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Archives 2021

Archives 2021 (44)

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MAY 24, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are portions of Acts 2 where the Bible tells of these events on the first Pentecost Day: 

 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”….. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:….21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MAY 17, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are John 17:11b and 15-17 where Jesus prays these words:   

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. ….15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

 

We Lutherans speak quite a bit about the second use of the Law (as a mirror) and the third use of the Law (as a guide), but we also need to reflect on the first use of the Law (as a curb).

Without the first use of the Law — as manifested in our conscience, social inhibitions, parental authority and earthly governments — we sinners would tear each other apart, making any kind of cohesive society impossible.

Religion and politics

One of the cherished notions that typically guides the lives of Americans is that politics and religion do not mix. Of course, there are some areas of overlap that Americans accept and even expect, like a prayer at a presidential inauguration or candidates ending speeches with “God bless America.” But, on the whole, it is taken for granted that there needs to be a clear distinction or even a wall of separation between church and state. People do not want the government telling them what to believe about God, and they do not want the church telling them how to vote. Actually, they do not want anyone telling them how to vote.

The same party spirit that infects public discourse also threatens to inject its poison into our families and congregations. This is a spiritual battle that requires spiritual weapons. Abandoning the field is not a response of faith and love.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MAY 31, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is John 3:16 where Jesus says, 

God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

 

Vocation of Citizenship

Vocation means far more than “what I do for a living.” According to Luther, Christians have multiple vocations or callings. God calls us to live out our faith in the various estates that He has designed for human life. These estates are the household (including the family and its economic life), the church (the household of faith) and the state (the society and its government). 

This means Christians have a vocation of citizenship. In the turmoil and controversies of an election year, we would do well to consider what that entails. 

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MAY 10, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are John 15:16-17, where Jesus says,  

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

 

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE?


In All’s Well that Ends Well, William Shakespeare wrote, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” The Beatles remind us of the same idea in their song, “All You Need Is Love.” But is it really that easy? If love is all we need, if love alone matters, and if love works, then what’s the problem? Why are we as a country at each other’s throats? Why are divorce rates so high? Why are many people not even getting married at all? Why are children growing up in increasingly broken homes? Why aren’t people loving each other if that is all we need to do? Good question.

One of the problems today is our sinfully, flawed understanding of “love” and our unwillingness to accept that repentance and forgiveness are part of true love. More and more, people don’t seek to love others on God’s terms. They attempt to love others on their own terms. They love what they like. They give love back to those who satisfy or bring them pleasure. We are also immersed in a sinfully and self-centered culture which demands, “Love who I am and love what I do, whatever I do, and if you think what I do is wrong, or even if I know what I’m doing is wrong, love me anyway.” In fact, there’s an emptiness to any view of love without God, no matter how fervently we strive for it.

When Jesus gives us his command to “love each other,” He meant it on His terms. His love is a “self-sacrificing,” eternal love rooted in the very nature of God himself. God’s love is perfectly embodied in the person and work of Jesus Christ as our Savior. In 1st John 3:16, the Bible describes love this way: “This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” And the Christian is then called to love others the way that God in Christ loves us. What a way to live. What a way to love!

Think about what believers have at our disposal. We have God’s love in Christ as a gift received by grace through faith. We have a different motivation for how to live. We live and love others as Christ has loved us. We even have a different purpose or challenge for our lives. We seek to love others in order to show them that we are disciples of the very one who, out of love, lived, died, and rose again for us all. That love, in reality, is all we need.

The glorious Christian life then consists of reflecting Jesus’ love in ways that may not appear “glorious” on the surface. For example, it is mothers and fathers loving each other, loving and leading their children. It’s children honoring their parents. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. It’s rulers governing virtuously and honorably. It’s loving others with no regard for anything in return. Why? Because that’s how Jesus loves us. Imagine how things would change if such a love was unleashed anew in our lives, in our neighborhoods, and in our world. What a way to live and what a way to love, indeed and in deeds!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You calling me to repentance, for seeing my lack of love and my emptiness without You, so that I can be filled with Your love and life forever. Give me strength to avoid the temptation of trying to go it on my own. Instead, in Your love, make me into all You have created and redeemed me to be by grace through faith. AMEN.

WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MAY 03, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are John 15:5–8, where Jesus says,  

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

THE FRUIT-PRODUCING POWER OF FAITH IN CHRIST FOR LIFE!

