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Archives 2021

Archives 2021 (27)

A word from the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz on Good Friday

“Religious Liberty, Bearing the Cross . . . Always to Share the Cross for others!”

For Christians around the world, it’s “Good” Friday today. I know that it sounds strange to say that the day when Jesus died on the cross is “good,” but it is. The real, lasting solution to the problems in every human heart, even the very problems of the whole world, needed the sinless Son of God, Jesus, to exchange His perfect life and His innocent death as a substitute for our sinful life. In His death and resurrection, eternal justice is served, enduring mercy is offered, and real, eternal life is possible again for us, for all. The God who created us is the only one who can also redeem us

 

On that all-encompassing, first Good Friday, isn’t it ironic then to hear one of the power brokers of that day, Pontus Pilate, snarl at Jesus, “Don’t you know that your life is in my hands?” It always amazes me, the bravado of political leaders who claim such “god-like” authority and power, failing to realize their massive limitations to the contrary. Good Friday reminds us that all human efforts, even the best government programs then or now, can’t change hearts, forgive sins, or grant lasting, abundant life. “Politics,” even at its best, won’t save us. Technology won’t save us. Economics won’t save us. Science won’t save us. The God man Jesus, on the cross, did.

So, today, in the shadow of the cross where the Son of God gives up His life so that we might live, let this be a day where you and I seek to get right with God above all things. Let this day of repentance and reflection break and direct our hearts back towards God, yearning and pleading for His mercy. We do that for ourselves and for our nation too. In fact, while today is a day of personal repentance, remember, too, that it is a day of proclamation to the culture in which we live. Let us know ourselves and be known as the people of the cross. And let us be known for Christ’s cross and resurrection no matter the consequence.

Unfortunately, the bravado of politicians continues. Remember the grilling of Amy Coney Barrett in her confirmation hearings for her seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit?[1] One senator, among others, implied that a serious Christian could not be a good public servant because the message of Jesus as the world’s savior is too controversial. You can almost hear Pilate anew, right? Fear not, whether our First Amendment freedoms to share the message of the cross without fear are sure, or whether those freedoms will be undermined or even lost, God, through His people will find a way to get His saving message out for all to hear. In spite of political arrogance then or now, in spite of humanity’s unfaithfulness, God accomplished His saving work for all on the cross. Remember the Good News: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

So, today, as we reflect on the events of Good Friday, let’s be thankful for the gift of faith in Jesus our Savior that trusts in Him alone for all things. And, as we engage our culture, as we serve our nation, let us always be mindful of the reason that we do all that we do. If we fight for our religious liberty, it is so that we can serve others in Christ’s name and share His message of grace. If those First Amendment battles are lost in the days to come, we pray for even greater courage to boldly share God’s Good News so that people might know of Jesus. Good Friday will always be Good Friday because it’s God’s work for all. Religious liberty or bear the cross: it’s always to share the message of the cross for all. A blessed Good Friday to you always.

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

Be Informed

If you haven’t taken a moment day to pray for our nation, please join us. A prayer for our nation can be found here.

 Be Equipped

Looking for ways to emphasize the sanctity of human life in your daily devotions, Bible studies at church, and elsewhere?” LCMS Life Ministries has a resource just for you. Click here to learn more about it!

 Be Encouraged

“God gives life its value both in creating it and in redeeming it by Christ’s blood.” – Rev. Sean Daenzer, director of Worship, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 [1]See the Washington Post OpEd, 2017 at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/senate-democrats-show-off-their-anti-religious-bigotry/2017/09/14/30f11e5e-9970-11e7-82e4-f1076f6d6152_story.html?utm_term=.ea082d116997

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 Philippians 2:5-11, where the Apostle Paul writes these profound words:    

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 


WHAT A MINDSET, WHAT A MISSION

Mindsets matter. I remember back in my playing days how important my “frame of mind” was on the day before a big race or a big game. If I was confident in my training, confident in the game plan, and physically and emotionally focused, my mindset often gave me an edge when the contest began. Search the internet and you’ll find all kinds of “mindset” programs and seminars that will prepare you for the big game, as well as for the big presentation, investment, or promotion. Mindsets matter.

As wonderful as all of that sounds, today’s Bible reading is not about that at all. It’s about something much more important and way more powerful. It is not merely about getting your mindset right. It’s about knowing and receiving the “mind of Christ,” both in your life and then for the lives of those you love. When I think about it, all I can say is, “Wow!”

This mindset is one that was lived out for all to see in the person and work of Jesus. When you focus your attention on Jesus, you’ll see the very power of God in action in and through His life FOR YOU. You’ll see the love of God in action for you (for example, Jesus emptied Himself, served, was found in human form, and became obedient even to death on a cross). You’ll see the fullness of Jesus’ humble mindset in action for you. You’ll also see the enduring victory of this Servant-Savior for you and for all as the exalted one who will one day be universally confessed.

Great athletes immerse themselves in their playbooks. Great lawyers know their law books. Great businesspersons know and even love their customers. Christians know, trust, and love their Savior by immersing themselves in His Word. Seeing His mindset in action and trusting in His love for us changes our hearts. You might even say it changes our minds so that our mission in life seeks to reflect Him to others in all we do.

Here’s a few more promises to chew on. St. Paul says this in Colossians 3:1-4:

Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

In Philippians 4:8-9, he encourages us with these words:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What a mindset. What a mission. What a way to live.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, I’m overwhelmed by the mindset that You had in your mission to love me. Give me a thankful faith that trusts in all that You are and have done for me. Then give me Your mindset so that I might strive to love others the way You first loved me. AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MARCH 22, 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 10:42-45, where the Bible says,   

42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”


LEADERSHIP IN GOD’S KINGDOM IS DIFFERENT THAN IN THE WORLD

 

There is no such thing as “generic” servant leadership. Or is there? Whenever I read this passage of Scripture, all the servant leadership programs in our world today immediately come to my mind. And it’s not just Christian colleges or businesses who espouse such things. Evidently, there’s an eastern and a western philosophical view of servant leadership. They both call for leaders to be empathetic, active listeners who serve their employees rather than just boss them around. Okay, I get it. It’s about empowering others so that they become they best they can be in whatever job or vocation they’re in. To me it sounds a lot like a brand of leadership which cherishes the people one gets to lead. But here’s the thing. If this is so simple and straightforward, why do we have so few examples of genuine servant leadership? The problem is not necessarily with the program or the principles; it’s the people, don’t you think? As leaders, we tend to be arrogant, vain, and self-serving, even when telling ourselves that we have everyone else’s best interests at heart. And when we are privileged to work for people who are willing do things for us that we don’t deserve, we tend not to be thankful. Instead, we grow to expect them, as if we deserved them all along. (Remember the story of the man sitting on his porch who gave a passerby $5.00 every day for a week? At the beginning of the second week, he gave no money which elicited the reply, “Hey, where’s my $5.00?”).

To overcome both our aversion to and natural suspicion of servant leadership, maybe we need examples of people who had real authority, power, and position, and yet used it for the betterment of others. I love the story about General George Washington who one day, dressed in civilian clothes, rode past a group of soldiers repairing a defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help. When the unrecognized Washington asked why he would not help, he retorted with great dignity, "Sir, I am a corporal!" The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. And when the job was done, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again."[1]

In our text Jesus demonstrates genuine servant leadership, yet it seems so foreign to our world because sinful people are more comfortable domineering and exercising authority over others. As selfish people, when all is said and done, we tend to want other people to do what we want. To remedy all of this, we don’t merely need a better example than even someone like George Washington provides. We need a Savior who truly leaves His place of power and serves others who don’t deserve it so that they can be reconciled and redeemed to the God who alone makes life worth living, both now and forever. In today’s reading Jesus declares that he did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. When you fully comprehend that, then leadership in His kingdom isn’t just a strategy for economic or business success. It’s a way of life that will last forever. I think I’ll try to better understand the kind of servant leadership that flows from the person and work of Jesus, rather than those based on some generic philosophical principles, no matter how correct they might look on paper. How about you?

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give us an appreciation for all that You gave up so that we might be reconciled to God. Let that reality sink in and then guide us to serve others in Your name. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.leadersbeacon.com/the-power-of-servant-leadership/

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 Exodus 20:12-17, where the LORD God says this:   

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged on the land which the Lord your God gives you.13 “You shall not murder.14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.16 “You shall no give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male slave, or his female slave, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”


WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MARCH 15, 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 Ephesians 2:4-10, where the Bible says,   

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

 

GRACE IS NOT A GOVERNMENT PROGRAM!

 

An ad for the U.S. Marines pictures a sword with these words beneath it: “Earned, not given.” If you want to become a Marine, you have to earn the right to be called a Marine through sacrifice, hardship, and training. If you get it, you deserve it. In this world, there are jobs that only Marines can handle. There are even efforts that demand special forces like the Navy Seals. When it comes to maintaining law and order in this world, there have to be people who say, “This far and no farther,” so that we can all live in relative peace. But here’s the problem. There are some issues beyond the best efforts of the Marines, beyond our most advanced technology, beyond the wealth of all billionaires combined, and beyond the combined forces of all of our government agencies. What happens when those issues overwhelm you? What happens when those kind of problems hit all of us? What then?

The season of Lent is a time in the Church year when people come to grips with what it means to be mortal due to the sinful rebellion of our hearts. It’s a time to take an honest look at ourselves, and even our “best” efforts, from God’s point of view. Noted scientist Albert Einstein correctly described the extent of that problem when he said, “It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”[1] Our real problems stem from humanity’s sinful heart and rebellious spirit. Today we even feel we have the right to challenge the God who created and redeemed us, as if He answers to us and not we to Him.

