Monday, September 6, 2010

Counting the Cost...

It is a never-ending source of amazement and amusement to me that the more I learn about The Bible, and listen to people, especially of my (Baby Boomer) generation talk about religion, the more I realize that most folks, sadly, have NO clue about the essential and unique Christian message. Cultural noise and the political correctness of our generation, specifically has obscured Christ's message to a profuound degree.

Most often, these days, the message of our salvation in Jesus Christ is distorted in one of two ways. TV Evangelists, Pentecostals, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventiss etc. insist that we must "make a decision" for Christ in order to be saved or that we need to "do something" to bring about the judgement day. They represent the right wing of contemporary Christianity and, while I believe many of them are indeed saved (only God knows for sure who is elected to salvation, their works-righteous theology represents a heresy that leads many astray from Christianity by causing confusion and alienation. When these works-righteous folks are caught in sin, as we all are, folks say, "see, Christianity is hypocritical or it doesn't "work".

We are saved by our faith alone, which comes to us as a free gift from God in the blood sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ on the cross.

More dangerous and more en vogue among folks of my generation and "psychographic" background (old hippies, for lack of a better term), is this confused, unitarian, universal concept that "love" is most important thing. As if indoctrinated directly from the 1967 Beatles hit, "All You Need is Love", these dear, well meaning but frighteningly misguided peers of mine, believe and have properly observed that all religions share the same basic legal precepts, the same "law", that is summed up in the universal maxim, "love your brother".

But "love your brother" extends to tolerating, indeed celebrating all religions equally for the universalist and Christ, the saving Messiah, the Lamb of God, The Gospel, is marginalized, paid lip service to, but in the most important way, left out of the equation altogether or His countenance is distorted into that of a pacifist, Ghandi-like or guru type figure. This is just as pleasing to Satan as a world filled with only with hate would be.

Christ was NOT a pacifist. See blog below.

Satan loves high, idealistic morality, as long as The Gospel of Jesus Christ is left out of the equation in any truthful meaningful way.

Faith is not "seeking" or trying to "figure out" what form of "spirituality" "makes sense" from a logical, moralistic perspective. Faith is the passive acceptance and (only as a consequence) the ensuing deep study and living of what is yours already, the free gift of salvation unto eternal life from a loving God who sacrificed his only Son that it should be so, in spite of our sinful nature.

Those who say they are "spiritually seeking" are most likely wandering in the wilderness.

The Good News (Gospel literally translates as "Good News")

We are not capable of "out-sinning" God or of "loving" each other enough to please God. The love and good works displayed by Christians are an outgrowth of their faith, not the other way around. No sin is so great that we are not forgiven in Christ for it nor so small that we are not condemned by it.

"Civic righteousness" is certainly a good thing, but it will not get you into heaven. Only saving faith in Christ will do that.

This Sunday, Pastor Lassman preached on Luke 14:1-14. "When you give a feast, invite the poor, crippled, the lame and the blind. because they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

What Christ did NOT mean is that we should become like the blind, crippled, lame, destitute, unsaved as Univerlists do when the worship in harmony with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. We should not become destitute and worship the alienation of the forsaken as Charles Bukowski might, "knee walking" onto a greyhound bus headed for desitution.

The Great Commission commands, "go and make disciples of all nations". It does not say "go and become disciples of all nations".

The universalist mandate is an even more distressing heresy than the decision theology of the Jimmy Swaggarts of the world in that it apologized for Christ in deference to contemporary political correctness. Universalists typically seek out all kinds of esoteric, contemporary writiings by academics about scripture.

One such writer who is enjoying some vogue, claims the early church "left out" a "plethora" of scriptural writings on reincarnation. The universalist implication being, of course, that "christianity" is not really far off from Hinduism and other sects which espouse reincarnation.

Christ is very specific, reapeatedly throughout scripture that, "I am the Truth, the Way the Light" and that "Nobody comes to The Father except through me". And, "what of sorcers, soothsayers [spirtualists/spirituality] and the rest?"

"You serve but one master", says the Christ, Our Lord.

Finally, what, then of us? Aren't people basically good? Wouldn't a kind, loving God let us into heaven if we are just basically good people? The problem is, we are not. Any honest assessment of self falls way below the standard set by the ten commandments. "We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have no loved God with our whole heart".

The bad and good news is (good for Christians and, sadly, bad for others is...