 

Many people come to Washington D.C. because they want to make a difference. They want their lives to matter, to mean something. Who doesn’t? Unfortunately, politics tends to promise what it can’t deliver. In fact, a truly meaningful life is more than politics, more than the accumulation of wealth or influence, and more than one’s vocational skills and abilities can produce. Ironically, the key to a purposeful life isn’t primarily about your works at all. It’s not about “who” you are or what you do, but about “whose” you are. Jesus reminds us that He is the Vine, the source for real, lasting life. We are like branches. To really live means to be connected to the power, the perspective, and the purpose for which the very God of heaven created and redeemed you. Purposeful, meaningful life depends on being connected to Jesus through the power of His Word and the gift-giving grace of His sacraments. Disconnected from Him, even our best efforts amount to nothing in the end.

Being connected to Jesus by grace through faith changes everything. Wow! In my 33 years of ministry, I’ve seen the power of the Gospel change lives. One of the most radical transformations that I’ve witnessed involves that of the inmates in Angola Prison. You can read about it in the book, Cain’s Redemption: A Story of Hope and Transformation in America’s Bloodiest Prison.[1] But even more personal to me was the testimony of one of the inmates himself. “John” was one of the first inmates who became a pastor inside the prison. That was Warden Cain’s miracle. He brought the Gospel inside the prison and allowed its transforming power to change the lives of inmates who became students of the Word who then eventually changed the prison itself. What was once the bloodiest place in the country changed radically through transformed-transformers serving their fellow inmates.

The “fruit-producing” power of faith came to Angola Prison in a very deliberate way. It didn't come just through an occasional visiting preacher or teacher. It didn't come through “hit and miss” connections to the Word of God. No, it came in the form of intense study of the Bible, a four-year, in-depth seminary degree behind bars for prisoners who earned the right to study GOD'S WORD. These men started abiding in Christ, really digging into His LIFE-GIVING WORD, and things changed. It wasn't just repentance and forgiveness for their sake alone. It was changed lives that stopped “taking” and started “giving back” in service to others in the way of Christ, EVEN BEHIND BARS.

 

[1] https://www.moodypublishers.com/cains-redemption/

 

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is John 10:10 where Jesus says, 

“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come to give you life and to give it to you abundantly.”  

 


SO WHAT MAKES A LIFE WORTH LIVING?

 

The following saying is often wrongly attributed to G.K. Chesterton: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” He actually said that if we stop believing in God we lose our common sense.[1]  For many, that’s that same thing. When you deny the one who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) and who calls Himself the “Good Shepherd” (John 11:11), you don’t replace Him with nothing; you tend to replace Him with the most absurd “other things.”

Absurd replacements seem to be the order of the day, don’t they? No longer do we talk about sin and repentance, grace and mercy, or honor and virtue. They’ve been replaced with so much absurdity in this world which is passed off as wisdom. In Washington D.C., they become slogans, causes for marches, and even policies. We are told that sex unconstrained, just for fun and outside of marriage, is the way of progress. Yet our broken marriages, our abuses of one another, and our callousness toward each other say otherwise. We are told that honoring our fathers and our mothers, as well as esteeming others in authority, is the way of the past. Yet the present dishonoring, even to the point of “cancel culture,” is producing more vitriol and violence than ever before. But the worst of the absurdities of today is the belief that we can replace the power of faith in God and His love for us in Jesus Christ with trust in ourselves, our technology, and our “progress,” with no honest assessment of the consequences.

In the face of such absurdities, Jesus’ words are straight and to the point. He lays it on the line in John 10. He talks of himself as the Good Shepherd, the one who comes to give life and salvation to His sheep (see John 10:11, 14, 27-28).  But here’s the rub. For Him to be our Shepherd, we’ve got to be honest about the fact that we are like sheep in need of a shepherd. Let that sink in for a moment. Better, let that humble attitude of repentance be yours today. Don’t let the purveyors of absurdities steal that opportunity from you. For faith in Jesus Christ opens you up to the one who loves you with an everlasting love, who desires for you to become the person that He created and redeemed you to be. Repentance and faith, being right with God on God’s terms, serve as the foundation of abundant life, now and forever. As forgiven sinners, life then becomes a daily walk of grace that culminates in eternity. Faith in Him makes life worth living for you. Think it through for a minute. In Christ, God the Father wants you to be all that He created and redeemed to be, now and forever. Let the Good Shepherd save you, direct you, and lead you. That will be an adventure, and an abundant life that never ends. Here’s to life in His name FOR YOU!

.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your willingness to confront me with the reality that I need You for my life and salvation. Like sheep who know their shepherd’s voice, give me the kind of faith that listens and follows your every Word. AMEN.

 

[1] http://thefederalist.com/2014/05/06/the-seven-most-popular-g-k-chesterton-quotes-he-never-said/

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are Luke 24:29b-35, where the Bible tells of these events after Jesus had walked to Emmaus with two of His followers on the evening of His resurrection:    

So, [Jesus] went in to stay with them. 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

 


WHAT FIRES BURN IN YOUR HEART TODAY?


