who is “The Way, The Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). You might say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the sight for life too. Bartimaeus was healed not only of his bad eyesight. He was also healed of his “I”-sight when looked to Jesus in faith. His healing reminds us that by faith in Christ, we who were spiritually blind, who suffered from eternally poor “I”-sight, can indeed be healed to see our Savior clearly.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, the gift of physical sight is truly a wonder. When the blind suddenly see, it’s as if a whole new world opens up for them. Let us be convicted of our spiritual blindness so that we can receive from You the incredible wonder of viewing all things through You with the opened eyes of faith. AMEN.

 

[1] Max Lucado, Life to the Full: 3-in-1 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 72.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is this portion of Mark chapter 10, where the Bible tells us of a day when   

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!... 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; with GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!” (emphasis added).

 

WITH GOD, THINGS ARE ALWAYS “IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE.”


Have you ever been so overwhelmed by something that you finally gave in? In a moment of exasperation, you concluded, “There’s nothing else that I can do; I can’t handle this.” I think we’ve all faced that to some degree. There are issues in life that so overwhelm us, it’s as though life itself become impossible to face. Jesus often shakes us up by pointing out “the impossible” in our lives, while at the same time offering God’s possibilities even then. Amazing. Unclean lepers suddenly healed. People blind from birth suddenly seeing clearly, both physically and spiritually. Who is this Savior who shows us the depth of our depravity just so that He can demonstrate even more clearly God’s gracious salvation even there? He’s the Savior who, when it comes to eternal life and salvation, reminds that “with man this is impossible, but not with God; with God all things are possible.”  

Jesus here uses wealth as a teachable moment to show us what is truly valuable. When He talks about how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, it’s not because wealth is intrinsically bad. It’s because it gives us a false sense of security and power. It also tempts us to think that this sinful world is all that there is, and that with tons of cash we can do anything that we set our minds and hearts too. (That’s a particular weakness here in Washington, D.C.) But the Bible calls that out to us all. It calls it what it is -- false pride. And you know it’s true even if you haven’t read it in the Bible. You know it’s true just by looking at the brokenness and sin all around you, even in your heart and mind as well. I heard it said this way, “Money doesn’t give you life. It just helps you drain whatever life you have faster.” Sobering. The Bible exposes our ineptness in these matters, not to humiliate or to demean, but to get us to refocus our life on the one who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Elsewhere Jesus warns us that life does not consist in accumulating an abundance of things (see Luke 12:15). But He says that to remind us that He came so that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Strive for excellence in all that you do. Be passionate. Set goals. But in living your life, remember the essence and fullness of life are God’s gifts, to be received by grace, through faith in Christ, as a gift. When it comes to the biggest things in life, only Jesus can handle those. Indeed, with Him things become “impossibly possible.” Thank God He’s that kind of Savior for you and me.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, assure me each day that You have handled what is impossible for me by freely giving me eternal life and salvation. Such faith gives me confidence to entrust all things to You in prayer and then to face each day with the confidence, knowing that You are our capable Lord and Savior in all things. AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s passage is a portion of Mark chapter 10, where the Bible tells of this encounter:   

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “…. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

DON’T FORGET YOUR VALUABLE!


I know, I know, you think my title should be “Valuables,” not “Valuable!” Well, no, for this devotion, it’s VALUABLE. I meant to write that singular word because this lesson is talking about the ONE thing in your life that is the key to it all. In our lesson for today, an individual comes up to Jesus and asks the million-dollar question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” That’s the big question; that’s the one that really matters. You see, the Bible talks about life as precious, purposeful, and eternal. Those three all go together. Jesus wants you to know that your life is eternal, not just here today and gone tomorrow. He wants you to know that you are precious to Him, that your life matters to Him.

That is exactly what Jesus was trying to show the rich young man in our reading.  Jesus offers him what He also offers to you and me today --- Love, HIS LOVE, the eternal and lasting love of God in Jesus Christ, and a life that is purposeful and eternal because of what He has done for you on the cross. When Jesus tells the man that he lacks “one thing,” He’s trying to get him to see his life as a gift from God. He’s leading him to see that a relationship with Jesus is the key to it all.

So, today, ask yourself, “Is there anything getting in the way of knowing and receiving the one thing that is truly valuable for your life?” Are the things of this temporary world more precious than knowing the love of God in Christ Jesus forever? Are the trinkets of the moment to be more prized than God’s mercy in Christ? Is there anything more precious than knowing that no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, IN HIM, life can be fresh and new today? He offers you eternal life right now. The very same Jesus who urged this man to follow Him urges us too because only Christ Jesus can remove everything that stands in the way of having a life that is good, meaningful, and lasts forever. Trust in what is valuable today, your life in Christ. And hear another promise from Him as you face this week. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, it’s easy to get caught up in the treasures of the here and now. Give us eyes to see that only in and through You does life become precious, purposeful, and eternal. Give me that wisdom to take up the challenges of today. AMEN.

October 31 is the celebration of the Reformation in Christian Churches around the world. The Reformation rediscovered the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a unique proclamation of freedom, life, and salvation offered to sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Temporal freedoms are rooted in the reality of God’s gift of eternal freedom. The Reformation taught us anew the proper ordering of such things in our lives.

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

In the aftermath of the new Texas “heartbeat law” and the Supreme Court’s refusal to overturn it, President Harrison was pilloried for his approval. He replied on social media: “SIXTY THREE million. I’m just not shuttin up.”

Abe Schwab is the director of Ethics Across the Curriculum at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, and his work is once more featured in the Journal Gazette. This time the topic is abortion.

Word From the Center: Monday, October 4, 2021

Welcome to “Word from the Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word, by Gregory Seltz.  Today’s passage is Hebrews 2:14-15 and 17-18, where the Bible says,

₁₄“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— ₁₅ and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death……. ₁₇ For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. ₁₈ Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

AN “ALL IN” SAVIOR!