That’s why this “grace” thing in Ephesians is so incredible. It’s not that God just says, “Don’t worry; no effort is needed when it comes to our relationship. Just do as you please. I love you.” No, the truth is that your efforts don’t measure up AT ALL. The issue of our separation from God can be solved only by His complete and perfect efforts on our behalf. It’s the message that Jesus Christ literally lived the perfect life that you should have lived. He died the death that you should die before God’s judgment throne, and He gives HIS earned eternal life as a gift to you and to all who trust in Him. God’s grace involves works, just not yours. Grace is His gift to you because Jesus has done all things well for you.

If you’ve ever been rescued by someone who risked everything so that you could live free, that is just a small glimpse of what Jesus Christ did for every human being on the planet. At times we need police, firefighters, military forces, and even a decent piece of government legislation. But for the things that really matter, namely, our relationship with God and with one another, the message of grace does not come from our best efforts or programs. Instead, it comes from God’s work in this sinful world for all. God’s grace is not some government program. It’s not even part of our best efforts in the world. It’s God’s work on our behalf for the eternal issues in life, issues which matter even now.

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace in Jesus Christ. Teach me to put all things in perspective so that I might never neglect what You have so freely given! AMEN.

 

[1] Albert Einstein, Clinical Toxicology, 50(7), pp. 537–538.

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 Exodus 20:12-17, where the LORD God says this:   

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged on the land which the Lord your God gives you.13 “You shall not murder.14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.16 “You shall no give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male slave, or his female slave, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”


WHEN DID GOD’S LAW BECOME MERE OPINION?

 

When did greed, coveting, promiscuity, character assassination, violence, and even intimidation become our “cultural values?” When did things like these even become entertaining to some? When did “virtue” become such a dirty word? Indeed, it seems that vices have become virtues and virtues have been turned into vices all too often. Look, I realize that all of us are sinful and broken. I also know that it’s hard to have these conversations because the finger points back at all of us. Furthermore, we must all admit that even our best efforts at living morally and virtuously fall short, often when we needed to be at our best. But all of that is not the same as saying that it doesn’t matter how we live. Struggling to live out our virtues is not the same thing as suggesting that virtue no longer matters! And the notion that the Laws of God, which are rooted in the reality of His creating and ordering of life for us, are outdated or unnecessary to our well-being, is both personally and culturally dangerous.

Amidst all of our present-day rationalizations, here’s a little truth from Proverbs 6:16-19:

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,  a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Godly virtue opposes all of these and a healthy society seeks to mitigate the worst abuses of them. But no society which celebrates what God detests can endure. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth (Does anyone even worry about being lazy today?), unrighteous wrath (Just because you are angry doesn’t mean you’re right!), envy, and pride not only undermine your life and mine, they can even undermine a nation.

It also doesn’t matter whether politicians or societal powerbrokers deem such things acceptable. No matter what the leaders of the day think or what popular opinion promotes, God’s Word and God’s ways will always prevail in the end. Jesus puts all of this in context when He says this to Pontius Pilate about the limits of earthly power, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).  

Whatever is going on in your life, whatever seems to be going on in our communities or even our culture, remember that all things are ultimately in God’s hands. So let’s be committed to others in the communities in which we live. For the sake of the culture in which we reside, let us boldly proclaim the whole counsel of God, both His “No” and His “Yes,” for all of our good. God’s Law wasn’t mere opinion when he gave it to Israel in today’s reading from Exodus and it isn’t now. For all who take it seriously, who are broken by its enduring truth and who then look to God for a salvation that doesn’t come by our works, there is forgiveness and salvation by His grace. Thanks be to God!

In the midst of the brokenness of our culture and for the sake of our proclamation of God’s Good News of grace in Jesus Christ, the message of God’s righteous Law needs to be heard now and always. Who will rise to the occasion of proclamation? Could it be you and me? A virtuous people, motivated and empowered by faith, seeks to answer the call to speak God’s truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, let us be like Moses, Daniel, and Esther of old who boldly spoke your Word of truth. Maybe we do so in love for the sake of the Church, and, yes, also for the sake of the culture in which we live, so that all might come to know Your gracious love through faith in Christ alone. AMEN.

Be on the Right Side of History, or Study History?

by Peter Scaer

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).

 

When the odds are against us, how do we know when to quit, to throw in the towel? Well, the answer is that we will never quit. We will work while it is day before the night comes, and no man can work. No one can know the future. We are told that we need to get on the right side of history, but such talk is vanity. History will be what we make of it, and more pointedly, what God makes of it.

When people claim to be on the right side of history, what they really are saying is that they are going along with the flow, that they are following public opinion in order to remain with the "in crowd" defined by phony academia, the mainstream news, Hollywood, big tech, big sports, and all the rest. But it's not their approval that we seek.

The phrase "the right side of history" is all the more ironic, as it is spoken in an age in which most everything is being thrown down the memory hole. Rather than seeking to be on the right side of history, we would do well to study history, to read older books, with the idea that we are living in an age of vanity, having no idea what we don't know, unwilling to be taught by those who came before us.

Ah, to be on the right side of history is really no more than the vanity of being popular, the vanity of being well liked by the people who seem to matter, the so-called pillars. But we know where history is actually leading. There will come a day, sooner than ever, when our Lord will return in clouds, accompanied by his mighty angels. And then, it won't matter what the Washington Post says, won't matter the professors and celebrities tell us is true.

All that matters will be God's judgment, God's Word. And that word is available to us today. The truth of life in the womb, of real marriage, of male and female. It's all there, along with the Christ who came to save us. So, let's skip any talk about being on the right side of history, and spend our time, every day without growing weary, working and praying that we remain on the right side of eternity. And together we'll celebrate the harvest.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer is chairman and professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the M.A. program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Be Informed

Pastor Paul Dare explains the dangers of cultural Marxism in a recent Issues, Etc., podcast.

Be Equipped

Dr. Ryan Anderson explains why Christians shouldn’t fear sharing their beliefs in the public square. Click here to read his most recent Wall Street Journal article.

Be Encouraged

“We’ve shown up to celebrate and safeguard each one from the unborn to the elderly and everywhere in between … We’re leaning in to bring joy to the desperate and hope to the endangered. We’re reaching out to take community and opportunity even amid adversity. We’re marching forth to give courage and compassion. We’ve united today not simply to leave a sordid past behind but to leap ahead into a splendid future.” –Rev. Michael Salemink

 Fighting Abortion from the Demand Side

by Gene Edward Veith

What should the pro-life movement do, now that the federal government is in the hands of abortion advocates?

David French offers a useful distinction in his essay How to Be Pro-Life in Joe Biden’s America, with the deck “The most effective avenues to preserve life still remain.”

 

He says that pro-lifers have been fighting abortion from the supply side.  That is, trying to limit the availability of abortion.  Roe v. Wade created a supply of abortion, which pro-lifers have been trying to chip away at through state laws, regulations, and legal actions against abortion providers.  That effort has had some successes under the Trump administration, though now many of them are likely to be reversed under the Biden administration, which is promising to increase the availability of abortion.

To be honest, though, even when efforts to limit the supply of abortion have been successful, the impact has been relatively modest.  And even the goal of repealing Roe v. Wade through a sympathetic Supreme Court will not stop the slaughter of unborn children, since individual states will simply legalize abortion on their own.

But we can also fight abortion, says French, on the demand side.  That is, persuading women not to get abortions.  They have the “right to choose,” so we can encourage them to choose life.

Click here to read more from Dr. Veith.

Be Informed

Ever wondered why corporate America is becoming increasingly progressive? Click here to learn why.

Be Equipped

As the government continues to encroach on the realm of the Church, Christians must be ready. Click here to read how you can be prepared to defend the faith in the public square.

Be Encouraged

“God is not just our God or the God of just our people or just our nation or our congregation or our denomination or our demographic category or our tribe or our ethnicity or our language. There is no justice if it’s just about just us. No, God is the God of all time and all space and all people. In Christ, all things hang together.” –Rev. John Nunes

 

Don’t Fence Us Out

by Tim Goeglein

In 1961, to keep East Germans, who were under Communist rule, from escaping to the West, the East German government constructed a wall, complete with barbed wire, beds of nails, guard towers, and other ways to keep the people from leaving East Berlin and entering West Berlin, where they could live in freedom.

 

For decades, the people of East Germany were literally walled off from freedom as they looked sorrowfully at the barrier that had been constructed to keep them under control and without say in how they were to be governed.

More than 100,000 people tried to scale the wall to be free once again, but only a few thousand made it successfully. It was not until 1989, two years after then-President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikael Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and the Soviet Eastern Block started to crumble and eventually collapse, that the infamous and foreboding wall came tumbling down.

Tragically, in the aftermath of the regrettable January 6 riots conducted by a misguided and irresponsible group of angry citizens, the area around the U.S. Capitol, has begun to look more like East Germany before the wall fell. Americans, like the East Germans before them, can only look on with sorrow and shock.

The U.S. Capitol, the “people’s house,” along with other buildings such as the Supreme Court and Library of Congress, is presently surrounded by a massive fence topped with barbed wire. National Guard troops are in place around the buildings to keep people from advancing into the area. When I see what has happened to the area, I cannot help but think of not only East Berlin in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but totalitarian strongholds such as Communist China, Cuba, and North Korea, whose unaccountable leaders are partitioned off from the people.

