Thursday, October 13, 2016
And... just recently we are treated to "locker room talk" that would make most guys I know say, "dude, really?", even in the locker room or wherever.
And on the other hand we have an altruistically oriented candidate who claims to be an active "social gospel Methodist", and says that she "prays daily 'for discernment, for wisdom, for strength, for courage … ”. (Religion News, 1/19/16).
A women active in the church, who prays daily, carries a bible in her purse always (ibid) and whose husband was also an active churchgoer during his presidency (unlike our current president). Despite their naked political ambition and sexual assault enabling, this First Couple seems so well meaning when it comes to the well-being of our citizenry, while Mr. Trump stays high level, promises jobs and a conservative supreme court.
Yet, the same article quoted immediately above, while largely favorable to Ms. Clinton quotes her in saying what I view as a non-starter as a Christian voter. Ms. Clinton is on record as saying that churches must knuckle under to her politically correct views on abortion and gay marriage. We won't rehash the confessional position of my church (LCMS) and other biblically confessional churches versus the theologically liberal protestant churches that are little more than secular charitable foundations at this point.
Or maybe will. Just a little bit.
Scripture virtually screams to confessional Christians on these issues. Sadly, we cannot find any evidence in scripture that "God is trying something new" with regard to homosexuality, transexualism and the rest. To believe that these behaviors and abortion are not sinful is to risk eternal damnation. And what kind of Christian is willing to walk that tight rope, let alone encourage their parishioners too? The gist is that turning sin into not sin kills consciousness of sin and therefore kill repentance and therefore risks damning the soul.
Of course many of these "reform" liberal churches such as social gospel Methodist don't even preach on heaven and hell anymore. Why not? Scripture hasn't changed. Oh right. Scripture for them merely "contains" the Word of God and therefore.... well you get the gist.
Lutheran writerr and Bonhoeffer* scholar Eric Metaxas has written several articles on this topic, today in the Wall Street Journal (you must subscribe to read, unless you Google it) as well as this article in the Christian Post. In both articles, Mr. Metaxas focuses mostly on what Hillary will do to the Supreme Court as president and how appointing liberal judges will banish forever the constitutionalist vision of the Founders, especially concerning the true meaning of the first amendment (you know, the one about religious freedom). While I am sure he is thinking of the the sharpest quote Hillary has had for confessional and Roman Catholic Christians ("churches must toe the line on abortion and gay marriage"). I am surprised that he mentions it only implicitly vis a vis the constitutional/supreme court implications of a Hillary presidency.
Issues etc., a popular confessional Lutheran radio network, has leaned into the Christian voting issue recently. In a recent broadcast and still posted radio segment it is mentioned "Christians don't just vote for ourselves, we vote for the good of the republic, vis a vis Christian values." Donald Trump has promised to appoint originalist constitutional judges, which should preserve the core values of the Founders and, as Mr. Metaxas says, "at least back us up five feet from the cliff" of no return, constitutionally. Mr. Metaxas does not see Mr. Trump as a saver of the Republic but mostly a stop-gap in this regard.
What Mr. Metaxas fails to do, in either of his articles (and this is not necessarily a criticism because I am sure he would agree) is point out the most odious manifestation of Hillary's liberal theological and political mandate, putting churches under the government with regard to abortion, gay marriage and, most probably tax exempt status. He does cite the Oregon case of the Christian bakers who were put out of business by the state for acting on their Christian conscience for refusing to serve at a lesbian wedding.
So while Mr. Metaxas is broader in his assessment of the danger of a Clinton return to the White House for confessional Christians, I think Ms. Clinton has laid out her own sharp mandate which forces our hand. Not voting is a vote for her. And while we can't realistically expect a return to the more deeply Christian principles of past years in our Republic, we can put the odious sinner among us who will keep our churches relatively free of the kind of government restraint we now see in the state churches of secular Europe.
Mr. Metaxas understands that what makes our republic great for Christians is that in it, we have the freedom to be Christians. This must stand. Hillary is not a confessional Christian but rather a social gospelist and therefore does not understand that. She feels that personal sexual expression must take precedence over "biblical dogma" around things like abortion and gay marriage. She chooses Freud over Jesus in that regard and would likely force our churches to do so as well, by dint of her Supreme Court picks if not executive mandate, based on her past statements irrespective of aging Justices.
I would rather have a repentant vulgarian, self aggrandizing groping womanizer in the white house than an avowed enemy of confessional Christianity. Indeed, we have had many sinners in the White House, 44 to be exact. I prefer one who publicly displays at least a modicum of repentance rather than continuing to lie, cover up and generally prevaricate around their own sin nature.