When I first came to Washington, D.C., in 2006 for a class in my PhD program, we were privileged to speak with many congressional leaders personally. Bill Hecht, a pastor-turned influential lobbyist in Washington, lined up various leaders from the House and the Senate to speak with us about the things that mattered to us as Christians in the politics of the day. I remember visiting with the head of the House Ways and Means Committee at the time. He talked about various legislation saying, “We’re trying to make sure that the Congress has to live by the same rules that they hoist on everyone else.” I remember my reaction. I was shocked. I never had thought about the fact that government officials often pass laws that we must follow, while living by another set of rules themselves. Incredible. Health care? While making rules so ridiculous that we citizens were getting less and less choice and worse and worse coverage, they had a separate “cadillac” version for themselves. I couldn’t believe that they didn’t have to live by the very rules they were legislating for everyone else. I learned then that often times our public “servants” aren’t “all in” when it comes to the challenges and solutions that we need in our lives. “All in.” That’s a phrase people utter when they commit their lives and their livelihoods to a cause. When someone tells you that they are “all in” concerning an issue or a challenge that you share together, you can count on them to give everything they have to make sure that whatever you face, you share together in both trial and victory. When someone tells you that they’re “all in” as your friend or confidant, you can rest assured that whatever you face, you don’t face it alone. Those examples are merely a glimpse of the kind of Savior we have in Jesus Christ. When the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus “too shared in their humanity,” he uses a word that describes a real “flesh and blood” partnership. It’s so close and so real; it’s an “all in” kind of thing. There is nothing stronger in the world than knowing that God took on your flesh and blood. On the cross He took upon himself your troubles and sins. His “all in” life, death, and resurrection means that you can count on the salvation that He offers you as His gift of grace to be exactly what you need. So, whatever is facing you today, you can face it. Why? Because your Savior has seen it all and experienced it all, and He alone offers you a victory that the world cannot take away. Because He’s “all in” for you, you can be “all in” for the one’s you love too, not as some “works righteous” religious ploy to show how good you are, but as one who’s been blessed by the power of God’s grace in Christ. That’s why you share it with others who need it too. An “all in” Savior with “all in” disciples for others -- that’s a message that can bless no matter what we face at the moment. With His help, we can truly help others as well.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, it’s a powerful thing to know that You are our “all in” Savior. Give us confidence to look to You in all things as we jump “all in” to bless the lives of those whom you place around us.  AMEN

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER  27, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s Bible verses are Mark 9:49-50, where Jesus says,

For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE - FASHIONED FOR SERVICE!

It’s always a challenge for me to fully understand what Jesus means in Matthew 5:13-14 when He says that believers are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” I don’t think we realize how inept, yet vital, we are to being conduits of God’s preserving and saving activity for the world. In a world of constant refrigeration because of electricity and easy illumination where the lights come on and remain on just by the flip of a switch, being called “salt” and “light” can seem rather mundane. It wasn’t and it isn’t. Just think of the ancients’ view of salt.

Homer called it divine. Plato called it a "substance dear to the gods." Shakespeare mentioned salt 17 times in his plays. Perhaps Leonard da Vinci wanted to send a subtle message about purity lost when he painted "The last Supper." In that painting an overturned salt cellar is conspicuously placed before Judas. In ancient Greece a far-flung trade involving the exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, "...not worth his salt." Special salt rations were given to Roman soldiers and known as "Solarium Argentums" the forerunner of the English word "salary." Thousands of Napoleon’s troops died during his retreat from Moscow because their wounds would not heal--their bodies lacked salt. The human body contains about 4oz. of salt. Without enough of it, muscles won’t contract, blood won’t circulate, food won’t digest and the heart won’t beat a beat. Without a doubt, salt is the essence of life. And Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth."[1]

So salt is essential! There wouldn’t be life without it. But that’s not what Jesus means when He calls us “the salt of the earth.” We’re not the ones essential for life; He is. But we can be essential bearers of His life in our lives for others. In fact, while our life with God is received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the works that extend from such a faith are essential, not for ourselves, but for those whom God brings into our lives. That’s why Jesus here reminds us to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

In essence, then, let God fill up your life, your “salt-shaker” existence, so that you can be a “salting” presence in the lives of those whom you love and care for. Salt preserves, purifies, and adds flavor, even as it exposes our thirst. Salt heals, regulates, and promotes good health when properly used. Such is the spiritual condition of those who put their trust in the true “salt” of life, Jesus Christ. Then those who believe in Christ are fashioned for service to others IN HIS NAME. God the Father sent His Son into the world to honor the preserving work of God’s Law. Yet he also fulfilled God’s Law in our place and delivers the promised saving work of God for all through His sacrificial work on the cross. Then we are to be bearers of that salt to all whom God places in our lives. “Have salt in yourselves,” and be salty ones in Him to others. Even our speech and our lifestyles are to be “salty” for others as Paul reminds us in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Remember that receiving “salt” from Jesus Christ comes first because you can’t serve others in Christ if you haven’t first been served by Christ (note that in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper, the salt shaker in front of Judas is empty). But see also the great honor and privilege of being part of God’s powerful work of preserving and saving the world on His Law/Gospel terms alone. The Christian life is a life fashioned in Him for service, like salt on the loose so others can be blessed.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, salt reminds us that there are created gifts in this world that make physical life possible and enjoyable. In essence, You are like the spice of life that makes spiritual life possible and wonderful even now. Let us be better conduits of such saving grace to others, as we rejoice in the very “salted” life that we have received as Your everlasting gift. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/5282/evangelism-by-terry-dashner

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Mark 9:30-32, where the Bible tells us,   

30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and [Jesus] did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they] did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

 

UNTIL THE JOB IS DONE!


A few years ago, I was privileged to study at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Thanks again to National Guard Officer Ross Davis, a wonderful member of our Lutheran Church, who invited me to be involved in lectures and discussions about national security with the next generation of leaders of our Armed Forces. It was a humbling learning experience. It was at the end of their formal training, so I also got to celebrate with the whole group before their formal graduation.

There is a tradition in the graduation ceremonies there. It involves the unveiling of a painting commemorating the students time at the college. Each class places a painting in one of the college’s corridors that expresses and defines the character and the commitment of their group in order to encourage future classes to follow their lead. This group’s painting was about the “Lost Battalion” of World War I, who, though surrounded on all sides by German soldiers, persevered through the gravest of conditions. They even helped the Allies break through the German lines in the end. The Lost Battalion was known for perseverance, and that’s what the graduating class of 2018 wanted to be known for as well. In other words, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The “tough” ones engage fully in the mission until the job is done. I have a copy of that painting hanging in my LCRL offices to this day because it inspires me to keep at my work in D.C., no matter the obstacles, because the mission and ministries of the church are always worth the effort!