I am all for personal safety and taking prudent steps to protect people from the dangerous actions of an irresponsible few, regardless of their political ideology. But I am deeply concerned about the future of the very freedoms America has represented for nearly 250 years if this fence remains.

My concern is the message this fence sends to the American people and to other countries. To the American people, it sends a message that their elected leaders want to deny them access to their government and its leaders.

I am reminded of the comments that then-Senator Harry Reid made when the new Capitol visitors center opened in 2008. He remarked rather disdainfully, “You could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. That’s no longer the case.” That type of statement, coupled with physical barriers such as this fence, is sadly symbiotic of why many Americans feel increasingly alienated from their leaders.

Why? Because the refusal to remove the fences, which were only supposed to be temporary until the inauguration of President Biden, adds to the impression of the American people that their leaders want to have nothing to do with those they are elected to represent, a.k.a. the great “unwashed masses.”

To the world, the fence also sends a message that America is no longer a country founded on “by the people and for the people.” We have forgotten the very foundation upon which our nation was built. Instead of being seen a shining city on a Hill (or Capitol Hill), and as a constitutional republic where our officials govern with the consent of the public, we are increasingly perceived as a cold fortress that dictates to the people what freedoms they can and cannot have, according to the circumstances of the moment, including access to their government buildings and lawmakers.

I cannot help but think back to our Founding Fathers, many who endured tremendous hardship, including physical threats, to set up the freest nation on earth. They saw no need to put up barbed wire around Independence Hall while debating the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, even when they knew they would likely be executed as traitors if the colonists lost the war for independence. But because they believed so much in freedom, the founders were willing to take that risk.

I wish our current leaders were as courageous as the Founding Fathers were or then President John F. Kennedy was when he remarked in Berlin, just two years after the wall went up, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.” Yet, sadly, in 2021, our leaders have forgotten those words and put up this fence to keep the citizenry out while locking themselves in.

Unfortunately, unless the fence that separates our government from its people comes down soon, I am afraid we may be on the road to lose other freedoms as well as accountability from our leaders. That would be a shame – for us as Americans – and for the world. So, to echo Ronald Reagan, “Speaker Pelosi, tear down this wall!” so America can continue to be a beacon of freedom to all.

Tim Goeglein is the vice president for External Affairs for Focus on the Family.

Be Informed

“Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa, senior pastor at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Irvine, California, and author of ‘Faith that Sees through the Culture’ and now ‘Faith That Engages the Culture’ . . . talks about what it takes to witness effectively in today’s world; the three touch points of person, place and perspective that help us witness effectively; and how we can use this knowledge and empathy to witness on today’s current topics.” Listen to his KFUO.org interview by clicking here!

Be Equipped

Need help making the case for life? Register now for the first-even virtual LCMS Life Conference. Go the LCMS Life Ministry website to join today.

Be Encouraged

“Christians are to show no partiality whatsoever. My brother in Christ who happens to have more melanin than I have in the paper-thin upper level of our skin—while all the skin below the paper is the same—is not of a different race than I. So-called ‘race’ is not even skin deep! That’s mere upper-skin coloring, not race. Varying levels of mere melanin indicate that we’re all coffee beans—some are blonde roast, some are medium or dark or espresso roast, but we’re all coffee, we’re all colored people.” --James M. Kushiner, The Fellowship of St. James 

 

Claiming to be Wise, They Have Become Fools

Why is it that when we seem to have everything, we so readily throw it all away? Maybe it's not about things after all. My 50-inch screen hardly seems big enough.
 

 I have quite a lot, so why does it pain me to know others have more? So it is; we live in a spiritually impoverished age, untethered from reality, untethered from things primary, like family, church, and God.

Biden's Catholicism has gotten some good press, to be sure. But let's not kid ourselves. It's popular in a secular age, because it is little more than an ornament, or perhaps a lap dog. . . .

And yet we have folks who should know better gushing over his civility, never mind his full-throated support for abortion, using our money to end the lives of children at home and abroad. Oh, that we could actually have a conversation about the transgender tragedy without Facebook and Twitter placing us in their jails. Did you know that some 90 percent of transgender kids, if simply allowed to grow up, will grow out of it? Will grow comfortable in their own bodies? (Isn't that what the Ashley Graham phenomenon is all about?)

It's breathtaking how quickly we are retreating from reality. I remember when the Indiana legislators ran away from declaring that marriage was one man and one woman, and then were overwhelmed with RFRA. So, it's not just the Left coasts. It's a question of whether we have the nerve, right in the middle of the heartland, to speak the truth for the sake of others. Or whether we want to coast into oblivion.

We have good things to say. We have ultrasounds to show. We have the equality of all persons. We have the joy of boyhood and girlhood, moms and dads, and real marriage, which begins to knit a web of relationships that include grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We have biology and sociology and medicine. And, yes, we have the Lord. Or better yet, we shall cling to the Lord's words, because speaking the truth takes a bit of courage in our cancel culture. But we can hang together or hang separately, but even so, we are never alone. And if we seek to please the Lord, we will in fact help our neighbor, the littlest among us, waiting to be born; the confused child, who needs just a little love and patience, a little guidance.

So it is, we are surrounded by fools claiming to be wise. So quickly do they parrot the new and ever-changing truths. Knowing that, let's not make it a habit of seeking their approval. We've got better things to say, and we should say them.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer is chairman and professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the M.A. program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Be Informed

See photographs from the Chicago March for Life drive-in rally at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

 

Be Equipped

Dr. Ryan Anderson explains in a recent Issues, Etc. podcast why Amazon removed his book “When Harry Became Sally.” Click here to listen.

 

Be Encouraged

“Christ does not refuse our sense of tragedy or awareness of pain. He bears it in love, affirming our condition, carrying our sorrows to the end, all the way to the heart of God.” –Jill Carattini

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MARCH 1, 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 8:27-29, where the Bible says,   

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”


WHEN CHRIST RAISES YOU UP!

 

What are your deepest hurts and your grandest hopes? Do you have worries and fears, or great dreams and expectations? What happens when an ugly reality seems to rear its head no matter your planning or provision? What then? Does answering any of these questions really matter in the end?

Yes! The great preacher Charles Spurgeon was right, "We have great needs, but we have a great Christ for our needs!" And the living Christ is here for you in His word to offer you His life and His salvation as a gift. There is one question that engulfs all other questions in this life. The question comes from Jesus himself, “Who do you say that I am?” Another question springs from it, “Who then are you IN HIM?” Maybe another way to ask both is this, “What happens when you are driven to your knees because of your sin, or overwhelmed by the chaos of the world in which you live, and Christ alone raises you up by His mercy?” What then?

The lyrics of a popular contemporary song by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland communicate who Christ is for us and what Christ is ready to do with us and through us.

When I am down and, oh my soul so weary; when troubles come, and my heart burdened be;

Then I am still and wait here in silence, Until You come and sit awhile with me.

There is no life, no life without its hunger. Each restless heart beats so imperfectly,

But when You come and I am filled with wonder, Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains, You raise me up to walk on stormy seas,

I am strong when I am on Your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be.[1]

Wow! That sounds like pretty incredible vision, courage, strength, and power for you, exceeding all of your expectations. Who wouldn't want that? And yet, those sentiments pale in comparison to the powerful response of Peter to Jesus’ question.

When Jesus asks the question “Who do you say that I am?” He’s not merely seeking to draw out an answer to give his disciples strength to live their lives more boldly or more courageously. No, it’s more than a self-help kind of thing. Jesus asks the question because their very lives depend on their answer. Jesus was pressing life's ultimate question on them that day. Amidst humanity’s longing for a leader and Israel’s longing for a Messiah back then, Jesus sets aside the false opinions of the day and let’s Peter say for all to hear, then and now: “You are the Messiah” (which means “the Christ”). Matthew's Gospel records more of Peter’s statement: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).

You see when Jesus is the answer to our deepest yearnings, life changes. When Jesus is the object of our greatest hopes, life changes. When the cross and the resurrection of Jesus becomes the central event in our lives and the assurance of our future no matter the circumstances, life changes. When He asks you, “Who do you say that I am?” it’s the most important question of your life, now and forever.

C. S. Lewis focused the issue sharply:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn't be a great moral teacher. He'd either be a lunatic-on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg-or else he'd be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the son of God, or else a madman or something worse. Christianity, if false is of no importance and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.[2]

The true biblical Jesus, the robust, challenging Jesus, is more than just a comforter. He challenges and confronts us because our life and salvation in Him are too precious to miss. He calls us to the exhilarating adventure of dynamic discipleship and abundant life to be lived in Him for others no matter the times. Though He meets us as we are with incredible grace, He loves us too much to leave us as we've been. He surely will raise us up to be more than we alone could be.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give me wisdom to take Your question to heart. Let my mind concur with Peter so that, by faith in You, I might not be overcome by anything that seeks to draw me away from the life You have in store for me, now and forever. AMEN.

 

[1] “You Raise Me Up” by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland; Copyright Universal Music Publications and Peermusic III Ltd.

[2] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 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 2nd Corinthians 5:20-6:2, where the Apostle Paul writes,   

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.


NOW IS THE TIME OF GOD’S FAVOR!

 

Now is the time of God’s favor? Really? Now?