What a Bible study it must have been that day! On the road to Emmaus, Jesus ROOTED those disciples in the firm promises of the Bible that had come to fruition in Him. Even more, Jesus set their hearts on fire by anchoring their faith in Him in all things (verse 32). That’s a fire which comes from God’s love and grace through faith in the Son of God. It comes from knowing that God’s OFFER OF LIFE AND SALVATION IN JESUS BURNS, BUT DOES NOT DESTROY. INSTEAD IT EMPOWERS US AND SETS OUR LIVES ON FIRE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BOTH NOW AND IN OUR ETERNITY WITH HIM.

In my work in Washington D.C., I see a lot of passion around town. There are people who are passionate for this policy or that legislation. There are people who think that if we just “restructure” the government correctly, then all of our problems would be solved. (That’s definitely not me!) Then there are people who are passionate about their jobs, their hobbies, or their families. These can all be good, but they must never be the ULTIMATE THING in our lives. Passion, even for the good things in life, must be rooted in the fire that comes by faith in Jesus. Then the fire of our Spirit-inspired passions, rooted in and refreshed by God’s Word and Sacraments, will not devour us. Instead, they will “burn” in us in a way that empowers our lives as Jesus’ disciples and fuels our love for others in His Name.

Jesus speaks bluntly about the things that naturally burn in our corrupted, selfish, and sinful hearts. “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Matthew 15:19-20). Even worse, such fires can blind us to the love that God has for us in Jesus. They can blind us to the wisdom of God’s Word for our lives and for the lives of those whom we love. The passionate fires of sin and rebellion may seem fulfilling for a time, but those which go contrary to His Word only seek to disconnect us from Jesus and ultimately destroy life.

If you have been singed by those fires or if they are burning out of your control in your life today, hear the good news of this text. Even amidst the fires of hopelessness, ignorance, or unbelief, Jesus comes with the fires of God’s Law to call you to repentance and then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to open your heart to His grace, forgiveness, life, and salvation, even delivering such gifts to you at the table of His Supper. Then the fire of God’s Gospel promise in Christ burns brightly to help you battle the fires of sin and temptation in your life.

So the question posed by this text today is, “What makes your heart burn?” When it’s the Word of Scripture seeking to deepen your faith in your Savior Jesus Christ, that’s an empowering fire, not a devouring one. When life is continually resourced by the fires of God’s Word in the enduring promises of the waters of Baptism and at the Table of the Lord, that’s a heavenly heartburn which offers grace through faith in Jesus. It is sure to not only bless you, but to bless others through you. May that blessing be yours today in Christ as it was for those who walked with Him so long ago and recognized Him in the “breaking of the Bread” (verse 35).

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the empowering fire of Your Word as it creates and strengthens my faith in You. Then give me courage to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) with the passion and the humility that comes from receiving the blessings of Your Word by grace through faith. AMEN.

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 reading is from John 20:28-29, where the Bible reports this interaction between the risen Lord Jesus and his disciple Thomas:   

Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 


BELIEVING IS TRULY SEEING!

Is seeing believing? Or are there things that are very real, even very true, that we cannot see with our eyes? Our garage doors open by unseen forces at the touch of a button. We put our food and drinks into little rectangular devices and hit the button believing that, absent a heating element or a flame of any sort, microwaves will make our food or beverages piping hot. Even the most empirical of scientists has things which he/she believes long before they are tested or visible to human eyes. One could make the case that observable science, the very scientific method we cherish today, was based on a belief that God had created and ordered the world in such a way that it could be tested, and its laws could be counted on. You might say that even the empirical scientist has to believe in certain things before he/she could really see them.

Faith in God is a bit like that. It’s not that faith in God is totally absent of data or information. But there are aspects to faith that are beyond our control. We are the creature; He is the creator. He is the Redeemer; we are the redeemed. Yet faith in the God of the Bible is not merely an academic exercise. Faith begins to help us see the big picture of our lives here, and our lives eternally. In a paper delivered at the Oxford Socratic Club, C.S. Lewis remarked: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1] The Founding Fathers of America believed in liberty because they believed that God had created humanity for such a life. With that faith, they began to structure a government that would honor such freedom. In many of the fundamental questions of life, “Believing is seeing!”

The tension between “seeing is believing” and “believing is seeing” permeates our lesson for today. The text is about “Doubting Thomas” finally seeing Jesus as his living Savior. But it took the risen Jesus presenting the very wounds of His crucifixion in order to engender such faith. But who was this Thomas character? What was he really like? Was he the skeptic that many claim him to be? Was he the pessimist? The doubter? Well, if he was, he was also tough, tenacious, and no wilting violet. When Jesus was going to journey into dangerous territory, Thomas didn’t shrink back. Instead, he declared, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). But it’s also true that he was confused and distraught over Jesus’ crucifixion. If someone tried to console him by claiming that Jesus didn’t really die, he wasn’t going to have any of that. He saw it, he felt it, He was overwhelmed by it, and no amount of wishful thinking would change that.

