Word of the Week – Three Solas

Word of the Week – Three Solas

For our Word’s of the Week this October, we will be focusing on words related to the Reformation. This week, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us through a study of the three “Solas” of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Sola Fide (Faith Alone).

Sola Scriptura is really the foundation for the other two as we would know nothing of Grace Alone or Faith Alone without the Scriptures. 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.” John 20:31 summarizes the primary purpose of the Scriptures: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” 

Sola Gratia is the Scriptural teaching that God chose us for salvation because of His undeserved love for us. 2 Timothy 1:9 speaks of God “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” 

Sola Fide is the Scriptural teaching that God saves us through faith in Jesus Christ, not through our own good works. Romans 4:5 says, “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” 

A good summary passage for these “Solas” is Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

May God help us to cling to these important Scriptural truths.

Review – “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis

Review – “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis

In our review this week, Pastor Mark Tiefel takes us through the “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. At first glance, you might think this book has something to do with the ending of marriage, but by divorce, Lewis is describing the great divergence that exists between heaven and hell. In the book, Lewis pictures a number of people from hell who are permitted to take a bus trip into heaven and interact with the people living there. Lewis is not suggesting that such a trip between hell and heaven is actually possible, but he uses allegory to contrast the differences between the people in heaven and hell. As with anything written by C. S. Lewis, the reader will want to watch out for an emphasis on the human will and decision theology, but the book does a nice job of giving insight into the human nature. We hope you benefit from this review!

Word of the Week – Pastor

Word of the Week – Pastor

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us through a study of the word pastor. There are a number of words that are commonly used to refer to the pastor of a church, including Reverend and Minister. The term pastor is derived from the Latin word meaning shepherd. Shepherd is the term Paul uses in Acts 20:28 where he says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” We find many of the qualification for pastors listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 2 Timothy 2:24-25, and Titus 1:5-9. Maybe the best summary of the work of the pastor is found in 2 Timothy 4:2 – “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Your pastor’s main responsibility is to bring the Word of God to you, and this is something he is happy to do whether it’s through sermons, Bible studies, visits over the phone, or in private home devotions. Let your pastor know how he can serve you. And also pray for your pastor. Pray that he would be faithful to God’s Word and that the Lord would give him a love for souls that motivates his work among God’s people. 

Bible Study – 1 Peter

Bible Study – 1 Peter

In our Bible Study, Pastors Rob Sauers and Nathanael Mayhew take us through the book of 1 Peter. This epistle is written by the Apostle Peter most likely near the end of his life. He is writing to those Christians who are “sojourners and pilgrims” in this world (2:11). Though this letter deals quite a bit with the suffering and persecution Christians can expect to face in this world, it often, and rightly called the “Letter of Hope.” That hope is the Christian’s serene and confident dependence on God that is based on the unshakable certainty of the resurrection of the dead which is begun and guaranteed in the resurrection of Jesus. As we study through this letter, we will be encouraged that no matter what suffering comes our way (and we can be assured that suffering will come) we can have a confident hope through our Savior. May the Lord bless our study!

Not Your God #1: Freedom

Not Your God #1: Freedom

When we think of idolatry we often imagine it to be an easy sin to detect and stay clear of. Thoughts of carved images and statues from the Old Testament come to our minds and certainly no good Christian succumbs to such things. But, there is another side of idolatry that is more subtle. It’s the type of idolatry that takes something good and makes it more important than God. This idolatry doesn’t involve formal worship or a confession of faith, yet it is just as dangerous. Martin Luther once said, “That upon which you set your heart and put your trust, is in reality your God.” Our “Not Your God” series takes a look at several modern day idols that can wrestle away your heart faster than you may think.

Not Your God – Freedom

We start off this series with a tricky topic. We have to be careful when defining freedom because the Bible does talk about it as one of the primary reasons that Jesus came to earth. Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (NASB).” If it seems wrong to think that freedom in Christ is idolatrous that’s okay because it isn’t.

The type of freedom we guard against is different. It comes from a different source than faith and it centers on a different existence than faith. This is the freedom of citizenship among nations of this world. Now, you might be thinking to yourself that freedom in this sense is not a bad thing either. It may not be as important to a Christian as the freedom of faith, but it is still a virtuous thing. If you think this you are correct. Anyone who has grown up in Western culture has been taught to value freedom. Citizens of the United States have fought for this freedom and continue to. And it is a noble thing to stand for.

The problem we face is when our pursuit of this nationalistic freedom overshadows the freedom that Christ won for us on the cross – because they are different. Freedom in this world is a temporary blessing that can be taken away. It serves a purpose for here and now but not for eternity. All rights have an expiration date as all things of this world do. The unique thing about faith in Christ is that while it liberates us from sin, death, and condemnation of the law, (eternal blessings) it does not give us the right to do whatever we chose. In fact, faith actually binds us to our Master even more than before we believed because it engenders a desire to serve God. God’s path of righteousness is much narrower than the world’s path of self-proclaimed rights. Paul described the freedom of the gospel in this way, Romans 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (NIV). You see, no matter who you are and what you believe, you are serving something or someone.