A committed disciple of Jesus Christ sees him/herself for what he or she is: a poor, miserable sinner. And what could be better news for a poor miserable sinner than God’s love and forgiveness in his Son? How can we not love Him who loved us? How can we not pick up our cross for the one who picked up his cross for us? How can we not give up everything for the one who gave up everything for us?


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Prince of Peace. Was (Is) Jesus A Pacifist?...

Near my home in Lake Forest Park, WA is a peace enclave, headquartered by an old pacifist whose back yard faces the busy intersection off the main highway near the center of town.

There are demonstrations organized by him and his merry band each weekend and sometimes on Wednesday evenings. But his real bully pulpit in the 30 foot high fence that borders his backyard and faces busy the intersection of Ballinger and Bothell Way.

He has a permanent sign there that says in tall bold white letters, "Lake Forest Park Peace Coalition. Join us!".

And frequently, especially during Christmas and Easter season he will post a a smaller sign that says, "War Denies the Prince of Peace".

It is an endless source of fascination to me that this ardent pacifist has taken it upon himself to lecture us Christians on our faith with regard to the "sin" of war and the nature of Jesus Christ, Our Savior.

Anyone who has seriously studied the Bible must surely know that Christ was not a pacifist. The commandment against killing refers to murder, not war, not capital punishment. If Christ has been a pacifist, surely he would have railed against the Roman military occupiers of Jerusalem during his ministry.

He did not. Not even once.

Christ himself said, "I have not come to bring peace but rather division"...

And that specific passage in Luke, Luke 12:49-53 was the topic of Pastor Lassman's sermon yesterday.

This side of Christ is least understood by the politically correct agnostics and liberal "Christians" who seek to water down or reconcile scripture to their contemporary mores of universalism and pacifism.

These are the same people who want to deny the existence of hell, excuse abortion, ordain homosexuals, take symbolic communiion with Hindus, Buddhist, Muslims and, in a myriad other ways water down or deny that which is clear in scripture...

We are all condemned sinners whose only salvation in in Christ.

"There is but one way to the Father and that is through me", John 14: 6, says Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wake up, you silly hippies!! ;-)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Friend Marty...

A good friend of mine from Messiah died last week. His funeral was today, followed by a memorial service that packed the sanctuary and the fellowship hall.

We have had quite a few deaths this year at Messiah but Marty's was unusual for his young age (53) and for me because we were close. How close? Not nearly close enough, as it turns out. Often when we lose someone (for now, anyway, because I know that I will see Marty again in the hereafter) we are shocked by just how much they meant to us.

I am already going through the "Oh I should tell Marty about this, oh no that's right he's gone" phase.

Marty had some health problems that kept him from playing the sports (cycling and golf) that I enjoy with my other close friends.

Our way of getting together and catching up was to meet for lunch, which we did fairly often but not nearly often enough to please either of us.

There used to be a law office on top of the hill on Ballinger in Shoreline near Canyon’s and Todo Americanas, two of the several restaurants where Marty and I had lunch over the years.

Out in front of that law office was a sign. The kind with the changeable letters. And they would change it once a week. Most often it would be an aphorism of some sort, sometimes an announcement of a community event but usually some kind of saying, philosophical, religious or quasi – religious.

The law office and sign are gone now, having moved away a couple years ago.
There is only one posting that I now remember from that sign…
“The best sermons are lived, not preached”.

We can argue about the works righteous theology of that saying but it reminds me of Marty.

As Pastor said in Marty's eulogy today, "the first time you met Marty, you knew right away that he was a Christian." His lovely wife Joanne said, "Marty was conservative in politics but liberal in friendship."

Marty was full of the gospel. As much as anyone I have ever known. He had a deep generosity of spirit that I personally witnessed again and again. He was the consummate family man. His love for Joanne and his two children was obvious when they were together in church and is and will always be in the character and attitude of Philip and Laura.

There was in Marty a sort of conspiratorial cheerfulness that is hard to describe but was obvious to the beholder. A smile that said, “come here, I have a secret to share with you”. And he did. It was his persistent and consistent living love for those around him, which he practiced every day in a thousand little ways, always in the spirit of the Gospel of Our Lord.

Marty’s love in Christ was expressed every day in the way he interacted with others. He was a Cheerful Young Lutheran. I would like to be more like him.