What he forgot was that the “believing is seeing” attitude of the Christian doesn’t work because of our inherent power or our wishful thinking. It works because God’s promises are always true. God’s promises always come to fruition. YES, in His time and in His way, but they always come true because He is trustworthy and true.

Maybe Thomas did you and me a favor. He wasn’t going to let our wishful thinking be the foundation of faith. He wanted the fulfilled Word of Christ to be evident for all to see, even if he had to look a bit foolish for that to happen. In this Easter season, take a step back from the cultural craziness of our world, the rat race of your job, and your desires to make life what you wish it to be. Then try to see the big picture of your life with God in Christ. Because He has risen, your life is redeemed, it is eternal, and it also has purpose now. If your life doesn’t look like that at the moment, why not take Christ’s word for it first and foremost? Begin to live in that resurrection reality, that eternal blessing right here and now. Then put the power of “seeing is believing” to work by reading and trusting in the Word of Jesus, the resurrected one who did all of this for people like Doubting Thomas, and for people like you and me.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, teach us to see the depth of Your mercy for us, so that we might live faithful lives of grace and mercy to others. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Christianity_Makes_Sense_of_the_World

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, where the Bible says,  

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.


CHRIST’S RESURRECTION – REAL HOPE FOR YOUR LIFE TODAY AND FOREVER!


Jesus is risen; He is risen indeed! But there’s even more good news for those who believe in Him. He clearly says, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). Wow! What a statement. In the midst of pandemic lockdowns, fear, and the growing cultural pressures to jettison biblical truth for public acceptance, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus call all people to an everlasting life of repentance and faith that the world can never take away. It calls believers to a confident hope that comes from knowing that even death itself has been conquered by the one who created and redeemed us.

Is all that merely wishful thinking or some “hope against hope” mentality? No way! In our reading, St. Paul calls Jesus Christ the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep. His resurrection is God’s down-payment of lasting hope for all who put their trust in Him. That’s a statement for you. That’s a truth that will transform your life. It will give you peace in the middle of the storms of life, courage in the chaos, and wisdom in the midst of the trials and travails of this world caused by sin and the brokenness of humanity. But, even more, it gives us a hope that endures because it impresses on our hearts and minds the truth that Jesus will have the last say in our lives. The fact that He is our risen, ascended, reigning, and returning Savior provides the ultimate good news and an enduring hope.

When we have hope that is based on God’s action in our world and in our lives, it gives us the confidence and strength to face our future whatever may come. For many Christians around the world every Easter morning begins with the responsive greeting, “He is risen!”  “He is risen indeed!” Those words are more than sentiment or wishful thinking. Those words are rooted in Christ’s victory over death and His promise for our future. You might say that Jesus has the capacity, the tenacity, and the veracity to bring those promises to fruition!

This reminds me of a story that I’ve told many times before. A self-made millionaire named Eugene Land gave real hope to the lives of 61 students in the sixth-grade class of a school in East Harlem.[1] He was trying to inspire them to stay in school and get an education because an education was the first step for them to get out of poverty and make a life for themselves in this world. The odds were that most of the kids in that class wouldn’t even finish high school. But that day Land did something radical. He set aside his prepared speech, looked the students in the eye and promised, “Stay in school and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.” Land had the capacity, tenacity, and veracity to fulfill what he promised. That promise built hope in each student’s heart. Can you imagine their surprise? Can you imagine how they talked with their parents that night? Here’s a statistic for you: nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school. Why? Because college was no longer wishful thinking. It was a hope built on a promise from one who could make it happen for them.

Today you have something much more important. You have a solid and eternal hope available to you because the very Savior of the world makes you this promise: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). So set your mind anew on His things, on the things above (Colossians 3:1). Pandemics, political strife, social chaos, sexual confusion, cultural vulgarity, and even libertine emptiness are all symptoms and/or consequences of sinful humanity’s “wishful” thinking that life can exist without God. You know better. Life is to be a joyful, abundant exercise of grace through faith in Jesus which is lived out boldly for the sake of our neighbors, friends, strangers, and even our enemies. Put that hope to work in your life. Put the power of Christ’s resurrection and His promise of your resurrection to work. They give you the strength and courage to trust Him and to follow wherever He leads. He is risen, and you will be raised too. A blessed Easter to you all!