Sometimes larger circumstances can belie the truth of a specific situation. At times events that are happening all around us are better explained by other bigger events with even more far-reaching consequence. That’s what it was like for some of the people fighting in World War II. The Victory over Japan proclamation (VJ Day) did indeed mean that the second major, worldwide conflict of the 20th century was officially over. But that did not stop the fighting of many Japanese infantrymen against U.S. Marines in the South Pacific. Some fought for many months, even though their defeat was assured, inevitable, and even officially admitted. As the website “Military History Now” notes:

Hundreds of Japanese soldiers continued to fight on across the Pacific long after VJ Day. While some were unaware of the surrender in Tokyo Harbor, others simply refused to lay down their arms. American and Allied troops throughout the Pacific continued to clash with these holdouts for months, and even years after the war. A group of nearly 50 Japanese infantrymen waged a guerrilla war against American occupiers on Saipan until finally surrendering to Marines in December of 1945. More than 30 hid in the jungles of Peleliu until March of 1947 before they too turned themselves over to the Americas. Two Japanese troops stayed at their battle stations on Iwo Jima until January 1949, while nearly 20 remained at large on an island in the Marianas until June of 1951. For the next 20 years, small squads and even lone Japanese soldiers would emerge from the wilderness from time to time across the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.[1]

Those battles, though waged after the VJ declaration of Allied victory, were still real, relentless, and terrifying for those engaged in them. Although victory was already declared, many Allied soldiers missed out on celebrating and enjoying “victory’s visitation.” In 2 Corinthians, St. Paul is talking about a bigger victory and a more far-reaching visitation. He tells us that God has indeed visited this world with an eternal victory for all. Jesus Christ has overcome the rebellion and hellish nature of our sin. He has defeated our last enemy, death. And He has even silenced our greatest accuser, the devil. The question for today is, “Do you know this victory for you?”

I’m saddened by how many people missed the blessing of salvation, even when they literally heard of it from the mouth of the Savior Himself. For example, remember when Jesus wept over Jerusalem as He journeyed to the final battle on the cross? He said:

If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation (Luke 19:42-44).

The most important questions today then are not simply ones like these:

  • “What do you think the politics are going to be for the next two years?”
  • “When are you planning to retire?”
  • “Should you take this job or that job?”

As important as those questions might be, they pale before the question, “Do you recognize the time of God’s visitation in and for your life?” Today is that day. As St. Paul reminds us in this text, now is the time of God’s favor and the day of your salvation because today you are being offered the benefits of Christ’s work for you through His cross and resurrection. Yes, that’s right. TODAY, on this very day, by God’s grace and favor, you can be justified by receiving and trusting in His gift of salvation for you in Christ Jesus. Even though you are by nature an enemy of God, you can be reborn and reconciled to God, your Creator.

Now, I’ll grant you that there are many questions for people to worry about today. There’s a lot of talk about the “times we are living in” and that’s appropriate. But, today, make no mistake about it. The most important question for you is this, “Do you recognize the time of God’s offer of grace to you in Jesus?” Why is that so? Because in Christ, NOW is the time of God’s favor for you. Don’t miss this eternal opportunity because you are distracted or overwhelmed by the lesser issues of the day.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, let this simple, yet profound message that “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” sink in so that we might receive that grace through faith and then prioritize what is eternal in our lives. AMEN.

 

[1] Soldiering On – Famous Battles Fought After the War Ended (https_militaryhistorynow.com)

Pro-Life Women Elected to Congress

The drama of the 2020 election overshadowed another phenomenon that has received little press coverage. When the first session of the 117th Congress was sworn in Jan. 3, it included 16 new pro-life women, all Republicans, in the U.S. House of Representatives, nearly doubling their number. Among them are eight who flipped their districts by defeating pro-choice incumbents, all Democrats, and six elected in reliably blue states (California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York).


Most of the women say their position on abortion is rooted in their Christian faith. This surprising development debunks the conventional wisdom of GOP political strategists for decades, who have maintained that the success of the party depended on its ability to attract women, which would in turn require putting out a welcome mat for pro-choice voters and pols while marginalizing those who advocated for legal protections for the unborn.

Click here to read the rest of this article from The Lutheran Witness.

David Cox worked 25 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and publisher before becoming director of Camp Trinity, the Lutheran Camp on Petit Jean Mountain.

 

 

Be Informed

What’s ahead for pro-life legislation in 2021? Carol Tobias of National Right to Life explains.

Be Equipped

“A federal court in North Dakota just blocked a requirement known as the Transgender Mandate that would force medical professionals and religious hospitals to perform gender transition procedures on their patients—including children—even when the procedures are potentially harmful.” Learn more about the court case here.

Be Encouraged

“Are we then supposed to escape the disturbed life of politics? No. Luther thought that Christians had callings as citizens. . . . Christians grounded in their one King [can] respect and tolerate each other regardless of where they come down in . . . the political world.” – Dr. Robert Benne

What Can Go Wrong in a Democracy

In researching my last two posts, I re-read Plato’s discussion of democracy, what he calls “a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” 


I had to share at least some of what he said with you.  Keep in mind that Plato did not approve of democracy.  His experience with it was the notoriously unstable direct democracy of Athens, as well as other Greek city states.  All of the citizens voted directly on every issue.  He did not know of the more effective version of representative democracy, as would be practiced by the Roman Republic and, arguably, perfected in the American constitution.

What Plato wanted was a government by experts, philosophers bred and trained for the role, and his idealized Republic would be more akin to what we would recognize as totalitarianism.  And yet, as he discusses the various options for government, Plato–or Socrates, whose conversations he is either recording or inventing–he makes brilliant observations and insights that make his book The Republic foundational to political thought to this very day.

What he said about democracies, though, in 380 B.C. is startlingly prescient and squirm-inducing for modern readers as we recognize ourselves in what he says 2,400 years later.

Click here to read more about democracy from Dr. Gene Edward Veith.

Be Informed

How do we speak the truth in love to our LGBTQ neighbors? The Rev. Dr. Tom Eckstein explains.

Be Equipped

How can the Church stand up for life, especially when it comes to caring for our brothers and sisters with disabilities? Click here to find some ways your congregation can make sure that these men and women, boys and girls know that Jesus—and the congregation—love having them in church!

Be Encouraged

“A governing authority which knowingly or unknowingly . . . allows the norms of the law to be dictated by the so-called ‘legal consciousness’ of the time, sinks to the level of raw power.” – Rev. Hermann Sasse

DEPLATFORMING

An agency of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was cancelled by Facebook, collateral damage in big tech’s “deplatforming” movement that is shutting down free speech on the internet.


The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty put out a response to the Capital riot entitled “A Prayerful Thought:  Vigilante Violence Always Betrays the Cause. . . .Prayer and Faithfulness Fortify the cause.”  It was a condemnation of the devolution of the January 6 protests into lawlessness, drawing on Luther’s critique of the Peasant Revolt.

The head of the institute, former Lutheran hour speaker Gregory Seltz, posted it on the Center’s Facebook page.  He wanted to “boost” it, so as to give the statement a wider audience. (Facebook allows open business sites to “boost” posts for a fee, whereupon they are circulated far and wide.)  But Facebook wouldn’t allow that.  “At a time when we at the LCRL seek to be truth tellers for the sake of our culture (even reconcilers at this moment), we received this notice. REJECTED.”

Evidently, Facebook’s algorithms and nanny-bots can’t distinguish condemning violence from advocating violence.

(You can find the statement, which is quite good, by scrolling down here.  Again, Facebook allowed the statement to be posted, just not boosted.)

Click here to read more from Dr. Gene Edward Veith.

Be Informed

Want to learn more about what happened with the LCRL’s Facebook post? Here directly from the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz about the matter by clicking here.

Be Equipped

Merriam-Webster dictionaries now include the word “preborn,” which they define as “existing but not yet born.” Learn more about the importance of these definitions here.

Be Encouraged

“God’s Word does not promise to satisfy your craving for an answer to every problem. The Word of God is not a manual for solving the political, social or medical chaos swirling around us. That does not mean, however, that we ought to forgo hearing and receiving God’s Word.” – Rev. Roy Askins

VOCATIONAL RESPECT SEEKING JUSTICE

“Defund the Police!” “Abolish ICE!” “Censure the police!” “Accept no limitations!” Such are the cries of a particular segment of American politics today. The other side says, “Support the police” and “Be Law-abiding citizens,” emphasizing the honoring of law enforcement, and the civilizing force of law and order over chaos and violence. How should a Two-Kingdom engagement of these issues proceed? Who is right? Who is wrong? Is it all just your perspective versus mine, your experience versus mine?


Here the Bible can give us some direction as to how to engage these kinds of divisive issues. In Romans 13:1-2, St. Paul instructs God’s people saying,

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

There is a priority, then, to one’s engagement with the “authorities.” Much like the Fourth Commandment calls us to honor our fathers and mothers, the Bible prioritizes a “be subject first” attitude that honors what God has set in place for our good, calling for our obedience to those with authority over us in society as preserving gifts from Him. The word “rebel” in the text doesn’t just imply mere disagreement or protest, but a total disregard for those in authority; it ultimately exposes our rebelliousness against God’s authority over our lives as well.

But does such a “be subject first” attitude mean that we as citizens blindly follow whomever is in charge? Hardly. The apostles themselves guide us here.  In Acts 5:29, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.” Here, such civil “disobedience” was not rooted merely in a passionate objection, or an offended will; it was rooted in the prioritizing of God’s clearly defined will over and against the fickle will of those in authority that day. That spirit would also temper our freedom and our exercise of our own will both towards God and towards one another.

When engaging the authorities then, especially those that are legitimate, legally established, and consented to, there should be vocational respect for their position and for the laws that hold us all in common. And if there yet be any challenges to such legitimate authority due to injustice, they should be engaged lawfully and orderly, for God is a god of order and peace (1 Cor. 14:33).