Marty was my friend . And I will miss him. For now.

To view Marty's legacy click here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Sermon on Love

I will endeavor to post sermons from Messiah that I think are of particular note. The general idea would be to post them on the same Sunday on which they are preached. I have been remiss in doing so, first time out so I apologize.

This sermon was delivered last Sunday, January 31. Our Vicar preached on 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 and it was good.

This is the famous scripture on love. "Love is patient and kind love does not boast.", etc.

First, the scripture in it's entirety:

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

(St. Paul is speaking) I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if have prophetic power, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have and I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Listen to and read Vicar Mankin's sermon here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What The ELCA Talks about ...

Central to the Gospel message, especially when tending to our fellow saved in Christ near death, is the promise of salvation and eternal life that is granted to us through faith in Jesus Christ and by His all availing sacrifice on the cross.

Yet liberal ELCA delivers this message....

This piece from the ELDA, a service group of ELCA talks about the dread and despair of impending death but not one word about life after death, salvation or the resurrection. Nothing but an admonishment to caregivers to "remember and appreciate me because I was once young".

A charitable and loving thought to be sure, but pure humanism. No gospel here at all.

The "crabby old man" in this humanistic ELCA essay, it should and would be pointed out by any true Christian, will be raised up after death delivered into the arms of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ where he will await resurrection on judgment day and live in eternity in a glorified and perfect body and mind, like that of Our resurrected Christ.

"For if we have been united with Him in death surely we shall be united with Him in his resurrection". Romans 6:5

I ask again and will keep asking was Luther all about delivering the true word of God as it is written in Holy Scripture? The answer, of course is yes. The how can these nice, well meaning people who put God's word on the back burner call themselves Lutherans? How can they call themselves Christians for that matter when the message of simple human charity, which, while a commendable one, takes precedence over the message of salvation as it does with great consistency in their messaging?

"To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever." -- Martin Luther (Quoted from The Large Catechism)
Views expressed are only those of the author, an individual and do not necessarily represent the views of nor are they sanctioned by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle or any congregation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The "Basics"...

If you are interested in learning more about Christianity, the Bible and what Lutherans believe, please visit Pastor Lassman's Adult BASIC class on YouTube. The full class is 16 one hour sessions (I think) but you can pick through it as well.

Pastor Lassman is not the Crabby Old Lutheran, I am. =;-)

Lesson One begins here and now, if you please:

If you are in Seattle, you may visit my church at Pastor Lassman is beginning another session of the BASIC class in our church in a few weeks.

I will say again that the views in my blog are mine alone and not necessarily endorsed or officially sanctioned by Messiah Lutheran Church or the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

"When We Get Rid of those Crabby Old Men..."

During the great split and merger of the American Lutheran Church back in the '70's a liberal wag on the liberal side of the split said "when we get rid of those crabby old men we can do what we want". The ALC merged with the other more liberal Lutheran congregations forming the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

The LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) remains more Biblical and conservative, believing that the Bible IS rather than "is containing" the True Word of God.

"What we want" for these more liberal "lutherans" generally meant, and means, a watered down more politically correct doctrine (conforming to humanistic liberal thought of the '60's and '70's first and the Bible second) that would include:

A communion that does not include the real presence of Christ that anyone can participate in, regardless of their faith or doctrine, even though the Bible clearly states that he who partakes of the Lord's Supper without Faith and understanding of its meaning and the True Presence does so to their own damnation. Wine.

The ordination of women as pastors, despite clear Biblical teaching that the role of Pastor is to be held by men. Women.

A more liberal and contemporary hymnal. Song.

Lightly and humorously put, the split was over "Wine, Women and Song".

Of course, that was years ago and before I joined the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. There are nuances to the splits and mergers of which I am not fully conversant. But those are a fine points. (The closing conference of the ALC was in 1988. I joined the LCMS in 1989. The first woman pastor was ordained by ALC as early as 1970).

What matters to me is the contrast between the two large church bodies that call themselves Lutheran. They could not be more stark.

The ELCA church recently voted to also include openly homosexuals in pastoral ordination, even though The Bible explicitly states in both Testaments that homosexual behavior is a sin. One more requisite for a homosexual to be a pastor according to this latest ELCA doctrine is that he or she be in a "committed" homosexual relationship.