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for the work of Your life, death, and resurrection; these are Your actions in history so that all might be saved. May they give all who put their trust in You an abundant life now and the assurance of hope for everlasting life. AMEN.

 

[1] https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-03-25-mn-244-story.html

If You, o Lord, Should Mark Iniquities, O Lord, Who Could Stand? But with You There Is Forgiveness

by Peter Scaer

So sings the psalmist in Psalm 130. So sing the Christians. But the cancel culture doesn't know the words or the melody, does not know how to sing in the key of life. We all have flaws aplenty, and we should not take them lightly. They may manifest themselves as character defects, dark propensities, resulting in actions for which we have no defense, words that should never have been said.

In a kind of paraphrase of Psalm 130, Luther wrote "From Depths of Woe I Cry to You." Here's the first stanza.

From depths of woe I cry to Thee,

In trial and tribulation;

Bend down Thy gracious ear to me,

Lord, hear my supplication.

If Thou rememb’rest ev’ry sin,

Who then could heaven ever win

Or stand before Thy presence?


So it is, none of us can boasting stand, for all have shunned God's good commands, and we must live by mercy, mercy that came at a great price. And so the psalmist looks forward to the day when the Lord would redeem us from our iniquities. That is, when the Lord would pay the price for our sin. God's Son would fulfill the law actively and perfectly, overcoming all temptations and performing every good deed. God's Son would fulfill the law passively, suffering the punishments we have so richly deserved.

On the road to Damascus, Saul was thrown off his high horse, and that sort of thing is good for us all. As soon as I call out the sin of others, I call out my own. That doesn’t mean we shouldn't call out sin. After all, what we do harms others. But it means we should recognize we are all in this together. We have all sinned, and Christ has died for us all. Our Lord is not keeping score. He demands justice, but he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. When he speaks of hell, he does so as a warning, so that we need not go there.

So today, it's Winston Churchill. Yesterday, it was Dr. Seuss. The day before it was the founding fathers, a celebrity who tweeted in way that offends, a professor who held an unpopular view, a journalist who write the wrong thing, a sports commentator who said the wrong thing. And it doesn't matter what great things that man or woman has accomplished. What matters is the wart on that one lone place where we think our own skin in unblemished. What matters if that one weakness in a category where we view ourselves strong. It's like accusing Shakespeare of not being a great painter, or the Beatles as not being great athletes. Better yet, it's like accusing Isaac Newton of being unaware of the theory of relativity, or being disappointed in Marco Polo for not journeying to the moon, or saying Alexander the Great's army would be overwhelmed by our drones and missiles.

Well, no. It's worse than that. It's criticism coming from a people who knows nothing of poetry, art, music, or athleticism (except of course for the athletes' commitment to social justice, and their new salary.) It's criticism coming from people who may be literate, but may have never read, or even be able to read, the great authors who have come before them. At its heart it is life of criticizing others, a life without gratitude, a life of unfounded pride.

The cancel culture is about self-justification, about putting people down so that we can raise ourselves up. But it just makes us petty and vindictive. But there is a better path, and that is of humility, to follow the way of the one who washed his disciples' feet, who came in lowly riding on a donkey, who gave himself up to the shame and pain of the cross to redeem the likes of us. O Lord, if you kept a record of sin, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness. And having been forgiven, we can and must forgive, and in doing so, we begin to sing in the key of life.

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

Have you seen the movie “Roe v. Wade”? Learn more from Dr. Michael New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

 

Be Equipped

A federal appeals court just ruled that University of Iowa officials who kicked a student club off campus because of its faith can be held personally accountable for the harm they caused.” The Wall Street Journal explains.

 

Be Encouraged

 

“Death is the one thing no Christian has to do on his or her own. Jesus has already been through suffering and death before us. He knows the way through death and the way back to life, too. Our friends and family cannot go with us—but Jesus can. He will never let go of our hands. And He will bring us back to life with Him because He has promised, and He will never lie.” –Dr. Kari Vo, Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

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Comfortable in Your Own Skin

by Peter Scaer

That used to be the goal. Maybe it still is. But I think it's especially confusing for women. The mixed messages are everywhere. On the one hand, photoshopped pictures fill the Internet. Models maintain their seemingly impossibly beauty well into what we used to call old age. Hair stylists, make-up artists, not to mention fitness trainers, serious dieting, and even plastic surgery go a long way in promoting a certain image. And, yes, again, the photoshop. On the other hand, there is Ashley Graham, and the emergence of plus size models, not to mention the kind of relatable female figures we might see with Oprah, Rachel Ray, or Kelly Clarkson.

Maybe we can all agree that what we want is for everyone to be comfortable with who they are. Not comfortable in their own sin, which is a false version of this, but comfortable in their own skin.