As always, this is just my personal opinion and does reflect any official opinion of my church or the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
*Deitrich Bonhoeffer is a well known Lutheran anti-Nazi martyr that you should know about if you don't.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
After a woman, foreign to the Jews but married to a Jewish man, loses her husband, she inexplicably insists on staying with here mother-in-law (Naomi) who is trying to "help her out" by sending her home to Moab where she can have a chance to meet and marry a new husband. Her late husband's battered family is going through hard times, unimaginable to us in modern America.
"No", says Ruth to her Jewish mother-in-law, "Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God."
Ruth, like faithful non-Jewish followers that Jesus meets centuries later "gets" to a greater degree that even many of God's People (Jews) that there is a bigger picture in store for her and humanity. One could call The Book of Ruth a "Paul Harvey book" of the Old Testament because there is a "rest of the story" that is HUGE. By insisting upon staying with Naomi, here mother-in-law, Ruth ends up staying in Judah with her mother-in-law and eventually marrying Boaz and having children.
By doing so, she ends up as the great grandfather of King David, who himself is the great-great-great grandfather of Jesus Christ, the Messiah Our Savior.
It was prophesied that the Messiah would be a direct descendent of King David. God worked through Ruth, by Ruth's "illogical/impractical" faith to bring about the salvation of humankind through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we increasingly learn from research and emerging historical data (but Christians have known from faith), the Holy Bible is truth and historically factual. It is important to understand that God's plan unfolds through the means of actions of people both faithful and unfaithful to God. Ruth's life is a quintessential example of God in the Holy Spirit working through people to execute His will.
There is much more to the story of Ruth than my tiny synopsis of our sermon today can relate, so, please...
Find the Book of Ruth here. A good Lutheran analysis of the Book of Ruth here. And, finally, a transcript and audio recording of Pastor Lassman's sermon here*.
In God's holy name we pray. Amen.
*Sermons at Messiah, Seattle's web site sometimes take a few days to post.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Our nation's latest homegrown act of terror, the San Bernardino shooting spree by a Muslim couple, has produced an interesting little "meme" with a decidedly anti-Christian flavor. This conversation already has a catchy name. Known as "prayer shaming", it goes something like this: "Those stupid Christians are once again calling for us to 'remember the victims in our thoughts and prayers'. Well guess what, people God is not fixing this and those Bible clingers should be joining us secular liberals in our fight to enact gun control laws that WILL fix this problem once and for all".
Of course, this bigoted line of anti-Christian rhetoric is absurd on its face both from theological and socio-political standpoints.
From a theological perspective, we can say that this is nothing new for God. The Old Testament carries within it a dominant theme of His people the Jews* repeatedly falling away from faith in God and His promised coming of the Messiah and being harshly and violently punished for their lack of faith. How? By God's unleashing of brutal wars and hardship upon them as a people and upon their nations of Judah and Israel, largely by non-Jews. There is a fairly sound argument that this is happening now. Unlike during the aftermath of 9/11/2001, our victim nation does NOT appear turning to God in response to the latest waves of Muslim terror.
In fact, our faith as a nation has sharply waned since 9/11, according a recent Pew Research report only 56% of millennials identify as Christian, as opposed to 78% of baby boomers.
The trend is obvious and harrowingly portentous. Progressively fewer Americans are being raised in a Christian setting with each passing generation. All this while Islamist terrorism is clearly ascendent against the traditionally Judeo-Christian west. It is mandated in their theology. (For more on this topic, see Erwin W. Lutzer's insightful book, The Cross and the Crescent.)
Terrorism is designed to divide its target nations. But the greater reality and, yes the biblical one is that the goal of Islam is specifically and actively to destroy Christianity. They are succeeding by violent and manipulative means that exploit the good but ill-informed intentions of secular and christian liberals, alike.
So, then what about the socio-political or secular realities of this growing menace? The stark reality is that we are in the midst of a shooting war with Islamic terrorists. They are gaining strength at present and we are not meeting that strength. One can argue that the we gained the upper hand in that war with The Surge in Iraq but that battlefront, having been neglected along with a similar neglect on domestic security, namely at our borders and in other areas, has spawned a global caliphate and a wave of attacks in various western countries that is now beginning to gain steam in earnest. In the U.S. and Europe, where gun control laws abound, most of which are largely unenforcible, terrorists are gathering strength in numbers as well as weaponry and we will see more and more of these attacks on soft targets. An organized web of secrecy and deception can easily circumvent laws that realistically only stop law abiding citizens from obtaining weapons with which to defend themselves. For instance, online "chatter" is no longer a reliable source of intelligence, as ISIS and Al Qaeda are now in possession of advance encryption technology.