In today’s lesson, Jesus talks about some “tough going” that was above and beyond anything we can handle. Every man, woman, and child in this world is on the path that leads to judgment due to our common sin and rebellion against our Creator. It’s a path that even the toughest among us can’t avoid, period. But then here comes Jesus the Christ. Though He was without sin, He chooses to take up our path. And, when the going gets eternally tough, the Savior of the world gets going! When Jesus tells the disciples that this path of suffering must be the way, they can’t believe it; they don’t realize how terrible a predicament all of us are in. But Jesus does. He tells them about the necessity of His path to the cross so that when it happens, they won’t be overcome with grief and despair. Even when all looks lost, they need to know that a persevering Savior is on the job, and He, like only He can, will get the job done.

Whatever you and I are facing today, and there’s plenty that’s overwhelming, faith in Jesus is something that gives us confidence and peace even then. As with the soldiers of the Lost Battalion of World War I, there are times that seem completely overwhelming, with no way out. Can you imagine what it was like to be surrounded by enemies on every side? The title of the painting described above gives us a glimpse of just such a struggle. Its caption states: “We weren’t lost, the Germans knew where we were all the time.” They must have hoped against hope that the Allies would soon find them.

But let me say this: While I treasure the painting from the War College hanging in my office, I believe an even more amazing picture should hang in every Christian home today. That painting should reflect the greater battle that Jesus engages in for us. It isn’t one where are enemies are close and our Savior far off.  No, it paints a different picture. It’s one where Jesus surrounds us and is closer to us than whatever is against us. It’s a picture where He is on the case all the time. As the enemy struggles to break through His line of protection, we are protected on every side by His Word, His Spirit, His gifts of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and even His body, the church. If you are saying in your daily battles today, “We weren’t lost,” I pray that the rest of the title is, “because Jesus, my Savior, knew where I was the whole time.” With that in mind, keep fighting, keep serving, keep forgiving, and keep loving one another in His Name until He calls you to Himself. Then you and I can also reflect a spirit which knows that when the going gets really tough, IN HIM, we can get going and keep going until the job is done!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, now is a time for courageous and committed faith. May we see the commitment that You displayed so that we might be saved by grace through faith. May it then encourage and empower our lives right now as we seek to follow You wherever You lead. AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Mark 9:20-24, where the Bible recounts this encounter:   

20 They brought the boy to Jesus. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

WHEN THINGS ARE IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE!


Our lesson for today comes in the context of another healing event in the ministry of Jesus. It not only demonstrates Christ’s power over all things, but also faith’s power IN HIM amidst all the doubts and struggles that we may be facing. There so much to learn from the honest confession of the father in our lesson. The dad knew what his son needed and felt helpless in response. He also knew what he needed, stronger faith. When he meets Jesus, he expresses sentiments like this: “I’d like to have great faith, but I know that I’m inadequate now when I need it most. In fact, I’m overcome by circumstances and doubt. Lord Jesus, while I believe, help my unbelief.”

Today many people don’t seem to struggle with their doubts; they tend to revel in them. Some even claim that there is “faith in honest doubt,”[1] as if our skepticism is the key to an authentic, honest pursuit of truth. In his book, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton rightly identifies our modern “skeptical” faith this way:

The man of the nineteenth century did not disbelieve in the Resurrection because his liberal Christianity allowed him to doubt it. He disbelieved in it because his very strict materialism did not allow him to believe it. Tennyson, a very typical nineteenth-century man, uttered one of the instinctive truisms of his contemporaries when he said that there was faith in their honest doubt. There was indeed. Those words have a profound and even a horrible truth. In their doubt of miracles there was a faith in a fixed and godless fate; a deep and sincere faith in the incurable routine of the cosmos.[2]

That’s not the struggling faith of the father of our text. True faith is that which trusts God, even while struggling through our doubts, rather than a faith that revels in skepticism. Believers don’t dismiss their struggles or diminish their problems and fears. Instead, believers wrestle with them as they tenaciously trust that God hasn’t and won’t forsake them. The father’s encounter with Jesus occurs amidst skeptical people’s rejection of Jesus and their ridicule of His ineffective followers. The father is tempted in this direction as well, as he prefaces his request to Jesus with the words, “If you can.” But he comes to Jesus with an honest assessment of Jesus’ strength and power, looking to Him for relief that even his faith cannot give. “I do believe; help my unbelief.” I pray that your faith in Jesus is like his.

Amazingly Jesus doesn’t tell the father to come back when he has more faith. In the midst of the father’s struggle, Jesus heals his son (see Mark 9:25-27). As always, our faith is not the key to our power and strength. Even one’s authentic skepticism grants no special power to faith. The key to true and vibrant faith is its object. And when faith rests itself IN JESUS ALONE, that which was impossible becomes possible (Mark 9:23). Sins are forgiven. Death is overcome. Illness and struggle are temporary. Reconciliation with God and with others is possible all because of Jesus’ work on our behalf.

Today, amidst struggles and even successes, revel in the great news that God knows your weaknesses and your faith-failures. Even amidst “weak” faith, God is strong. And know that even with “strong” faith in Him, such faith doesn’t enhance our blessed relationship with Him. But it can give us the strength needed to serve others IN HIS NAME amidst their struggles, their failures, and their flailing faith too. Oh, and if you are like the father today, one who realizes that you need “more faith,” the Bible has an antidote for that as well. In Romans 10:17, St. Paul teaches us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” When the fires of your faith are reduced to embers because of doubt, suffering, or circumstance, stoke the fire with His promises, His Word, and the record of His actions of grace and mercy for you. Such faith knows that things are impossibly possible with God, and that, no matter the circumstance, we can always put our trust in Him.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, our doubts often seem to put up limits to what You can do in our lives. May we be bold to trust You amidst our doubts and the difficult circumstances of the moment. We believe; help our unbelief!  AMEN.

 

[1] Alfred Lord Tennison, “Faith in Honest Doubt,” http://static1.squarespace.com/static/55914e2ee4b0478467cdb875/t/56e2a06fb654f9980164d620/1457692783775/31+Friday+after+Mothering+Sunday.pdf

[2] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Orthodoxy/Chapter_8

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is Mark 7:37, where the Bible reports this reaction to Jesus’ ministry:    

They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 

DON’T JUST BE AMAZED BY JESUS, BELIEVE IN HIM!


Have you ever had to deal with something that was locked up tight with no possibility of entry or release? I am beginning to travel again and one of my constant concerns is to have the keys to the townhouse in Washington, D.C. with me. There’s no worse feeling than getting off the plane, heading to the D.C. office, and then realizing that I may be “locked out.” Then it’s locksmith time. Being locked out with no possibility of entry when you really need to get in can even be terrifying in some circumstances. In life, being locked out, locked up, or locked in is not the life God intends for you. He wants you be free and open outwardly toward others.