It's not easy being a boy or girl these days. But, now, let's think about the girls. Read Abigail Shrier's book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. It has become a crisis. Young women, not comfortable in their bodies, are too often at sea, blown about by our schizophrenic cultural winds, not knowing where they fit in. For young people, we do best to counsel patience. So many are worried what they will be when they grow up, what will they do for a living. To this we say, not to worry. Work hard. Develop the talents that have been given you. Yes, develop healthy habits, ones that will load the dice in your favor. Remain chaste, we do well to add. But it will work out in the end. Give it time.

But we are doing the exact opposite with our girls and boys too. A girl feels a bit boyish, maybe like what we used to call a tomboy, maybe a misfit. Instead of becoming comfortable in their own body, we go along with the lie that she can be made comfortable in a wholly different body, the body of a man, as if that were possible.

But instead of letting a young girl find her way, grow into her own skin, we begin with the stereotypical clothes (for a reverse example, think of Bruce Jenner wearing a dress, lipstick and pearls), followed by puberty blockers. Think about that. Talk about a solution worse than the problem! Leaving our children into a perpetual land of Peter Pan. That is followed by hormone treatment, the second permanently damaging treatment, followed, if this course has been run, by surgical mutilation, the cutting off of healthy breasts. It's all horrific, and in the generations to come, they will marvel at the darkness of our minds.

What needs to happen? Things we already know. We must be patient with our children, encouraging them. There is so much pressure to be special, and supposed gender transition has a certain social cachet. When you are young, you can't possibly see the big picture. Who among us hasn't felt awkward, hasn't felt like we don't belong? But with time, come to know who we are. Like an artist or singer finding his own voice.

Here is the big lie, the thing they are not telling us. Some 90 percent of confused kids, kids suffering from gender dysphoria, kids who don't feel comfortable in their bodies, will indeed become so, if only they are allowed to grow up. And a little patience and love helps. It's ok of the girl does boy things, or the boy does things society may call effeminate. Be kind. Why in a world of supposed diversity do we not recognize that the real range of variance is not with 52 genders, but with the various ways that a man or a woman will express him or herself as a man or a woman. It's great to have a girl who likes to split wood, and it's great to have a man who knows how to sew. It's the transgender movement that preys on such stereotypes, not us.

Oh, patience, people. For our children's sake. Let them find their way, in their own bodies, without the lie of transition, without the barbarity of surgical mutilation, without cocktail of drugs necessary to sustain the illusion. What a cruel world we live in, where manipulation masquerades as kindness. The body you have is wonderful. It's you. So exercise, eat right, and all the rest. We all feel better when we do. But let's stop the madness. Our kids need us.

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

Discover why “Religious persecution abroad reminds us why religious liberty matters.”

Be Equipped

Transgender issues are life issues. Learn why Christians can’t confirm transgenderism from Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family.

Be Encouraged

“Hang on to Jesus, my dear friend. In Him and Him alone is true life—both now and forever. Though God’s work in the world may be hard to understand sometimes, we rejoice and celebrate as we look forward to all that He has in store for us.” –Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffman, The Lutheran Hour

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

Biden’s Executive Orders

by David Cox

President Joe Biden had barely taken the oath of office on Jan. 20 before he began signing executive orders and presidential memorandums, some of which should be deeply troubling to Christians.


The president signed a record number of orders, many of them reversing policies of the Trump administration on such issues as immigration, climate change and the coronavirus. Before the sun set on his first day in office, Biden had signed 17 executive orders, presidential memorandums and proclamations, and by Jan. 31, he had signed 39. No previous president signed nearly as many in such a short time span; the number of executive orders alone is more than his four most recent predecessors combined in the same period of their presidencies.

At least two of the orders are of particular concern to people of faith. One requires schools to allow biological males to compete against females in sports and opens up women’s restrooms and locker rooms to biological males. The other restores U.S. funding of abortions on foreign soil.

Funding foreign abortions

The Mexico City Policy, which denied U.S. funds to international organizations that provide abortion services, came into being under President Ronald Reagan in 1985. Under the policy, foreign non-governmental organizations that received American taxpayer funding had to certify that they did not “perform or actively promote abortions as a method of family planning.” Not only was this the morally right thing to do, it reflected the will of the people; a large majority of Americans oppose federal funding of abortions, whether in the U.S. or abroad.

Since then, every Democrat president — Clinton, Obama and Biden — has repealed the policy, and both Republican presidents — Bush and Trump — restored it.

Biden’s order rescinding the Mexico City Policy, under the disingenuous title “Memorandum on Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad,” states that the policy “made it harder for women to obtain necessary healthcare.” The order does nothing to protect women’s health. Abortion is not health care, not for the women seeking abortions, and certainly not for the children in their wombs, half of whom are female.