Gun control laws will not minimize or expose terrorist cells who are rapidly gaining expertise while we attack each other over gun control and other indulgent, contrived and illusory social issues such as gay marriage, ethnic "micro-aggression" and transgenderism. Sharia law will have a short conversation with transexuals and same-sex couples and it will be terminal. This is not about hunting or target shooting. This is about survival in the face of unpredictable, cunning and implacable immoral evil.
Thus we all as a nation, enjoying the fruits of Judeo-Christian liberty whether faithful or not, have a profound vestiture in attacking both the underlying ethic, theology and violence of Islamism by any means necessary or we will be faced with an increasing grim and lurid scenario akin to hell on earth. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, indeed. Or at least don't keep it from the hands of the good guys.
*In this context the Jews means the pre-Christian Jews of the Old Testament. The Jewish religion of the Old Testament no longer exists. But that is a topic for another entry. Fundamental Muslim theology hates contemporary Jews and Christians equally. It overtly hates the Judeo-Christian ethic. Islam's God, Allah, is not the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. That is why it is called the Judeo-Christian ethic and not the Judeo-Christian-Islamic ethic.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Even though I have been studying scripture and attending church service anew for about 25 years now, I was taken aback by our Bible reading on the 3rd Sunday of Easter (May 4, 2014), Acts 2:14 and 36-41.
The full sermon from that day is here: http://www.messiahseattle.org/sermons/2014/5/may-4-2014-third-sunday-of-easter
Sometime after Jesus's crucifixion, Peter is preaching to a gathering of Jews and says, "Let all the house if Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified". We expect and argument to ensue, for as many in that crowd said on the day of His sentencing, "let his blood be in our hands".
Yet, on this day, as Peter preaches, scripture goes on to tell us that "when they heard this they were cut to the heart" (as their eyes were opened by God to the true divine nature of Christ). Because their eyes were opened and God removed their defenses they said to Peter and the apostles, "What shall we do?" How can we ever repay this horrible thing that we have done?
Peter gave them the same advice that all of us for whom died, that is all of humanity... "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone for whom the Lord calls to himself."
As it turns out, according to the same reading, "about 3,000 souls were added that day". Meaning 3,000 folks became Christians. Implicit in our text is that most, if not all of these souls were Jews and most, if not all were in the mob that, days before, called for Christ to be hung on the cross.
There are many messages in this text about the meaning of Christianity, including the important one that NO sin is beyond the reach of God's salvation through Jesus Christ. If murdering Christ Himself is forgiven than what is beyond forgiveness? Nothing, of course. A repentent Adolf Hitler or Charlie Manson could be headed to the comforting arms of Jesus Christ to await the Judgement Day and face that day in the peace of salvation unto eternal life.
But, particularly poignant to me, having many Jewish friends and a Jewish stepfather, is the core message of salvation also intoned by St. Paul in Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 that neither Greek nor Jew nor slave nor free man is excluded from salvation, if one only just believes in Jesus Christ as the one true living God.
So, if you think that you are somehow excluded by birth or religious upbringing from either salvation or from the requirement of faith in Christ for salvation, you are plainly wrong. 3,000 Jews, directly involved in the crucifixion of Christ (as is all humanity, btw) were saved on that day by repenting, believing and being baptized. Again (just so it sinks in) ...regardless of your ethnic heritage or theological upbringing, you atheist, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, lapsed Roman Catholic, agnostic, Moonie, Buddhist, etc., you can also be saved by faith in Christ. Salvation is at your fingertips. Do not let it slip through. Eternal life is a big prize to gamble away by earthly doubt or social conformity. The alternative is too harrowing to even contemplate.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
And, in a related, perhaps more anticipatory commentary...
Free to be Faithful!
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Liberal "lutherans" from the ELCA, which has recently considered merging with the liberal Episcopal Church (see my blog below on their openly gay bishop) often cop out on taking communion openly and unrepentant homosexuals by saying, "hey not my problem it's between them and God". This attitude goes to the most interest point made in the comments of this article in First Thoughts. To wit, communing, ordaining and electing as high officers folks who are embracing a sinful lifestyle is not the cause but rather the symptom of a long, deep slide from scriptural orthodoxy in the ELCA.
Lutheran historians more astute than I will point out that it started with redefining communion itself, ordaining women as pastors and moving to less doctrinal hymnal. At each pivotal juncture in this long slide into contemporary secular humanism, the ELCA has suffered a hemorrhage of members.