But a problem lies behind our text. There are diseases that debilitate eyes so they don’t see, ears so they cannot hear, and tongues so they are unable to speak. The Bible also talks of a greater disease, of hearts that are closed to the righteousness of God, lives that are shut off from the healing love of God, and minds that are closed to the moral wisdom of God. For things that are hopelessly closed, physically or spiritually, there is only one “locksmith,” the one “who has the key of David” (Revelation 3:7), our Savior, Jesus. That’s the message reflected in our verse for today which comes as a response to His healing activity.

Prior to our text, amazing things have been happening in Jesus’ ministry. In Mark 7 he had just healed a deaf person. Other times He heals many others who were sick, gives sight to the blind, and even raises the dead. These are not just anomalies or curiosities. These healings and other miracles by Jesus were signs of the arrival of the Messiah (see Isaiah 35:5-6; also Jesus’ words about Himself in Luke 4:21 where He proclaims that Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah is fulfilled IN HIM). The Promised One is here, and He has come to fulfill God’s greatest miracles, the salvation of sinners and the opening of our hearts and minds to God in faith. The one born of a virgin and laid in a manger came to live our life substitutionally, die our death on a cross sacrificially, and rise again proleptically so that we might have life now and forever in Him. That’s the miracle of miracles!

Mere amazement though is a hazard. The crowd says, “He has done all things well.” That’s an understatement if there ever was one! Of course He does all things well. Of course He does the best of the best. When He’s at work, everything becomes as it should be. His words have authority. His teaching is unparalleled. And the work that He is about to embark upon, His work on the cross and in His resurrection, is unmatched. And then there’s the fact that He does such things not as opportunities for personal gain or glory, but in service to others so that they might be saved. Is there anyone else like Jesus? Anyone at all? No.

Today I pray that the Spirit of God stirs you up to be more than amazed. Yes, He did “all things well.” But the Bible is calling you to realize that Jesus did all things well for you! Don’t just be amazed, believe. Put your trust in Jesus and His Word. As you deal with the many issues on your plate this week, as you struggle to make sense of some things in your life, family, or community, remember this: There is one who is Lord and Savior over all of this. There is one who can be trusted in the midst of all things. There is one who has seen the worst of humanity and still redeemed humanity so that we can be who we were created and redeemed to be IN HIM. What He wants for you and me today is not merely to be amazed by Him. He wants you to believe in Him, to walk with Him, and to live forever with Him. He also wants you to put the power of faith in Him to work in your lives, now and forever. Be amazed, yes, but also believe.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, we often forget that the power of faith does not depend on how much we believe, but, rather, on the one in whom we put our trust. Give us courageous, confident faith to trust You, to believe in You today and always. AMEN.

The doctrine of the two kingdoms is most often applied to the Christian's obligations to the state, but it also illuminates the cultural controversies which are causing so much confusion in today's church.

I was reading a thread on another post having to do with addressing students by their new chosen names or pronouns. I think it's probably true to say that pronouns are much more problematic than names, as names have always been able to cross certain lines. Who can forget the boy named Sue? Pronouns though strike at the heart of reality. Some have laughably hid behind the concept of "pronoun hospitality." Now, I suppose, we might say that if a madman says that he is Abraham Lincoln, we might address him as Mr. President, and advise him not to go to the theater. But with pronouns, it's different, for we are dealing with a different kind of madness that has less to do with the person who claims a different identity than it does with the society that is enforcing it.

The Chamber of Commerce is not our friend. Indiana is such a good example of this. RFRA was responsible legislation that simply protected the liberty of the little guys, the folks who wished to live their lives and run their businesses according to their consciences. I remember being brought into the office of a major Republican leader and being told perhaps they could offer up compromise legislation that would protect very small businesses. The idea was abhorrent, as if liberty were some sort of special exception and not the American rule.

 

No matter what day 9/11 falls upon each year, the events of that Tuesday morning in 2001 will be forever be burned into my memory. On that second Tuesday in September, I was confronted by the scenes of New York City’s burning towers on TV in California just before 6:00 a.m. We had just moved from New York City to Irvine, Calif., that summer. Ironically, I had stood on the observation deck of the Towers just two months before. And, even more ironically, had we still been living in New York that day, I would have been downtown leading a Bible study on Wall Street at 8:00 a.m. Then, after the study at 8:45 a.m., I would have been walking to the subway station under the Twin Towers to venture back to the Church for All Nations just as the first plane hit. 

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 30, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Ephesians 6:10–12, where the Bible gives this encouragement and warning:    

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Put God’s Protecting, Empowering Armor to Use!


Have you heard about the class action lawsuit aimed at a company called Second Chance Body Armor?[1] Second Chance manufactures bulletproof vests for police officers and security personnel. Their products are used by hundreds of police departments throughout the country.

Apparently, several policemen have been killed recently even though they were wearing the vest. Following some independent field tests on several of their vests, a flaw was discovered in some of them so that they wouldn't actually stop a bullet that was fired at them.

The company was sued for misrepresenting the quality of its product. The lawsuit alleged that the company withheld information about known defects in its “bulletproof” vests and sold them anyway. The company responded by participating in a voluntary replacement program for anyone who had purchased one of the potentially lethal vests at no cost to the end user. Along with its replacement program, the company has posted an apology on its website for any inconvenience that their faulty vests may have caused anyone.

Inconvenience? Policemen were killed because of the ineptitude. They lost their lives because of the false promises. The Attorney General spearheaded the class action lawsuit which Second Chance lost. Upon receiving the terms of the settlement, it promptly filed for bankruptcy to avoid having to actually pay out any claims.

What is the margin for error when your life is at stake? There is none, right? That’s why today’s text is so important. Against the forces of darkness, even the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms, you and I are going to need armor that protects us and allows us to face such battles with the assurance that our tools are up to the task.

