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Month: August 2017

Hurricane Harvey and Nashville

Hurricane Harvey and Nashville

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

If you reading this you have no doubt already heard about the devastating landfall of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, TX area. Thankfully, as of now the rains have ceased and numerous rescues are being made. People are also coming together by donating time and money to the cause of helping the survivors. Such a time of destruction certainly evokes feelings of humility and gratitude for daily protection from nature’s forces.

What you may not be aware of is an unsettling connection between Harvey and the Church, particularly Christians who have very recently taken a stand on the authority of God’s Word. Just two days ago, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood produced a series of statements on human sexuality called the Nashville Statement. You can read the statements here. It doesn’t take long. They are concise. Several pastors and church leaders have signed their names to this Statement as well, as an expression of agreement. While I haven’t studied each thesis in depth, I do believe the Nashville Statement accurately reflects the Bible’s teachings and that it is important to take this stand in our culture.

Perhaps just as importantly, it also does so in a balanced, gospel-motivated approach. So often the accusations of hatred and bigotry are leveled against Christians by those who simply don’t want to hear what God says regarding sexuality. However, you can tell the authors went above and beyond to dispel this image. For example, article 8 reads:

WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.

Article 14 (the final one) states:

WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.
WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.

These theses make it clear that the intent of the Nashville Statement is not to unfairly shame or throw hatred on those who struggle with homosexuality and transgender feelings. The superior love of the gospel flows throughout the document. But, that is not stopping many, from the Church to the media and everywhere in between, from trying to discredit the document. There are many points to address, but it is here that I would like to zero in on one particular criticism.

Here’s where a connection to Hurricane Harvey comes in. Many are complaining of a lack of sympathy and charity by those who issued this Statement because of its close proximity to Harvey’s catastrophe. You’ve probably seen sentiments of this nature expressed on the news or social media. It is said that this should be a time to unite, not divide. It is said that Church leaders should show empathy, not judgment. But, are these extremes always mutually exclusive? If someone, like myself, agrees with the Nashville Statement, does that mean I automatically hate those whom it addresses? If I don’t object to the timing of its release, does that reveal a calloused and indifferent attitude toward those affected by the hurricane? What if I’ve prayed for those affected by the hurricane? What if I’ve helped them, either directly on the ground or indirectly through a donation? Have I really shown a lack empathy and understanding simply because I agree with God’s Word?

I think, at best, it’s unfair to make these accusations, and, at worst, extremely dangerous. Think of the passage above, especially as you consider the timing of the Statement. Is there ever a bad time to speak God’s truth in love? Paul says we are to “preach the word, in season and out of season.” Another way of saying this is “when it’s convenient and when it’s not.” Hurricane Harvey is surely a monumental tragedy, but who’s to say it’s any more serious than any other tragedy? Surely, there are always moments in life when something bad is happening to someone. If Christians can’t speak the truth in these moments for lack of sensitivity, will there ever be a proper time? By the way, if you continue in the passage, the type of preaching talked about involves convincing and rebuking. That clearly indicates a message of repentance over sin. How can we do that if we don’t clearly label the sin for what it is – a self-glorifying activity that leads away from God. There certainly is no room for “rebuke” if we can never offend someone.

I understand unbelievers who level these accusations against the Church. But, the sad truth is that many Christians are doing the same thing. This is what makes it extremely dangerous. Faith in Christ, the very things that makes a Christian a Christian, is built upon the Word of God. Friendly fire upon this foundation plays into the hands of Satan. According to Christ’s own teaching on loving one another, faithfulness to the Word is absolutely necessary (John 15:10). I ask all Christians to take heed of these points and be aware of falling into the trap of trusting the world’s words over God’s.

Word of the Week – Confirmation

Word of the Week – Confirmation

In our Word of the Week this week, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us through the word “confirmation.” The focus of this study is on the purpose of confirmation instruction.

The word itself means, “to establish the truth, accuracy, validity, or genuineness of something. To acknowledge with definite assurance. To make firm or more firm; add strength to; settle or establish firmly.” The King James Version uses the word to describe what Paul did at the conclusion of his first missionary journey in Acts 14:22, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Most other English translations translate the word “confirming” as “strengthening” and that really gives us a good definition of the most basic purpose of confirmation – to confirm or strengthen faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior.

To that end, it only makes sense that this would involve a period of instruction in God’s Word. If we are going to be confirmed or strengthened in the faith, that is only going to happen through God’s Word. We know that from such familiar passages as Romans 1:16 where Paul tells us that the gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” And Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Confirmation, then, is really the work of the Holy Spirit, working through the Word.

Though not commanded in Scripture, we can see the benefits of having this time of formalized instruction in God’s Word for our youth. In the Lutheran Church, Luther’s Small Catechism is used as the basis for this instruction. Among the goals of this instruction is to help young Christians distinguish between the Law and the Gospel and to prepare them to receive communion for the first time. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Through confirmation instruction, our youth are prepared to examine themselves and properly receive this sacrament.

We should not think of confirmation as a graduation from learning God’s Word. Christian education is a lifelong endeavor.

We pray that the Lord will bless those beginning their confirmation classes so that they will indeed become more confirmed and strengthened in their faith.