In the American context, there’s a unique wrinkle to this discussion as well. The constitutional limitation of coercive authority describes the citizen’s (the one in subjection) authority to delineate the degree of that subjectivity. In fact, the citizen, with the God-given, inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, has the constitutional obligation to work toward legally defining the boundaries of those in authority explicitly for the enduring of that freedom. As Christians, we are reminded here as well, that even in freedom we “should obey God not men,” even when those men or women are we ourselves.

An LCRL rule of thumb for public engagement then, especially when it is controversial, is that our attitude should be one of “vocational respect that seeks justice.” This means seeking to honor those in authority as a rule, and, when necessary, also correcting their leadership if we must, but in a spirit of order and peace. Why? Because true justice and lasting peace are beyond our efforts to perfectly create and maintain. Therefore, it’s best to be willing to let God do His preserving work through those in authority, while also putting our full faith in God’s saving work in Christ for all. Vocational respect seeks justice as an antidote to tyranny, anarchy, and chaos. But it is no substitute for the ultimate justice, mercy, and peace that comes from the person and work of Jesus alone. The former is intended to provide opportunities to proclaim and live within the latter. That’s something to always keep in mind, especially when issues become heated and passionate.

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

Be Informed

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently “heard arguments over whether university officials can be held personally accountable for intentional religious discrimination on campus.” Learn more about the court case here.

Be Equipped

“Recent rulings from the United States Supreme Court have raised concerns for many Christians about religious liberty. While there is some reason for concern, the US Constitutions and legal precedents have numerous protections for Christians.” Click here to listen.

Be Encouraged

“When we vote, we are the government. Voting, then, is no mere right or privilege; it is a holy obligation, a responsibility, a small but significant vocation given by God to each Christian citizen.” – Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 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 9:2-9, where the Bible says,   

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN FOR THE DAYS AHEAD!

 

I’m becoming more and more convinced that all of our modern technologies are actually making us more ignorant, rather than more informed; they also make us more prone to be isolated, rather than connected with each other. Because of our sinful rebelliousness against the moral truths of God, human beings also seem to be more clueless than ever about how to live their lives in this world meaningfully and joyfully. That’s true even amidst all the advances of science and technology. As I get older, I see this more clearly than ever. Evil truly does exist in the world and evil exists in every human heart. Unfortunately, there is no easy religious, secular, or scientific fix for this DEADLY virus. The great scientist Albert Einstein said, “It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”[1]

We need a solution to the problems and evils of this world. We also need a fix for the evil which resides within our own hearts. The payment coming due for all of these things seems beyond comprehension. That’s true. But what happens when the answer, the all-encompassing solution, is so overwhelming that we can’t bear it and so extensive that we can’t fathom it? I think that is how the disciples were feeling on the day Jesus took them up on a mountain to pray. I think that they were becoming overwhelmed by the kind of salvation that they needed. (After all, Peter would have no suffering for his messiah; see Mark 8:32.) And I think they were beginning to be overwhelmed by the salvation that Jesus was going to provide which was part of the reason for their fear and awe.

So a preliminary glimpse of the glorified Jesus is provided for them before the overwhelming days of suffering to come. On a mountain that day, Jesus was transfigured, literally metamorphisized. That means HIS appearance changed drastically as His divinity literally and brilliantly shone through. Why? Well, these disciples, and believers in Jesus SINCE, would need to be reminded again and again of who Jesus is. Who is this one who would suffer and die for them? They would need to know this in order to be strengthened by faith in Him for the events that were soon to follow and for the lives they would live BY FAITH IN HIM FOR OTHERS.

You see, as believers in Christ, we believe and trust in a Savior who is not dead but alive. And, though we face trials, struggles, suffering, and even death this side of heaven, ours is a living faith in a living Savior who will have the victorious, last say over all those things in the end. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1st Corinthians 15:17 and 19-20,

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins….If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Be comforted with these truths when you are afraid. And realize that the fear that overcame the disciples that day would eventually be overcome, not by their efforts, but because of the resurrection reality of Christ’s living presence with them. As Christians, when you read His Word, when you receive His name in Baptism, when you receive His body and His blood in/with/under the bread and wine in His supper, you have that resurrection reality at work in your life too. Thank God we all get a glimpse of heaven from this incredible event which is an ongoing reminder of the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, as well as His resurrection promise for you. That vision will provide strength for the days ahead, whatever they may hold.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, amidst the teaching of the need for You to suffer and die, thank You for this glimpse of Your glorious appearance as God. Thanks also for letting us see the confusion and fear of the disciples so that we can realize that our struggles and fears can be overcome by Your death and resurrection, as the now risen, radiant, reigning, and returning Son of God. AMEN.

 

[1] Albert Einstein, Clinical Toxicology, 50(7), pp. 537–538.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 08, 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 1st Corinthians 9:22-23, where the Apostle Paul writes,   

I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.


ALL-IN!

 

I’m not much of a poker player. When I was growing up, my family tended not to be card players (though the occasional, raucous game of “May I” could be cited as evidence to the contrary). But I do know the meaning of the phrase, “all-in.” How about you? In cards, and especially in the game Texas Hold-Em, “all-in” is when a player decides to put all of his chips on the table. At that moment, he/she bets all they have to either win or lose everything. Back in the days of the Wild West, they called it ''betting the ranch.'' This was not just putting all that you had that night into the pot, but risking everything you owned. That’s an “all-in” commitment in a game! What about an “all-in” commitment in life?

In this text, Paul demonstrates the “all-in” commitment of the Christian life in service to others. He’s talking about being committed to something more important than cash, property, or even all of one’s accumulated wealth. He’s talking about the things of God, the things of faith, which give meaning to all of life, now and forever. He then applies the “all-in” spirit that comes from faith to serving others for the sake of their eternal lives.

As believers in Jesus, before talking about becoming “all things to all people” in order to save some, we first need to understand God’s “all-in” love and forgiveness for us because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, it’s impossible for us to be “all-in” for others on our own because we are sinful, broken people. God has to be “all-in” for our forgiveness and salvation before we can be of service to others in His name. Elsewhere, Paul speaks about a mindset that understands and trusts in God’s “all-in” love for us in Jesus. He describes the basis for it in Philippians 2:5-8 with these powerful words:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Those who put their faith IN Christ Jesus are free to care about others with an “all-in” commitment, not because of their works of love for others, but because God’s love and forgiveness are certain for them by grace through faith in Jesus. Confident in Christ alone, we can strive to be “all things to all people” so that we might save some. We can even be willing to pay the price that comes with sharing the Gospel of Jesus with others. We can be prepared to be uncomfortable, put out, challenged, or even ridiculed because our strength to share Christ comes from Christ, and our concern for neighbor is about them, not us. 

Luther describes that faith life of freedom in this way: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none; a Christian is a dutiful servant to all, subject to all.”[1] In other words, Christians can be “all-in” for loving others in Christ’s name because Christ is “all-in” for them as their crucified and risen Savior.

Whenever you’re struggling with loving others, just remember God’s “all-in” love for you. Then get back to being His person by loving them in His name.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for the love You demonstrated and the salvation You accomplished not only for me, but for all people. Give me strength and courage to turn my full attention to those in my life, especially those who need to know You. AMEN.

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, volume 31, page 344.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, JANUARY 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 Mark 1:9–11, where the Bible says,   

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”


A SAVIOR WITH HIS HANDS IN THE DIRT!

 

The baptism of Jesus is one of those events in the Bible that will help you come to grips with who Jesus is, who you are without him, and who you are by grace through faith in Him alone. Baptisms, as a rule, are for people who are dirty and need to get clean. Yet religious washings tend to be about more than outward personal hygiene. They are often about people getting right with God in some form or fashion. Religious washings in general are about people with “dirt” on their hands and with “dirt” in their hearts, people like us who need to get clean before God. That’s why the baptism of Jesus is so strange and yet so wonderful!

Jesus’ baptism was not one of those times when something got washed away. This was not a time when someone with “dirt” on His hands or in His heart came to be cleansed. No, this was a time when the One who cleanses hearts put His hands into the dirt of our lives. Wow! John the Baptizer was floored by this fact (see Matthew 3:14). Here he was telling people to repent and be baptized in order to prepare the way for the Messiah who would come to save the world. Just before our reading, John announced,

“After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:7-8).

So when John meets Jesus face to face, amazingly, Jesus gets down into that water with John. What’s going on? Why is Jesus doing this? To put it simply, He’s identifying His life and His work with sinners like us and, incredibly, He is taking on the work of becoming “the Lamb of God who is bearing for the taking away the sin of the world." Jesus doesn’t merely identify with us. He literally lives our life perfectly, dies our death perfectly, and gives us His eternal life as a gift. Even here, He perfectly accomplishes repentance on our behalf, and, like faith, gifts it to sinners for their salvation.  In this action, Jesus takes upon His shoulders all the pain, destruction, and degradation that comes from our sin. Indeed, He takes upon himself the very sins of the world. Though He’s not the one with dirty hands, He willing puts His hands into the dirt of our lives to save us. Even more, as St. Paul declares, “For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).”