The full armor of God is up to the task. Trust in God’s protection and power, and you will never be disappointed. St. Paul knew the power of faith in Jesus and that’s why he here tells us to be “strong in the Lord.” That’s not some religious call to do your best for Jesus. Instead, it’s a summons to receive and put on the gifts of His armor. As Paul goes on to explain in Ephesians 6:13-17, it involves “girding our loins” with God’s Word of truth. It means being fitted with “the breastplate of righteousness,” a protection that is ours through faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In Him, then, our feet are firm with the proclamation that there is good news for sinners; our shield is our trust in Him; our helmet is a head held high because our life is forever with Him; and His Word provides the ability to move forward each day with a “sword” that guides, protects, and empowers us. Wow! What blessings! What protection that works every time.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for providing eternal life and salvation for us. Thank You for also providing for our spiritual protection now, and for giving us the confidence and the power to face life head-on until the day we see you face to face in eternity. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-second-chance-body-armor-president-settles-false-claims-act-case-related-defective

That's the line. But how would he know what it feels like to be a woman? Especially since he's not a woman. I might feel like I'm all sorts of things, but that doesn't change who I am. I might feel tall, which is less of a stretch than feeling like I'm a woman. I might feel like I'm Native American, and find out I'm only 1/1024. But the gender ideology is stranger still. Male and female is written into every single chromosome of our bodies. XX or XY. It's a binary.

 

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is Mark 7:8, where Jesus tells the religious leaders of His day,    

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

 

God’s “NO” and God’s “YES” – THEY BOTH MATTER FOR OUR LIFE!

 

G. K. Chesterton wrote the following:

Take another case:….Charity is a paradox, like modesty and courage. Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things--pardoning unpardonable acts or loving unlovable people. But if we ask ourselves what a sensible pagan would feel about such a subject, we shall probably be beginning at the bottom of it. A sensible pagan would say that there were some people one could forgive, and some one couldn't….That again is rational, and even refreshing; but it is a dilution. It leaves no place for a pure horror of injustice, such as that which is a great beauty in the innocent. And it leaves no place for a mere tenderness for men as men, such as is the whole fascination of the charitable. Christianity came in here as before. It came in startlingly with a sword, and clove one thing from another. It divided the crime from the criminal. It was not enough that those who stole wine inspired partly anger and partly kindness. We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.[1]

In Mark 7, Jesus is challenging us to keep God’s Word in its proper place. In 2 Timothy 2:15, the Bible also urges this:

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be

ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Dividing the word of truth involves receiving God’s “Law” and His “Gospel,” His “NO” and His “YES,” on God’s terms alone for our very lives and salvation. His Law is immutable, calling for righteousness on His terms. His Gospel, the good news of forgiveness and salvation, is pure gift.

When we take God’s Word and try to “domesticate” it, as if it were something within our ability to manipulate and our efforts to accomplish, we do as the Pharisees did, only to be unmasked and exposed by Jesus. Such confusion creates a false religion based on human rules and works. Jesus says clearly, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Replacing God’s Word with human observances is empty at best and, at worst, destructive of the eternal life and salvation God desires us all to have.

Unfortunately, we generally have a different problem in our culture than the pharisaic religiosity which Jesus confronted in his day. Many believe that God’s Law is unnecessary, and even unjust. We face the grand deception that God doesn’t really care about righteousness and holiness at all. Then we falsely comfort ourselves with the notion that God actually condones our libertinism and wishes for us to be and do whatever we want. As a result, we don’t even try to follow a domesticated version of God’s Law; we merely do as we please. We are tempted to domesticate God’s Gospel “good news” as well. We evacuate it of any notion of the cross because we imagine we can solve the problems of the human heart with our money, our technology, and our efforts.

In the work I do on Capitol Hill, I see that confusion and arrogance every day. Many of our political leaders assert that we can solve poverty, dependency, crime, homelessness, and disparity on our own, even as we jettison God’s Law and domesticate God’s Gospel. In the quotation above, Chesterton reminds us that Christianity comes in and places God’s “No” and God’s “Yes” into their proper spheres. In that sense, God both demands perfect justice for sin and then He alone creates the proclamation of perfect mercy as His gift of grace. He does that in the perfect life, the saving death, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh FOR US and for our salvation.

Jesus teaches us to let the Law of God have its say in our life. First, it “curbs” our sin so as to prevent humanity from destroying itself with libertinism. But, even more importantly, it shows us our sin in order to reveal our need for a savior so that we might receive His Gospel gift of forgiveness and life which Jesus has earned for us. Then His commands guide us in ways that love God and serve our neighbor in response. May whatever traditions we follow also be firmly rooted in God’s Law and His freeing Gospel properly proclaimed so that there is “room for good things to run wild” in our lives both now and forever.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give us wisdom to know that both Your “No” and Your “Yes” have been revealed to us out of Your love for us. Give us confidence in Your saving Word and teach us through it each and every day. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Gilbert_K_Chesterton/Orthodoxy/The_Paradoxes_of_Christianity_p10.html

The two kingdoms doctrine in Lutheran theology is not just distinction between the church and the state, the sacred and the secular, or the spiritual and the physical. Luther often described them as the “temporal kingdom” and the “eternal kingdom.”

 

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 16, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s Bible verses are John 6:67-69.   

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

WHY LEAVE WHEN YOUR SAVIOR ASKS YOU TO STAY?

I tried to come to grips with the depth of the questions and the issues that are at hand in our text for today. Think about it. There is Jesus in the flesh, the Savior of the world, teaching a group of followers and disciples. Just when Jesus starts to lay things on the line, calling people not just to some generic faith, but faith IN HIM, many who had followed began to leave. This prompts His question to His disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Wow! That’s almost too hard to imagine.

I’ve been in Washington, D.C., for four years now and there have been exciting times in the presence of some very powerful people. If one of them were to say to me, “Don’t you wish to stay a little longer? I very much want to talk with you, Greg,” I can’t even imagine the thought of leaving. Stay? Absolutely! Why would I go? Think of people who are important to you. Maybe they include a leader, politician, celebrity, world-class athlete, or successful entrepreneur. If one of them said, “Stay a while longer because I would really like to talk with you,” would you? Most of us would clamor for the opportunity. If Amazon’s Jeff Bezos wanted to take you to space with him, if Elon Musk want to confab with you about the next big idea in electric cars, if the CEO of Exxon wanted your help to bring energy technology to help lift the world out of poverty and despair, I think that you’d not only stay, you would be honored, wouldn’t you? Well, this text is amazing in that when Jesus, the Creator and the soon-to-be Redeemer of the world from sin, death, and damnation, wanted people to stay with Him, many turned and walked away. Amazingly they thought, “Let’s go someplace else; we’ve heard enough.”