Biden’s order said the policy of the previous administration “imposes … onerous requirements on abortion providers.” On the contrary, the policy imposed no requirements on overseas abortion providers; the U.S. does not have such authority. The policy merely prevented American taxpayer funding of overseas abortion providers.

The order also said the Mexico City Policy “undermine[d] the United States’ efforts to advance gender equality globally” — an ironic assertion, since many abortions around the world are performed for sex selection, which disproportionately destroys females.

Many of Biden’s fellow Catholics condemned the order. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, “It is grievous that one of President Biden’s first official acts actively promotes the destruction of human lives.”

Nothing in Biden’s order references the children in the womb; it treats abortion as a medical procedure that affects only the pregnant women. But the preborn are still human beings, created by God in His image, each one unique. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13).

New transgender territory

If the Mexico City Policy tug-of-war is nothing new after 35 years, the transgender order is breaking new ground.

The “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” states: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

The innocuous-sounding statement has broad-reaching implications, recognized by both supporters, who celebrated it, and opponents, who fear it will destroy female sports in allowing biological males to compete against females. The order also threatens the privacy of females by allowing biological males into their restrooms and locker rooms.

Contrary to the assertion of transgender apologists, hormone therapy does not level the playing field, taking away any advantage a biological male has over females in sports. A British Journal of Sports medicine study found that men transitioning to female still have a biological advantage after a year on hormone therapy. Such studies are hardly needed to prove what has become obvious to anyone following the news: Transgender women are competing, winning and setting records in women’s athletics. This occurs in high school and college, as well as professional sports. And it could render women’s competition in the Olympics meaningless as the fastest, strongest and most skilled biological females, who have trained for years and would otherwise win competitions and set records, lose to trans females with the physical differences that come with a Y chromosome.

Women who have long fought for a place on the field and court through Title IX and other initiatives view this as a devastating setback that, if allowed to stand, will turn back the pages on women’s athletics.

Biden signed a companion executive order that reversed the Trump administration’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. The order not only allows those who have already transitioned to a different sex to serve but directs the Pentagon to establish “a process by which transgender service members may transition gender while serving.”

Biden’s order said a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the condition of psychologically identifying as the opposite of one’s biological sex, is not a medically valid reason to exclude someone from military service or limit one’s access to medically necessary care. That care includes sex-change surgery, funded by taxpayers. Some have voiced concern that the policy will attract recruits who join for the express purpose of receiving gender-reassignment treatment at taxpayer expense.

Prior to the Trump ban, the Pentagon had already implemented a policy to provide hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to active-duty service members when military doctors determined it was necessary to treat patients’ gender dysphoria. Biden’s order restores that policy.

God’s Word does not change to keep up with social fashion. In His earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed the creation of just two genders, male and female: “[Jesus said,] ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?’” (Matt. 19:4). There is no ambiguity, no one is created biologically one sex and psychologically the other.

Christians should approach the issue in love and humility, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1).

That won’t be easy in the current atmosphere. The implications of the president’s executive orders could be far-reaching, hampering the ability of faith-based schools and organizations, as well as military chaplains, to carry out their work. But they do not hinder God’s ability to act in and through His children.

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. The article was first published in and is reprinted here with the permission of The Lutheran Witness.

Be Informed

Hear the story of Deaconess Tiffany Manor, executive director of LCMS Life Ministry, explain her conversion from being pro-choice to pro-life in a recent Issues, Etc. podcast.

 Be Equipped

Is your church protected from religious liberty threats? Click here to learn more!

  Be Encouraged

 While it doesn’t require a Christian to defend life, our unique Christian perspective is this . . . message: God in Christ took up human flesh for all humans and died His atoning death to redeem every life. Just as this universal atonement leads us to proclaim His salvation to everyone, so it leads us to look compassionately on every human life knowing Christ has died for that life.” – Rev. Sean Daenzer, director of Worship, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

A Word on the Equality Act

By Matthew C. Harrison

The words of the apostle Peter apply to us now:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1 Peter 1:3–8)


 

The church’s task is not political. It is the proclamation of the Gospel of free salvation in the cross and resurrection of Jesus for all (1 Cor. 1:23; John 18:36). “The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered” (AC VII 1).1


God rules His church by His infallible Word, the Holy Scriptures (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:15–16). God rules the state by His eternal law, reason and reasonable laws for the common welfare. “Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God” (AC XVI 1; see Rom. 13:1–7). The church should not meddle in government affairs, especially in matters upon which the Word of God is silent. It is also wrong when governments act against God’s eternal law, reason and the basic civil rights of all people. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enshrines this truth. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


Throughout history, governments have acted unjustly — sometimes in the name of race, atheism, communism, religion and even Christianity — and curtailed or denied the rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion. And governments continue to do so. Our Lutheran and biblical confession is that “it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws. The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)” (AC XVI 6–7; see 1 Peter 2:13–14).