Think of the difference in this way:

Earthly freedom leads me to think I have the right to do whatever I choose,
which leads to an existence without boundaries,
which leads to sorrow and captivity under sin.

Faith freedom leads me to believe that obeying God is the best path for my life,
which leads to an existence within the confines of God’s Word,
which leads to greater blessings for my life and greater glory given to God.

Freedom becomes idolatrous when a person uses it to convince themselves that they are completely independent from any servitude in the world, which is also a great irony because the illusion of total, personal independence is one of the most enslaving philosophies ever. When Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me… (Matthew 12:30 ESV) He dispelled any notion of absolute autonomy. We are always serving something or someone. We live at a time when freedom is offered as an excuse to pursue any self-edifying pleasure. That belief takes something which is noble and forces it to serve as a cover for sinful purposes. This is the freedom that becomes more important than God.

Arguments abound today about free speech and freedom of expression but no one considers the consequences of this so-called freedom. America is becoming more and more polarized on what is acceptable when it comes to expressing or protesting this freedom we have. What our nation has forgotten is that if our highest pursuits and goals are only in temporary things, if there is no higher spiritual mooring for our lives, then we will simply fight and struggle in the same muck and mire that all civilizations before us have plodded through. We can call it the pursuit of freedom if we want – that sounds nice. We can claim to be a greater, more sophisticated civilization – that will calm our insecurities for a time. We can say that we have the right to do what we want – we may from earthly leaders but not from God. Whatever excuses we offer, we will continue to nitpick and fight against our differences if we don’t have anything greater or more important to appeal to than our personal freedom. That’s because we’ll be serving an idol, even if we try to convince ourselves it is something noble.

Remember what Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin (John 8:34 NASB).” We are fallen creatures. We can see the worth in something like nationalistic, earthly freedom but if we take it and use it as a cover for sin or a balm for all problems it will be a mirage of true hope. Peter, himself, warned: Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves (1 Peter 2:16 NIV). There is only one path to true peace and liberty. This path is not freedom apart from God, however, but freedom given from God and received by faith in Jesus. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32 NKJV).”

Freedom in this world is not your god. Don’t let it’s trappings and pursuits over-shadow what the real, true, flesh and blood God did when He came to earth for you. It is for that freedom that Christ set you free.

Bible Study – Imprecatory Psalms

Bible Study – Imprecatory Psalms

In our Bible Study, Pastors Rob Sauers and Neal Radichel discuss the Imprecatory Psalms. The word imprecation refers to a spoken curse, and so these are Psalms which speak curses against the enemies of God and His people. One of the more striking examples of this type of Psalm is Psalm 137:8-9 – O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock! Christians have struggled for centuries with questions of how to deal with these Psalms, and so our discussion focuses on how we should understand and use them. May the Lord bless our study!

Word of the Week – Tragedy

Word of the Week – Tragedy

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Mark Tiefel examines the word “tragedy.” When we think of the terrorist attacks that occurred sixteen years ago on September 11, 2001, many of us can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when those events occurred. The images from that day are burned into our minds. That is the effect tragedy has on our lives. Many in our country are currently dealing with tragedies due to hurricanes and wildfires, and people around the world are suffering due to earthquakes and other natural disasters. At these times, some people have trouble reconciling how God can be a loving God and yet allow these tragedies to occur. As we consider this word, we will see that while God does allow these tragedies to come into the lives of His people, He is indeed a loving God. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and because of this, the tragedies that come into our lives can actually be used as tools. James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” When we face the tragedies of life, Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And so, we wait and trust in Him confidently by faith in the face of tragedy.

Word of the Week: LABOR

Word of the Week: LABOR

In our Word of the Week on this Labor Day, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew takes a look at the Biblical perspective on work or labor.  Many people in our world today view labor as a burden or a negative.  But God reveals something very different.  God has given work as a blessing to mankind.  Even in the perfect world God gave Adam work to do in naming the animals and tending the garden.  After sin entered the world that labor would become more difficult, but it still can bring satisfaction, and be a blessing to our neighbor.  Throughout Scripture, God emphasizes the importance and blessing of labor.  But labor also has its limitations.  While work is a gift from God, we are not able achive our own salvation before God through our own labor.  What we were not able to do, Jesus has done for us.  Through His labor (His perfice life and sacrificial death) our debt of sin before God has been paid in full.  We are invited to come to Jesus for needed spiritual rest, knowing He has done it all.  There, at the cross of Jesus we can find rest for our souls.  On this Labor Day we thank God for the blessing of work in this life, but even more, we celebrate the work of Christ for us! 

CPR – Why Go to Church?

CPR – Why Go to Church?

Today on Burden and Blessing, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers answer the question, “Why go to church?” As our society has become more secularized and as more and more events are scheduled for Sunday mornings, many people struggle to make regular church attendance a priority. Sadly, when we miss church, we miss out on the blessings the Lord wants to give us that we cannot find anywhere else – those blessings we receive through Word and Sacrament, through Confession and Absolution, and through fellowship with fellow Christians. Our study will focus on the special blessings our Lord gives us through the community of believer in church. We will also consider what church attendance says about how much of a priority we make God and His Word in our lives. We pray that this study will encourage you to see the blessings our Lord wants to give us through the church.

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.