Humanity’s biggest problem is Sin with a capital “S,” that is, our fractured relationship with God. It results in a lack of true wisdom, real wisdom, the kind of wisdom that comes from a faith relationship with the one who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John14:6). It causes indifference and even hostility to the words of the one who says, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Such indifference, or at least ignorance, was exhibited in the responses to a Gallup poll several years ago. It revealed that, in America, ninety-four percent believed God existed, seventy-seven percent thought their chances of going to heaven were good or excellent, fifty-eight percent believed in hell, but only six percent thought they had a chance of going there. Few who participated in that poll understood their real needs or their real predicament. Many could be categorized by that old Spiritual which says, “Everybody talking about Heaven ain't a going there.” Sadly, many of those polled were also missing the power of living in the eternal promises of God right now.

The question, “Will you go away too?” is an evocative one because so many other questions are properly answered in your life if you get this one right. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:63 to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.” In so doing, He is telling us to prioritize the kingdom of God ALONE, first and foremost. Then He goes further, explaining to us that the Kingdom of God is to be found and received IN HIM ALONE by grace through faith. Everything else will find its proper place in our lives when our faith is firmly rooted in Jesus as our Savior so that nothing can turn away from Him.

Today, then, take up the challenge with me to look deeply in the Scriptures to discern all that Jesus Christ has done for you. As Peter declared to Jesus in response to His question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). You will never find anyone who is more just and merciful, who loves you more deeply, guides you more surely, sacrifices for you more diligently, and comforts you more sincerely. Remember also how easy it is to miss all that God has done for us. Instead, let’s faithfully mimic the confession of Peter as we probe the depths of that amazing love of Christ for us in all we say and do. “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). Don’t leave when the Savior asks you to stay. You can also be assured that He will never leave or forsake you (see Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). Count on it!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, we know that You experienced abandonment on the cross because of our sin so that we might be saved. Give us faith to trust You as the one who cares for us even more than we can care for ourselves. AMEN.

I remember well holding my youngest daughter in my arms the day after she was born. But I do not remember thinking, This is not bone of my bones or flesh of my flesh. My only thought was that the Lord had given me this girl and that I was her father.

 

It’s back to school time in America. That used to be a joyous occasion. Remember the days when teachers would send home “supply” lists of things that students needed to prepare them for the rigors of learning reading, writing, and arithmetic? Remember your children getting their textbooks which helped them critically think, do math and geometry, and learn science and religion so as to become the adults that our culture needed to carry on the experiment of virtuously living “free” lives faithfully and rigorously for the sake of the next generation?

 

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 09, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is John 6:40, where Jesus says,   

40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

 

CAN YOU SEE WHAT YOU REALLY NEED?

In our verse for today, Jesus says very bold things. He says that it is the Father’s will that you, me, and everyone who believes in Him as Savior receive eternal life. And if you had any doubts as to the validity of what He is offering, Jesus then says that He even has the power and authority to raise us from the dead on the last day. (Later, His power and authority to say such things is laid out for all to see in the events of the Cross and resurrection). Wow! He soon hears the religious leaders scoff at such promises, and His authority to offer them. They ask, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”(John 6:42). The question for them then, and for us now, is, “Can you see Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Our very lives depend on it.

There’s a harrowing story in the book, “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster,” by Jon Krakauer. He recounts an unsuccessful climb of Mt. Everest that endangered and even cost the lives of several climbers. In trying to describe why things went so wrong, he speaks about one of the leaders, Andy Harris. He recounts that Andy Harris stayed at the peak of the mountain in the thin air too long. During his descent he started running out of oxygen. He radioed base camp and told them of his predicament. He told them that he had seen several oxygen canisters that were left behind by others, but he knew that they were used up. He was confident that they were empty. Others who had made it down knew of these cannisters as well, and they were sure that they were full. Harris was told again and again that they were full, but he wouldn’t listen. Krakauer reports,  

When we got there, an examination of the oxygen cache revealed right away that there were six full bottles. Harris, however, refused to believe it. He kept insisting that they were all empty, and nothing Groom or I said could convince him otherwise. Right then it should have been obvious that Harris was acting irrationally and had slipped well beyond routine hypoxia, but I was so impeded myself that it simply didn't register. Harris was the invincible guide, there to look after me and the other clients; the thought never entered my own crippled mind that he might in fact be in dire straits.[1]

Everything Harris needed to get home safely was right there around him, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t see it. Amazing. The oxygen he needed was right there all the time. Harris, an expert in climbing, dismissed the solution that would have saved his life. As we think about our text today, we need to be reminded again of the situation that we are in. We are seeking to live this life that we’ve been given. It’s a strenuous one. It is full of challenges, opportunities, and even dangers. No matter our perceived expertise, there is one thing that finally matters for the climb. Like oxygen in thin air, faith in Christ is the sustenance that fuels our hearts, minds, and every cell of our being. Such faith empowers us to fight the good fight and to finish THE race (see 2 Timothy 4:7), to “complete the climb” that we’ve been given faithfully. Can you see what you really need? I pray today that you can, because life in Christ is exhilarating and sure. Amidst the “thin air” of this world, take Him at His Word. You’ll be glad that you did.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, life is often very hard and, even at are best, we are often disoriented and unsure. Grace us with Your presence, assure us by Your Word, and lead us in this life unto life everlasting. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.forsvarsmakten.se/siteassets/english/swedint/engelska/swedint/courses/nato-ll-soc/into-thin-air.pdf

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are John 6:26-27, where the Bible says,   

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Don’t be Fooled by Things that Don’t last!


One of my favorite TV docu-dramas was a series called “Shaka Zulu.” It told the story of an African “general” named Shaka who ascended to the leadership throne of the Zulus in 1816. He then created one of the mightiest empires the African continent has ever known. He was a powerful, ruthless warrior against all enemies of the Zulus, but he was also bloodthirsty among his own people. The series demonstrates our fallen human condition in all of its folly. Even the powerful of the world have “feet of clay.” No one escapes the destructive effects of sin, pride, greed, and other such things by their own efforts. That point is made toward the end of the series in a dialogue between Shaka and Great Britain’s emissary to the Zulus, Lieutenant Francis Farewell. The dialogue of their final meeting before Shaka's return to his capital where he will be assassinated by his own aunt went like this:

Shaka: Tell me, how do you catch a monkey?

Lt. Francis Farewell: Well, a gourd is used...with a narrow neck. Bait is dropped into the gourd, a piece of fruit, or - or something shiny. The monkey puts his hand into the gourd to get the bait, and then he's trapped...because he can't get his fist out.