St. Paul made use of his legal right as a Roman citizen (“I appeal to Caesar” Acts 25:11). “Christ’s kingdom allows us outwardly to use legitimate political ordinances of every nation in which we live, just as it allows us to use medicine or the art of building, or food, drink, and air” (Ap XVI 54). Our Lutheran Confessions commend the seeking of public remedy for injustice. “Public remedy, made through the office of the public official, is not condemned, but is commanded and is God’s work, according to Paul (Romans 13)” (Ap XVI 59). Our God-given right to act as citizens is very important, especially now.
The Equality Act is before Congress.2 It sounds innocent. All Americans should enjoy equality and the protections of the U.S. Constitution. But in elevating sexual orientation to a protected class, the Equality Act will bring sweeping changes to current laws, to the great detriment of the religious and constitutional freedoms of biblically faithful churches, institutions, Christian schools and individuals.
Jesus referred to Genesis 2:24, when He stated:

 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:4–6)

 In fact, those churches and institutions that are bound by the Word of God to the truth of marriage between a man and a woman, and that sex outside of that institution is contrary to the word of Christ and the apostles in the New Testament (1 Cor. 7:2), could be punished for simply standing on our consistent, ancient Christian beliefs. The Equality Act effectively outlaws the words of Christ, the sublime doctrine of Creation, the First Article of the Creed, and our “free exercise of religion” based upon the Bible and Apostles’ Creed. The biblical teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman is to be labeled forever a mere “sex-based stereotype.”3


The Equality Act expands the definition of “public accommodation” and puts an ultimatum to individuals, religious non-profits, food banks, schools, charities, adoption agencies and others: “Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.”4


Religious schools (K-12 and universities) are a prime target of the Equality Act, which will make it difficult to maintain standards for admission and codes of Christian conduct for students, faculty and staff.5 The Equality Act will forbid college students from using federal tuition assistance at schools that maintain standards of conduct on the basis of the Bible regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sex-specific facilities and female-only spaces could be eliminated. Biological males will have the right to participate in female sports, unjustly denying female athletes at our schools a fair competition and the due rewards of accomplishment.6
The Equality Act will eliminate the significant protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in 1993.7 This law has provided strong protections for “free exercise of religion” in the face of overzealous officials.


The Equality Act contains no conscience protections for medical staff who choose not to perform abortions, even if they have religious objections. Because of its broad definition of “health” services, the Equality Act threatens the Hyde Amendment, which limits public funding for abortion. It also threatens Christian hospitals with elimination of funding for not performing “health” services, including abortion or genital mutilation.


The Equality Act was recently passed by the House and is currently pending in the Senate. The margin is razor thin. If it does not become law now, we can be assured that it will be pressed again. We encourage all LCMS people to:


1. Treat all people with kindness and respect (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Mark 12:31), while holding firmly to “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
2. Become informed about the Equality Act and the issues of gender dysphoria. (See “Additional Resources” below.)
3. Consider your role as Christian citizens and make your voice known to your elected officials, particularly in the U.S. House (house.gov/representatives) and Senate (senate.gov/senators/index.htm).
4. Pray for our officials, government and the church in these challenging days.


Martin Luther once said, “Christ dwells only in sinners.” We recognize ourselves as sinners constantly in need of Christ’s forgiveness. We recognize the truth of the apostle Peter’s words, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). We know that Jesus’ opponents grumbled against Him by saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). This comforting verse applies to us sinners, and we welcome all others to join us at the feet of Jesus, the sole Savior of all (John 3:16). As Christians, we believe that God has created all people, and all are infinitely valuable and accountable to Him. As Christian citizens, we recognize and demand basic God-given civil rights for all people, even as we insist on the First Amendment rights of Christians.
No matter the course of this or any legislation, Christ will sustain His church. Our hope is not in laws, Congress or courts. Our hope is Christ. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.


Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:8–9, 13–17)

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

 

Be Informed

“The legislation is better called the ‘anti-biblical, traditional morality’ Act.” Hear more from the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz about what the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty is doing to fight the Equality Act here.

Be Equipped

Margot Cleveland of Notre Dame University explains what to watch for when it comes to the Equality Act.

Be Encouraged

“More than ever we need to be focused on the truth of our triune God’s value of all human life no matter a person’s stage of development or abilities.” – Deaconess Tiffany Manor, LCMS Life Ministry

 Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

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.

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