In November 2010, a wedding party in Glenelg, Australia, was unexpectedly called into action right after the wedding ceremony. While they were posing for pictures on a scenic ledge, a woman who was unassociated with the wedding fell into the water and started TO DROWN. Dressed in his tuxedo, the best man jumped in and brought the woman back toward shore. Then the bride, a trained nurse, waded into the water and started administering CPR. By the time the official medics arrived, the woman had not only been rescued, she had regained consciousness. According to one safety official, she “was very lucky that the bridal party was there and they acted quickly and got her to the shallows.” After the daring rescue operation, the drenched but heroic best man and bride happily rejoined the wedding reception and continued with the festivities.[1]

For a quick moment in time, that best man and bride were “joined” to the destiny of the woman in the water. Her fate became their concern. What a blessed opportunity it was for them to jump into the water and put their hands into the troubles of her life. When Jesus enters the waters to be baptized by John, He isn’t just doing it for a moment, as happened on that wedding day. He’s doing it for the eternity of our lives. And He doesn’t jump into pleasant waters. He jumps into the cesspools, the whirlpools, and the raging seas of our lives so that we might again know the calm that can only come by grace through faith in Him.

Jesus steps into the river Jordan for a baptism that He didn’t need to save a people who didn’t deserve it. He did it to demonstrate His solidarity with sinners, to even take our sin upon himself, so that sinners might receive God’s forgiveness and mercy IN HIM. He’s a Savior with His hands in the dirt of our lives so that we might receive the cleansing grace that only His life, death, and resurrection can give. What a Savior! What a blessing!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thankfully You willingly jumped into the mess of our world and of our lives so that we might receive Your peace and joy. May we grow to know the depths of Your baptism as it prefigures your willingness to endure the cross for us all. AMEN.

 

[1] Best man jumps off Glenelg Jetty to save woman, News.com.au (11-29-10)

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, FEB. 01, 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 Deuteronomy 18:17-20, where the Bible recounts these words of God to Moses:   

17 The Lord said to me:…. 18 “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

  


TO WHOM ARE YOU GOING TO LISTEN?

 

No one gets through life without listening to someone. When a person doesn’t know something, or know what to do about a problem, the first thing they should do is gather information. Yes, it’s a wise person who looks to the words, temperament, and actions of others who have come before them and who have successfully dealt with the issue at hand. I’m a big “YouTube” video watcher when it comes to doing things around the house. I love to see people confronting the same problem or task I’m facing to see how they resolved it. I’ll watch one a few times and, if I think that they’ve done a satisfactory job, I’ll try to do it myself. Most of the time, I’ve listened to the right people. But there were a few times when I should have watched a few more videos, if you know what I mean! But the question, “To whom are you going to listen?” is a universal question of the human experience. And if you are one of those who thinks that you can go it alone without listening to anyone else, you are already walking into defeat (even if you don’t realize it yet).

Why is it that we all have this propensity to see ourselves in the most “forgiving/excusing” light, while seeing others much less graciously? Remember how, as teenagers, we often thought that our parents didn’t know anything about anything, only to learn in just a few years that they actually knew a lot about a lot of things! Today, in this Old Testament passage, Moses is pointing believers to THE one to whom they should give their ear, the one to whom they should listen when it matters most in their lives, the one in whom they should put their ultimate hopes and dreams. Moses is still a respected prophet in many religious circles today, but, in our reading for today, he pointed forward to THE prophet, the who would tell God’s people “everything” that God commands (verse 18).

As you read the Bible, you begin to realize that Jesus is THE prophet who deserves our ultimate attention (see Acts 3:18-23). Why? Because He is even more than the ultimate prophet, the ultimate priest for humanity, and even the King of all creation. He is this world’s Savior. He is the one regarding whom God said through Moses, “I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name” (verse 19). Many centuries later, during an event called the Transfiguration of Jesus, His disciples heard the direct voice of the Father say of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

Today the real question is, “Have you given Jesus your ultimate attention?” Do you realize that when you read the words of the Scripture, you are hearing the voice of God in your life? Will you venture back to church on Sunday and give Jesus your undivided attention in the liturgy, songs, Scripture readings, and sermons? Do you give Jesus your ultimate attention during home devotions, or are you often just trying to get through them so you can get to bed or get on with dessert? Do you think even for a moment that, yes, God Himself is indeed listening to your prayers? So, to whom are you speaking? And to whom are listening? When it comes to your relationship with God, Jesus Christ is the answer to those very important questions.

So, let this “post-pandemic” moment be one where you focus more of your attention on the words of this Jesus, rather than the words of pietistic politicians or the vacuous words of entertainers, singers, and athletes, or even of the words of your own personal passions and common sense. Listen to Jesus. Take His words to heart, and then put them into practice. Receive Christ’s forgiveness, and, when He urges us to forgive, be forgiving. When he commands purity, it’s what we will strive for even though our friends may mock us for taking God’s Word so seriously. When Jesus promises to provide, we can show our trust in that promise by sharing our gifts with others. You can give Jesus your ultimate attention because He is more than a prophet. He is the Son of God and Your Savior. His very words are “spirit and are life” for you (John 6:63), words you can trust for all that really matters.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, Your words shine like light amidst the darkness. Please diffuse the chattering voices that seem to draw my attention away from You, and give me a hunger for Your voice, Your Word in my life. AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, JANUARY 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 1:14–15, where the Bible says,   

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

  


NOW IS THE TIME FOR FAITH!

 In a Charlie Brown cartoon, little brother Linus is looking very forlorn. He asks big sister Lucy, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?” Lucy, looking very self-righteous, replies, “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” Linus turns indignant. “What about your own faults?” he asks. “I have a knack for overlooking them,” says Lucy.

I think Lucy’s attitude is an endemic condition of the sinful human heart. What do you think? Be honest now. It is so easy to see the faults and sins of others, while virtually ignoring the enormous brokenness within ourselves. Human beings tend to judge themselves by their intentions, while judging others by their actions. We have a natural tendency to learn to live with our pet sins, while becoming extremely irritated and put off by the sins and weaknesses of others. Sin ravages our relationship with God, it devastates our relationships with others, and it destroys a healthy sense of ourselves. The Bible is clear, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). No cryogenic freezing, no DNA tinkering, and no long-term health program is going to reverse what starts in our rebellious hearts. 

Now is the time to realize the sobering news that God can’t and won’t overlook our sin. He’s holy; He cannot abide with sin. But He loves us and doesn’t wish for us to be ravaged eternally by our sin. Now is also the time to hear the even better news that God, out of love, has done something about our sinful, human condition. The good news is that, while “the wages of sin is death, …the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Gospel of Mark gets right to the point, doesn’t it? Of course, Jesus had to be born. But Mark doesn’t spend time retelling the birth of Jesus. Mark doesn’t even take time to talk about the early years of Jesus’ life. What matters in his account is the public ministry of this Jesus. What matters is that He has come to deal with the universal problem of the fallen human race. He has come to deal with our sin and the impending judgment of God. He has come to save.

That’s why the message of today’s reading remains as simple and multifaceted as, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Don’t be a “Lucy” who misses out on the good news of Jesus because you’re too busy telling yourself that you are just fine the way you are. On the other hand, don’t miss out on the good news because you think that you are too much of a lost cause for Jesus either. Jesus came for you, sins and all, to give you His gracious gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation. The question isn’t whether you are too terrible a sinner for His grace. The question is, “Is His grace powerful and all-encompassing enough to include you?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Sometimes we look in all the wrong places for healing from our brokenness. We look to self-help gurus, to smooth talking politicians, and even to athletic or societal “heroes.” Ironically, even as believers, we tend to underestimate what Christ has done and can do for us. I’m sure those first disciples had a hard time thinking that Jesus could do anything and everything, especially the really big things. I know that they would see Him still the storm, feed the hungry, and heal those with diseases. I know that they would see glimpses of His greatness. But then they would also see Jesus tired, hungry, and worn out on occasions. Eventually, they would even be confronted with Jesus willingly hanging on a cross, giving up His life for us. Little did they understand that the person dead on a cross was the almighty and eternal Son of God. But they would soon realize that Jesus of Nazareth, risen from the dead, was indeed the eternal Word of God who created the heavens and the earth, and who become flesh for us and for our salvation (see John 1:1-3, 14).

Jesus Himself calls you this very day to “repent and believe the good news!” Repent means “to turn around from the direction you are going.” Turn from living life on your terms, on those “Lucy” terms. Instead, be honest with yourself and open your eyes to this messiah named Jesus. Now is the time to believe in HIS good news for you, to put your trust for now and forever in the one who has come all the way from heaven to earth to be your Lord and Savior.  

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, let Your simple invitation to repent and believe in You move us to confident trust in You for our very lives, today and always! AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, JANUARY 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 passage is John 1:43-46, where the Bible says,  

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

 


COME AND SEE!


Someone once remarked that the medicine of modern life is experiencing the joy of not knowing where you’re going and the confidence of not knowing how to get there so that you can have the peace of not worrying about when you’ll arrive! Well, the God who became man in the Babe who was laid in a manger seeks to shake us from such doldrums in order to give us the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation on His terms alone.

That’s why the call to “come and see” in our text today is so powerful. To put one’s faith in Jesus is to believe in what He tells you, to go where He says to go, and to trust that where He takes you is where you need to be. That’s why Jesus is not merely a prophet. He’s not merely a teacher. He’s the world’s Savior. And it’s Him or no one else. He’s the antidote for ancient man and modern man. He’s all that and more. So, come and see for yourself!

That’s the message that Philip gave to his friend Nathaniel in our text for today. Philip’s invitation to Nathaniel, and Nathaniel’s encounter with Jesus would change his life forever. That’s the way it works when you meet the Savior of the world. When you meet Jesus on His terms, even your false, preconceived notions can’t get in the way. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”….“Come and see” (verse 46). Seeing the Christ of Scripture involves an encounter that moves us from modern banality and post-modern skepticism to being “surprised by joy.”