Shaka: Once he realizes he's trapped, why doesn't the monkey let go of the bait?

Lt. Francis Farewell: Because his greed makes him blind.

Shaka: And what is he greedy for?

Lt. Francis Farewell: What he thinks he cannot have.

Shaka: And now what new bait have you brought for this monkey? Something shiny? Like the freshness of youth? Or lost love? Bait your gourd, Fabana.

No matter how much effort, money, and technology we have at our disposal, we are always prone to seek what we cannot have. That’s why the Bible asks challenging questions like these: What do you seek for your life to have meaning and purpose now and forever? What do you seek for your life so that it might be what God intends it to be, an eternal one, full of love and grace? Do you seek something that’s merely “shiny?” Do you seek things like the “bread and miracles” that even the religious people of Jesus day yearned to see? Or do you seek what God offers, a reconciled relationship with the one who created you and redeemed you in the person and work of Jesus Christ?

What is it that you seek? Although that question is vital, there is an even more important truth in the text. It’s the fact that the enduring solution, the “key to life,” is not to be found in you, the seeker, but in the one who seeks you! Jesus reminds us of that as He clearly tells the people of His day, and us as well, that the answers for our lives are to be found in Him, the one who seeks us all with forgiveness, life, and salvation. Just after our reading, Jesus declares, “This is the work of God that you believe in the one whom He has sent” (John 6:29). In other words, Jesus invites you to trust in Him, the one who seeks you with the “food” of life, joy, and peace that last.

Too many of us continue to seek only what the world can give. We let the powerful, the famous, the rich, and even the persuasive “bait the gourd” of what does not last. In so doing, they may capture our attention, but also drive us further from the God who loves us and the people in our lives that we are called to serve. Today’s the day to trust in Christ, the one who seeks you with His grace. Don’t let others “bait your gourd” with what doesn’t last. Trust in Christ’s Word, which does (see Luke 21:33). Let’s be the people who have received from Him “the food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). Then let’s begin to live in that reality each day for those whom He places in our paths. God bless!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, cause our hearts and minds to continue to look to You and to what You say is valuable in our lives, especially the faith relationship that we can have with You. Refresh and empower us by Your grace to let go of that which doesn’t last and to strive to serve others with what does. AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, JULY 26, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are portions of Romans 8:31-37 where the Bible says,  

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?....... 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?....37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.         

faith faces the future with boldness

Throughout my travels last year, I was faced with a recurring question, “Dr. Seltz, what should we do when the future seems so unsure?” Great question. What should we do and how should we feel when something like COVID 19 threatened the lives and the livelihoods of virtually everyone on the planet? What should be done when many were faced with the realty of not being able to see loved ones, of not being able to work or pay one’s bills, or of not being able to worship and pray with other believers due to the threat of punishment of law? Or what about people today who are still facing the reality of sickness, of hunger, or even of war? What then?

Well, the first thing that believers know, no matter how extreme the chaos of this world, is the biblical truth that “God is for us!” (Romans 8:31). Why? Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us by living perfectly in our place, dying His justice-bearing death on the cross sacrificially, and then rising again so that we can have eternal life in His Name. Because of Him, no matter the circumstance, His victory is present for you TODAY. Such wonderful news means that we are not captive to our fears, no matter how real they are. We are not overcome by our sins because His forgiveness for us is real NOW. And, in Christ, we can move boldly into the unknown future with courage and confidence.

I don’t know what our future holds, but I know who holds our future in His hands. It sounds trite, but it isn’t. Sinful people are often paralyzed by fear because the unknown threatens our self-made plans to try to control our own future. The uncertainties that we face daily tempt us to fear, and our fears can even cause us to doubt that THE LOVE OF JESUS is really true for us. And those fears are real too, aren’t they?

Before his death at the age of 62, atheist Christopher Hitchens found himself in such a place. After his diagnosis of terminal cancer, Hitchens described his battle with the illness and the uncertainty of his future in an article he wrote for Vanity Fair. He wrote,[1]

I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I'd worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again?. … To the dumb question "Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison to plant into your arm [his chemotherapy treatment] and you either read or don't read a book while the venom sack gradually empties into your system … . You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.

There is real fear, real uncertainty, and real helplessness. But it is precisely there, where our best efforts are reduced to powerlessness, that the Apostle Paul boldly assures us that CHRIST’S LOVE HOLDS! And Paul was no preacher of the power of naïve positive thinking. He was no “pie in the sky” religious leader. For Paul, these were not just “words.” He TRUSTED IN JESUS’ LOVE AND GRACE in all of his trying, fear-filled circumstances. He suffered beatings, imprisonments, and intimidations because he trusted in the love of Jesus Christ poured out for him (for example, see 2nd Corinthians 11:23-33). And he wants you and me to know that faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient to face the challenges of each day, no matter what the day brings.

PAUL URGES US TO COUNT ON IT, BANK ON IT, AND BEGIN TO LIVE LIFE BOLDLY NOW IN THE CONFIDENCE THAT IN JESUS, “GOD IS FOR US,” TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER! SUCH FAITH FACES THE FUTURE WITH BOLDNESS because it does so in the promises, the power, and the enduring potential of Jesus Christ alone.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, give us courage amidst the uncertainties of our lives. In the face of the challenges of the day, give us the clarity that comes with trusting that Your promises are sure. In all things, draw us ever closer to You. Amen!

 

[1] See https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/09/hitchens-201009

 WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, JULY 19, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Romans 8:24-25 where the Bible says,  

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

 

HOPE IN CHRIST – ENDURING POWER TO OVERCOME LIFE’S OBSTACLES!

Would you agree that hopeful people tend to be more positive about facing the challenges of the day than others? Hope has a way of helping us through difficult moments in our lives. You might say that there’s real power in hope. But there’s a danger in false hopes too. In fact, one of the growing temptations today is the unbridled hope in our technology, in our money, and in our government to solve our “big” problems. In our lesson for today, the Apostle Paul talks about the power of hope, but it is the power of hope rooted in the person and the work of Jesus alone. In that hope there is great blessing for humanity.

In John Maxwell’s book, Think on These Things, he talks about the basic power of hope.

He says:[1]

Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest. Hope motivates when discouragement comes. Hope energizes when the body is tired. Hope sweetens while bitterness bites. Hope sings when all melodies are gone. Hope listens for answers when no one is talking. Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping. Hope endures hardship when no one is caring. Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing. Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging. Hope dares to give when no one is sharing. Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.