Bible Study – Ruth

Bible Study – Ruth

In our Bible Study this week, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers take us through a study of the Book of Ruth. This book is unique in that it is named after a woman who was not Jewish. Ruth was a from the nation of Moab. She married into a Jewish family and developed a very close relationship with her mother-in-law, Naomi. When Naomi set out to return to the Land of Israel, she encouraged both Ruth and her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, to return to their homes in Moab. Orpah decided to remain in Moab, but Ruth chose to remain with Naomi saying in Ruth 1:16-17, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” In this, we see Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law, but, more importantly, we see her love for the LORD. Throughout her life, Ruth was continually confirmed in her faith in the true God of Israel.

The events in this book take place at the end of the time of the Judges. While Judges describes a dark time in the history of Israel, the book of Ruth is a very encouraging book, showing God’s providential care for those who wait upon Him, even in dark times.

Throughout the book, we see ordinary heroes of faith – sincere Christians living their faith. They are an example of the godly living in ungodly times and a description of Christian love in action. 

We see Christ in this book through the role of the kinsman-redeemer. Christ is also a descendant of Ruth as she was the great-grandmother of King David.

May the Lord bless our study!

Word of the Week – Education

Word of the Week – Education

The beginning of the school year is upon us once again, and so in our Word of the Week this week, Pastor Sam Rodebaugh leads us through a discussion of the word “education.”

The word itself is not actually found in the Bible, but this certainly does not mean that education is not spoken of – far from it. We see the emphasis the Bible puts on educating children from a young age in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

A wonderful example of Christian Education is seen in the person of Timothy, who was raised in the faith from his youth by his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). 

Christian Education does not end in early childhood. We see the example of Jesus learning in the temple in Luke 2 at the age of twelve. Even the prophets themselves committed themselves to lifelong Christian Education. 1 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” Through these examples, we too are encouraged to dedicate ourselves to lifelong instruction in the Christian faith as we allow God to guide our ways and direct our paths.

Review – Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide by Nikolaus Selnecker

Review – Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide by Nikolaus Selnecker

In our review segment this week, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers dig into the hymn “Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide” by Nikolaus Selnecker. This hymn is found in the Law and Gospel section of the Lutheran Hymnal, but could very well have been placed in the Reformation section. Selnecker (1530-1592) was a second-generation Lutheran who studied at Wittenberg and helped to write and promote the Formula of Concord. He was also very musically inclined writing over 150 hymns, four of which are found in the Lutheran Hymnal. There is a strong emphasis throughout the hymn on the Word of God. Selnecker emphasizes the importance of keeping pure the Means of Grace, trusting in Jesus to uphold the Church through His Word, and understanding that Word is the ultimate source of truth. He emphasizes the importance of clinging to that Word in the face of the very real danger of false teaching and trusting in the Lord to give us the strength to stand for His Word. May God bless our study!

Word of the Week – Baptism

Word of the Week – Baptism

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Rob Sauers leads us through a study of the word Baptism. Baptism in a Means of Grace. Along with the Lord’s Supper, it is one of the two sacraments that we celebrate. There is a lot that can be said about baptism; entire books have been written on this topic. We will limit our study to a few of key points – 1) What is baptism? 2) Who is baptism for? 3) What does baptism mean for our daily lives? May the Lord bless our study!

CPR – Cohabitation/Sexual Immorality

CPR – Cohabitation/Sexual Immorality

In our CPR episode this week, Pastors Mark Tiefel and Neal Radichel discuss the topic of Cohabitation and Sexual Immorality. Sexual Immorality is the broader term, referring to any sexual relationship outside of marriage. Cohabitation is defined as a couple living together as if they are husband and wife without the benefit of marriage. This practice has become commonplace in our society, and sadly, we are seeing it more and more even in the church. A common response by couples in the church who begin to cohabitate is, “There’s no sex going on. We’re living more like roommates, so there’s no problem.” This response is addressed by discussing the problem of temptation and the giving of offense in such cases. As we consider this topic, we will want to keep in mind what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We ask that the Lord would help us to glorify Him in all that we do and that He would bless our study of this important topic.

Word of the Week: KINGDOM

Word of the Week: KINGDOM

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew, goes back to the Bible to define and explain the word Kingdom as it is used in the Bible.  While it can and does refer to kingdoms of earthly powers and rulers, it has a deeper and more important meaning.  It is used to describe the KINGDOM of God which is open to sinners through the life and death of Jesus, the Christ.  We inherit a part in this kingdom through faith.  It is not our work, but the gift of God.  Listen and grow in your knowledge of this important Biblical word.

Bible Study – Judges

Bible Study – Judges

In our Bible Study, Pastors Rob Sauers and Nathanael Mayhew take us through the book of Judges. Judges is maybe not as familiar as some of the other historical books of the Old Testament, but it is a book filled some of the more exciting accounts in all of Scripture. The book covers a period of about 350 years from 1440-1090 B.C. During this time, we see Israel go through a repeated cycle of rejection of God, judgment, repentance, and deliverance. In our study, we’ll examine this cycle, and talk about the role of the Judges whom God sent to deliver His people. We’ll also consider how the events of this book apply to our lives today. We hope that you will join us!