Surprised by Joy is the title of a book written by one of the most reluctant converts to Christianity in modern times. His name was C. S. Lewis. Yes, he’s the author of the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, just to name a few of his other works. But this eventual defender of the Christian faith to those with a “modern mind” was at first a reluctant convert. His friends kept challenging him to “come and see,” to read and get to know the Jesus of the Bible. That finally made the difference in his life. In his engagement with the Christ of Scripture, Lewis saw a Savior that didn’t wait for us, but, instead, came to us. He saw a Savior who came to people like Philip. Then, through Philip’s invitation, He came to people like Nathaniel too. On Christmas day, we all heard the message that Jesus came for us all. Lewis says this of his conversion to faith:

You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.[1]

I pray today that you have, through the words of the Bible, what Nathaniel received that day from Philip, an invitation to encounter Jesus. C. S. Lewis called such events "dangerous encounters.” He writes in Surprised by Joy,  

A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.[2]

The “unscrupulous” God of the heavens seeks you out today too. He comes to us through the words of the Bible. He comes to us through the witness of our Christian friends. He comes seeking to surprise us with His joy, to overwhelm us with His salvation, and to grant us His forgiveness, as well as a peace that passes all understanding. Yes, the Bible’s witness blows our minds concerning how gracious God is. So follow along with us these next few weeks as we see this Jesus even more clearly. Come and see for yourself, and believe in Him.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, we are a reluctant people today. We sit in judgment daily about how things should be on our terms. Bring us to repentance and give us a “come and see” attitude that only an encounter with You through Your word can satisfy. AMEN.

 

[1] C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, chapter XIV; https://gutenberg.ca/ebooks/lewiscs-surprisedbyjoy/lewiscs-surprisedbyjoy-01-h.html

[2] https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/conversion-story-of-c-s-lewis-9821

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, JANUARY 04, 2021

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 passage is Luke 2:41-50, where the Bible says,  

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions…. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 


 

WHAT ASTONISHES YOU?


Mary and Joseph, though faithful to all that God had told them about Jesus, they still had a hard time processing what it all meant. And who could blame this. There was no one in the world like Jesus. How could this “boy” be more than just their son? How could He be the one who was come to fulfill all of the prophesies of the Old Testament, of God’s answer of salvation for all people? How indeed. Christmas is the proclamation that God became man so that that mankind could be reconciled to God again. Mary and Joseph would be continuously astonished, sometimes shocked, but always “pondering,” wondering what He was all about.

This event at the festival of Passover in Jerusalem was one of those moments when they saw the twelve-year old Jesus give them a glimpse of what was to come. His knowledge of the things of God was way beyond His years. But His relationship to God the Father was already one of intimacy and obedience. Mary’s ponderings would include days like that emotional “annunciation moment” when she would learn that she would bear the Son of God. It would include days like this day in the temple. Later there would be struggles when her son seemed not to acknowledge her uniqueness saying, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it (Lk. 8:22).” In the end, she would ponder the moment at the foot of the cross seeing her son literally die for the work that He had come to do. If there is a message for today, it’s this…. With a pondering, “treasuring all these things in your heart” spirit, make sure that you get to know this Jesus. Why? because He will not only astonish you, He can save you. And, be careful not to overlook Him because in the world, there’s no one like Him for you.

That challenge reminds me of a story of a certain old recluse who lived deep in the mountains of Colorado, one whose relatives failed to get to know at their peril. When he died, those distant relatives came from the city to collect his valuables. Upon arriving, all they saw was an old shack with an outhouse beside it. Inside the shack, next to the rock fireplace, was an old cooking pot and his mining equipment. A cracked table with a three-legged chair stood guard by a tiny window, and a kerosene lamp served as the centerpiece for the table. In a dark corner of the little room was a dilapidated cot with a threadbare bedroll on it.

They picked up some of the old relics and started to leave. As they were driving away, an old friend of the recluse, on his mule, flagged them down. “Do you mind if I help myself to what’s left in my friend’s cabin?” he asked. “Go right ahead,” they replied. After all, they thought, what inside that shack could be worth anything?

The old friend entered the shack and walked directly over the table. He reached under it and lifted one of the floor boards. He then proceeded to take out all the gold his friend had discovered over the past 53 years – enough to have built a palace. The recluse died with only his good friend knowing his true worth. As the friend looked out of the little window and watched the cloud of dust behind the relative’s car disappear, he said, “They should have got to know him better.”[1]

Mary and Joseph were just beginning to come to grips with the “gold standard” that was Jesus, their son, also, the Son of God, the world’s Savior. We don’t know much about what happened to Joseph, as his storyline drops out quickly in the Gospels. But, the life of Mary follows that of Jesus even when she sees Him hanging on the cross for the sins of the world. Her story is one of tenacious investigation and faithful pondering culminating in an enduring trust in not merely her son, but the Son of God, the savior of the world. Make sure that you look closely at Him through the Scriptures. You’ll not just be astonished, you see the riches of God’s love and grace in Him, just for you.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give me an inquisitive mind this year to hunger to know you through your Word. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/2807/god-the-father-by-andrew-chan

IS THE UNITED STATES RELIGOUS?

Some say America is very religious.  Others say America is very secular.  Which is it?


Well, the USA is a very populous country, the third largest in the world (after China and India).  That means that simple binary conclusions about the American conclusion are likely to be misleading.

When it comes to religion, the best way to describe the nation overall is that we are remarkably balanced.  About one-third of Americans are religious; one-third are secularist; and one-third are somewhere in between.

Not only that, the trends are intensifying.  Americans are becoming more religious than they used to be.  And other Americans are becoming more secular than they used to be.  From that, I suppose we might conclude that the other Americans are becoming more lukewarm than they used to be.

Read more from Dr. Veith by clicking here.

Be Informed

See where your congressmen and senators rate with regard to the pro-life movement by checking out the Susan B. Anthony List Scorecard here.

Be Equipped

The Atlantic recently published an article positing that the nuclear family is a mistake. Help make the case for why the family matters by learning more about the topic.

Be Encouraged

“Every family is different. We all have baggage and dysfunction. The lines fall in different places. But it is possible to speak civility and to actually talk about things that matter because they matter. I am not here to cast stones. I know there is risk in speaking the truth to anyone who is caught up in his sin. But sometimes Dad needs to be told to turn off the football game and pay attention to his children, or Mom needs to be told that no one needs a third glass of wine, or your friend needs to be told that he is not being fair to his parents. If you love people, the risk is worth it. If we were talking about how to please customers because we want their money, how to win friends and influence people this would be a different conversation, but we are talking about how to live together in love according to God’s Word. We are talking about actually looking out for one another and we aren’t trying to manipulate each other. Who hasn’t been afraid of the outburst a drunk friend will make if you suggest that he not drive or that he will look judgmental? But at the same time, who wants to go to that friend’s funeral and face his widow having made no attempt at all to stop him? None of us. We don’t do this because we think we are better than others. We do it because we love others.” – Rev. David Petersen, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.

"WHOSE" CHILD?

Imagine a nursery in a large hospital. A dozen women have children, and these children are placed in a room together. The next day, you are scheduled to go home along with your child. Would it matter which child you brought home with you? If love makes a family, then biology should not matter.


And what about the child? Should it matter to her? Are there some bonds that are primary? Are there some relationships that take precedence over others? To whom do we owe our first allegiance? To God, of course. After that? Is it mom and dad or the state? To whom do our children belong?

When Obergefell was decided, everyone applauded. It was a wonderful time for all of us to declare our independence from all those who have gone before us. Now those who speak against gay marriage called bigots. But do we recognize what we lost? Including the idea that marriage has any inherent meaning. Including the loss of parental rights.

Throughout history, marriage has been orientated towards children. Sure, other things are involved, such as friendship, companionship, desire, and the like. But government offers no legal recognition of friendship. Why is that? Because only one relationship, that of one man and one woman, can produce a child. And that child has a reasonable right to be raised by her mother and her father too, even as a mom and dad very well expect to leave the hospital with their own biological child and not another.

Adoption is wondrous; it is a great way of bringing joy out of a difficult or sad situation. But it is not the ideal. The ideal is that a mother raise her child alongside that child's father. A kid needs both a mom and a dad. Might a child do ok with only a mom? Perhaps. But statistically, it does not work out well. Children without dad at home are statistically vulnerable in just about every category of human thriving: poverty, incarceration, mental stability, and all the rest. (This is no knock at all against a single mom; it is simply a recognition that a child longs for mom and dad and rightly so.)

But as marriage is no longer a thing, children have no such expectations. But, moms and dads, don't think that your position is safe. It works both ways. As natural law is denied, replaced by societal opinion, a child's right to a mom and dad is gone, and so also is your right, as a mom and dad, to think of your children as yours. What the government gives, the government can take away.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer is chairman and professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the M.A. program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Be Informed

As Christians, we know every baby, from the moment of conception, is valued and loved. But why are some people still touting population alarmism? Learn more from Glenn Stanton in a recent Issues, Etc. podcast.

Be Equipped

A record number of pro-life women are now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out the list!

Be Encouraged

“As Christ was dying on the cross, His followers were terrified, distraught, hopeless, helpless. They thought that God had abandoned Jesus, and them. But it was not so. The Father had abandoned Jesus to death for them. The greatest act in the history of the universe appeared to be the most pathetic, powerless and useless failure.”  - Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

ABORTION AND THE WILL TO POWER

Critical theorists see power and oppression everywhere.  Why don’t they see it in abortion?