Even a “hope against hope” spirit can get us through the most difficult of times. Incredible things have been done by humanity and incredible things endured for the sake of humanity, just with the power of hope.

But as powerful as that might be, it’s merely a glimpse of the saving hope which Paul speaks of here in Romans 8. He’s talking about a hope that is rooted in something more powerful, more enduring, more encouraging, and more real than anything the best of humanity has to offer. Hope in technology, wealth, power, status, or even in the most powerful government policy is nothing compared to the enduring hope that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. This hope is rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This hope is secured by His service, sacrifice, and redemption which reconciles sinful, broken men and women like ourselves back to God. That persevering hope breeds an enduring, hope-filled power to face down whatever life throws our way. And that’s not just “hopeful thinking” either! It’s a hope that can change our lives because it is rooted in the reality that God has already made a way forward for you and me in Jesus Christ. To the believer in Jesus Christ, His future is our future; Christ’s life is our life; Christ’s hope is our hope.

I love this quote about our hope in God. Rev. John Piper says,[2]

Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don't. You are in good company... You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.

Paul reminds us that amidst the challenges of the day, Christians keep their eyes focused on Christ, on His promises, on the blessings of His Baptism, and on the promises of His Supper. Now is a time of certainty, even when we don’t see it clearly with our own eyes. Now is a time for confidence, even amidst our fears. Now is a time to hope in Christ in all circumstances, as we wait patiently for what is sure to come.

PRAYER – Dear Lord, life is tough sometimes this side of heaven. Give us the hope that comes by grace through faith in what You have done for us. Give us confidence in You in all things so that we might not only face life’s challenges, but serve others in the midst of them in Your Name, always in and with hope. AMEN.

 

[1] John Maxwell, Think on These Things (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1979, 1999); cited from https://lifecoach4god.life/2014/02/26/john-maxwells-acronym-for-h-o-p-e/

[2] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_piper_605818

 

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are 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.

 

FREEDOM YEARNS TO BE SHARED!

 

In our country today, freedom has devolved into libertinism. We regularly hear thoughts like this: “I’m free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want, and no one can tell me ‘no’ but me.” Does that attitude sound familiar? It should, because many believe that’s what freedom entails. Sadly, they don’t realize such a view of freedom is actually a biblical definition of sin! The idolatry of self is the greatest rebellion against the God who created and redeemed us all. Bondage to our lusts and desires, even our emotions and faulty reason, stems from our brokenness before God. In the chapter before today’s reading, Galatians 5 reminds us that Jesus came to set us free to live freely and faithfully toward God and toward each other (see especially verses 1 and 13). The sacrificial actions of Christ Jesus, namely, His life, death, and resurrection, brings a freedom of faith into a believer’s life that changes everything. It creates a heart of gratitude that yearns not to selfishly indulge or hoard such freedom, but to share it on Christ’s terms with anyone and everyone.

The July 4th weekend reminded us that, even in this sinful world, “freedom is never free.” In a world that is captive to its sinful bondage, someone always has to pay the price for freedom.  In preparation for this devotional word, I was reminded of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence and all that they risked to give civic freedom to people like us. Do you remember?

Even if they were victorious over the British, it would merely usher in years of hardship as a struggling nation. If they lost, they would surely lose their lives. In spite of that, for their freedom and the freedom of those who would come after them, they were willing to risk all. With their signature to the Declaration came this vow: “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”[1] Reflect on that price with me for a minute.

In a broadcast on July 4th, 1974, Paul Harvey reminded us of the following:[2]

  • Carter Braxton, a wealthy planter and trader, after signing saw his ships swept from the seas and, to pay his debts, he lost his home and all of his property. He died in rags.
  • Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and in hiding.
  • Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars on his own signature for provision for our allies, the French fleet. After the War he personally paid back the loans wiping out his entire estate; he was never reimbursed by his government. He died bankrupt.
  • John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside while she was dying; his thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, and returned home after the War to find his wife dead, his children gone, his properties gone. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.
  • Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few survived for long. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes--from Rhode Island to Charleston--sacked and looted, occupied by the enemy or burned. Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died in the War from its hardships or from its more merciful bullets. They had learned that liberty is so much more important than security, for that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They fulfilled their pledge--they paid the price, and freedom was born.

Those people yearned for freedom to be sure. But they also yearned for such freedom to be shared and enjoyed by others as well. It’s hard to fathom such a willingness to risk so much so that others could be free. Yet, in a much more profound and impactful way, St. Paul reminds us,

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

The Founding Fathers of America yearned to share what freedom they could muster. It’s even more amazing to learn about what Jesus Christ was willing to sacrifice and to suffer so that we might have His freedom, life, and salvation as an everlasting gift. When it comes to freedom, I pray that you yearn for the freedom that comes from the person and work of Jesus Christ more than all other freedoms combined, because that freedom yearns to be received and yearns even more so to be shared. And that freedom changes everything!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for the freedom that You earned for us. Let our hearts be so overflowing with thanksgiving that we are moved by Your love to share it with whomever You bring into our lives! Amen.

 

[1] https://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

[2] https://www.relationaladvantage.com/blog/independence-day-they-paid-the-price

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz, Today’s verse is from Romans 8:20-21, where the Bible says,   

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Two kinds of Authority - A Bible Study

This brief Bible study is designed to provide a firm biblical and confessional setting for Lutherans to learn and study how God uses His two-fold authority both in the church and the world for our good. It is a foundation upon which pastors and people can build as they grow in the knowledge and blessings of God’s Word.

The Constitution Secures the Blessings of Liberty

Along with insuring “domestic Tranquility” and providing “for the common defence”—all necessary duties of a government that would “form a more perfect Union”—the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution reveals that, at its center, the purpose of our Constitution is “to secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

It's Worth Celebrating the Freedoms of the Fourth

We recently celebrated the Fourth of July, a time when Americans still publicly cherish and celebrate the freedoms that they’ve been privileged to possess. It’s a time when we honor the things that make America special and, in fact, unique in this world. It’s a time when we come together, in spite of our country’s failures and our many differences, and honor what makes our country different. And what would that be exactly? Many today are trying to sell the notion that nothing about our country makes us “unique” or honorable. But is that true? Of course it isn’t! In fact, I’d like you to take the time right now to be thankful for a country that did some incredible things for you.

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