My friend and former colleague Mark Mitchell has written a devastating piece for First Things entitled Perverse Freedom. Read it all, but here is an excerpt (my bolds):


The primary value behind the label “pro-choice” is the ability to will. My desires must be gratified, even at the expense of another. Friedrich Nietzsche, that prophet par excellence of our age, insisted that all of life is reducible to the will to power. This assertion that individual will is primary means considerations of justice or goodness or rightness must either fall away or be subsumed under “choice.” The absolute rightness of choice is thus elevated as the single and unimpeachable principle; if the essence of a human being is nothing other than the capacity to choose, this elevation is entirely reasonable. What is forgotten in the euphoria of choice is a helpless human being. Abortion advocates must either deny the humanity of the unborn (a position that is increasingly difficult to maintain) or bite the Nietzschean bullet and acknowledge that abortion is at its core the exercise of power—the strong eliminating those who impede their freedom.

Read more from Dr. Veith by clicking here.

Be Informed

“79 percent of Planned Parenthood's surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of black or Hispanic communities.” Its founder, Margaret Sanger, would be proud. Learn more about her horrifying beliefs here.  

Be Equipped

A recent study indicates a 50 percent increase on religious liberty intrusions around the world in the past year. Discover the four most disturbing trends with regard to religious liberty in 2020.

Be Encouraged

“As the Church, we are created to stand against evil. We are created to speak truth … and forgiveness. The truth is that abortion ends the life of a human being, and we should be unwavering in our opposition to it. But that is not the end of the story. We have been given the gift of Christ, and the power of Christ can wash our sins away.” –Rev. Troy Tysdal, Church of the Lutheran Brethren, www.lutheransforlife.org

DON'T GET READY. BE READY.

As I write this, we are bringing 2020 to a close, but there is no end in sight for the continuing tension between fellow Americans on the issue of religious liberty.   I am often asked if I am ready for the upcoming battles and challenges ahead and whether or not there were any victories in 2020.


A big victory was that the Department of Defense issued a revised instruction entitled, “Religious Liberty in the Military Services.” This updated policy is grounded in the Constitution and recognizes one of our first liberties is the free exercise of our religious faith and includes the men and women who selfless serve our nation in the military.  It emphasizes that service members have the right to observe the tenets of their religion and may not be used as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment. That’s a great victory for religious liberty. 

However, we still need to be ready and prepared for upcoming battles in 2021 where there are those who will continue to assault our God-given and Constitution-protected liberty to live out our faith.  Being prepared and being ready are always on the minds of our men and women serving so faithfully in the military. There is not a day that goes by that they are not training.  They must be ready at a moment’s notice to answer the call.  They don’t have time to “get ready.” They need to “be ready.” And to “be ready,” they train, train, and train some more.  

Pray that our LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces is always ready to defend religious liberty for all who wear the uniform of our nation.  We don’t know the future, but we do know that we live in a sin-sick world and that there will be those who try to infringe on our religious liberty.  In America we may not yet be hauled out of our places of worship, our homes, or our businesses by evil people who threaten our physical life, yet we do live in a “cancel” culture where people are losing their jobs, businesses, or positions simply for giving a defense of their faith and speaking out against issues that go contrary to their conscience and the Word of God. They want you to leave your faith at the door of the church and/or your home and not bring it out into the public square.

Please pray for wisdom and courage as we stand alongside our LCMS members serving in the military that we may encourage them and defend them against assaults on their religious liberty.   Please pray that we remain vigilant in our defense of religious liberty for those who sacrifice so much for all the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today. 

Finally, remind those whom you know who are currently serving in the military that they are in our prayers and they don’t have to leave their religious faith at home when they join the military.  We are here to help them.

The Rev. Craig G. Muehler is CAPT, CHC, USN, (Ret.) and director of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces.

Be Informed

Did you know that the New England Journal of Medicine is calling for the removal of sex from birth certificates? Learn more from Wesley Smith in a recent Issues, Etc. interview.

Be Equipped

The Hyde Amendment has saved some two million lives since 1976. Now some want to repeal it. 

Be Encouraged

“[T]the family is universal. Individuals meeting from different cultures do not have to explain to each other what a family is. The family lies at the quantum level of human society. Family life is deeply rooted in an area of mystery we do not fully understand. Like a tree, it is living, rooted, and nourished by the soil of the past and reaching up into the future. It is not manufactured. Although socially reinforced, it is not ‘socially constructed.’ It is a precious Gift.” –James M. Kushiner, The Fellowship of St. James, www.lutheransforlife.org

WHAT'S AHEAD IN THE NEW CONGRESS.

Perhaps the most consequential same-day, same-state-U.S. Senate elections of modern times will take place on January 5, 2021, in the state of Georgia. 



On that date, voters in a single state will determine whether the new 117th U.S. Senate will have a majority of Democrats or Republicans.  The race includes Sen. Kelly Loeffler versus Raphael Warnock and Sen. David Perdue versus Jon Ossoff.

Because the U.S. Constitution says whomever is Vice President of the United States is also President of the U.S. Senate, and therefore can vote if he or she chooses to, especially on highly-controversial matters, it is possible that the Democrats could improve their voting total to 50 votes if they win both Georgia races, giving them a clear-majority when Kamala Harris, a current U.S. Senator from California, becomes Vice President.

If the Republicans win only one of those two contested Georgia senate seats, they would have a majority of 51 seats; had Vice President Mike Pence retained his office, the GOP would have 52 votes.

The House of Representatives is controlled by the Democrats, but by the lowest margin since the early 2000s.

Here’s what all this means and why it is important. 

The best-case scenario for the Democrats would be to win both Georgia senate seats and have Kamala Harris become Vice President.

If a Senate dominated by Democrats decides to do away with the so-called filibuster – that is a fancy word for needing 60 votes to pass any important legislation – their likely wish-list of major new initiatives would make the new U.S. Senate the most consequential since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs were passed overwhelmingly in that upper legislative body in near-record time during the 1960s.

If the Democrats become the majority in the senate, and former Vice President Biden becomes the new President of the United States, here are the ten most important legislative proposals to watch for:

+   statehood proposals for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  This would give the Democratic Party a probable added four new seats in the U.S. Senate because both Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are overwhelmingly Democratic;

+   some version of graduated amnesty for millions of people who are living in the United States illegally.  This number could be as high as 15 million and as low as 11 million;

+   the end of the filibuster.  This voting-protocol has been a fundamental tool to give strong representation and input to the minority party; without it, and especially on all controversial matters, the majority opinion would always prevail.  This is decidedly not what our Founders wanted or envisioned;

+   the end of the Electoral College. The ramifications of ending the Electoral College are immense and would constitute one of the most radical changes in American history.  The Founders designed it as a stop-gap to allowing the largest states by population to have an outsize influence on the governing of the country. They were wise in its design. Abolishing the electoral college would be a mistake of enormous proportions;

+   creating a larger public option for health care in America.  What this would amount to would be the eventual abolition of private insurance and the building a single-payer health care system much like Western Europe’s socialized medical systems.  Most progressives see this as the logical next-step after ObamaCare;

+   the provision of monetary reparations for slavery. Many members of the present House and Senate favor this idea and are keen to begin its design and implementation;

+  major tax increases. Vice President Biden and Senator Harris, in their primary bids for the Democratic presidential nomination, and during their summer political convention, promised substantial increases in several sectors of American life totaling into the trillions of dollars;

+   codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law and abolishing the Hyde Amendment.  Democrats have long been uncomfortable with the possible chipping-away at the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision imposing abortion in all 50 states up to and including the ninth month of pregnancy.  Both Biden and Harris favor transforming the abortion decision into standing federal law. Similarly, the Hyde Amendment has banned federal funding of abortion successfully Congress after Congress.  The Democrats strongly favor taxpayer-funded abortion, and the toppling and ultimate repealing of Hyde is a major goal;

+   expanding the Supreme Court by up to three seats.  The U.S. Constitution does not mandate the number of justices, but the present nine-member model has been the standard for over a century.  Packing the court to add more liberal justices is an idea that Vice President Biden would strongly consider, and has promised to convene a new national advisory counsel likely to recommend new seats on America’s highest court;

+   voiding religious exemptions from various federal laws. Currently, the cornerstone protection of religious liberty and conscience protections at the federal level – congruent with the Constitution itself – are provisions in federal law that rightly give churches and religious institutions broad leeway.  Biden and Harris are uncomfortable with that latitude and, for instance, strongly favor punishing the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups by removing foundational protections.  We would see much more of that anti-Little Sisters model in a new senate; and finally,

+   elements of the Green New Deal would be proposed and enacted; as with most major environmental legislation, the ramifications for families and communities would be directive and burdensome.  Also, population control and mandates on suburban, exurban, and rural America would be an essential element of long-term environmentalism.  The vague nature of the Green New Deal is seen by its strongest proponents as a plus so that potential opponents or critics are kept in the dark until the last moment.

A sage once observed that “elections have consequences.”  Perhaps none as consequential as the pending 117 United States Congress depending on how those elections in Georgia transpire.

Timothy S. Goeglein is vice president of External and Government Relations for Focus on the Family, Washington, D.C.

Be Informed

Identity politics are popping up everywhere, even at places like the Smithsonian Museum. Learn more from Joy Pullman in a recent Issues, Etc. interview.

 

Be Equipped

Did you know that Planned Parenthood aborted some 1,500 babies each day in 2018? The numbers from their annual reports will horrify you. Click here to read more.

 

Be Encouraged

“As this New Year begins and you make resolutions of things to do for yourself, consider ways in which you could spend one hour a week helping someone in need—at a crisis pregnancy center, a hospice house, a nursing home, etc.” –Rev. Scott Licht, National Director of Lutherans For Life, www.lutheransforlife.org