So not only must you be sinning, you must be committed to your sin. So much for repentance. But no repentance is necessary as the ELCA "lutherans" do not regard homosexuality as a sin anymore, having bought into the either one of two erroneous and liberal "interpretations" of scripture concerning homosexuality.

Those are:

(1) the Episcopal neo-teaching that God is simply "trying something new" (ELCA recently nearly merged with liberal Episcopal church) or

(2) the one touted by the liberal Anglican church and often hand wringingly quoted by an nice, earnest but pathetically midguided young columnist named Andrew Sullivan that the Bible is "really only condemning brutal ritualistic homosexuality that happened in ancient times not the loving, committed 'gay' relationships that we have today". Mr. Sullivan is a practicing homosexual.

So the beat goes on, but, fortunately so do Crabby Old Lutherans who are willing to speak their minds in and out of church.

The other reference of "Crabby Old Lutheran" is the notion, once preached by Pastor Joseph Schruhl at Zion Lutheran in Piedmont that the sweet, accommodating, nurturing soul is not always the Christian soul.

His sermon went on to say that some of the nicest folks you would ever want to meet are condemned non-Christians. While some of the most crabby, calcified old fogies you might encounter are in fact saved Christians. Thus, Crabby Old Lutherans .... =:-)

In my opinion, the recent controversy within ELCA is a function of an overly indulgent, permissive and nurturing view of homosexuality. The devil works in wily ways.

One could expound on the notion of tough love as dispensed by God but one is tired of writing now. So.... stay tuned.

Scripture interprets itself.

"One should not say therefore that Scripture has more than one meaning.", -- Martin Luther

Foreward, Who Am I?...

I am a "Baby Lutheran" in the sense that my family and I joined the church relatively late in life. My wife and I were 40ish with a four year old daughter, living in the incessantly liberal East Bay Area Oakland Hills.

My wife had an explicit Christian upbringing, I had one in passing, that is my mother made a backhanded attempt to church my sister and I by having us occasionally attend Grosse Pointe's Christ Episcopal Church for a brief period. Sadly, she is no longer a Christian in any but the most vague sense. More about Mom in later posts, I am sure.

My ideological foundations, at least the proclivity to think ideologically, occurred as it did for many in my generation, during the vaunted social and political upheavals of the sixties and seventies.

Unlike many of my co-baby-boomers, I became drawn to a more conservative ideology and way of thinking as I left the pursuit of a career in broadcast journalism for one in broadcast advertising sales. I am not alone. The neo-conservative movement is peppered with and, in many ways, founded by former radicals and left-liberals.

At graduation from college, I was a fully imbued left wing radical who believed fervently that all the ills and evils of the world stemmed from capitalism and its well traveled sibling, imperialism. Like a good leftie, I also held the notion that religion was a bourgeois manipulation.

Yet, being and ideological thinker, I could not stomach living the contradiction of pursuing fame, wealth, even at a modest level, while there was anyone in society who had less. Anything but a monkish life in a collective somewhere would be "selling out".

It quickly became clear to me, after some final (post-grad) radical involvements (San Francisco's White Panther Tenant Union, various causes in Cotati/Sonoma State University) that only capitalism and the free market allows one the opportunity to achieve the self-determinism that my fellow radicals and I had touted for "oppressed" people everywhere.

In fact, as Professor Lindemann, brilliantly pointed out at the outset of his Advanced European Socialism class that I had taken at UC Santa Barbara years before, "freedom and equality" contradict each other. He did so by asking class members on the very first day of class to raise their hands if they believe equality is the most important thing in a society. Most of the hands went up. He then said, "raise your hands if you think freedom is the most important thing in a society." Again, most of the hands went up. "You people are contradicting yourselves".

Thus began the very early seeds of my de-radicalization. I only wish that I had been a faster learner.

You probably realize where this is going. From journalism to sales. From Carter/Anderson to Reagan. I was delighted and refreshed to embark on a life free of the contradictions of my radical, disaffected youth. Amusingly, we registered as Republicans in 1980 to vote in the primaries for the leftie John B. Anderson but ended up keeping our Republican party affiliation in earnest and voting for Reagan in 1984.

Also came (or continued) the realization that I had consciously made the choice to be a radical as retaliation for my parents choosing to break up their marriage. The rebellion began in 1967 while I was still in military academy, where I been placed, essentially, to accommodate said divorce, but also because I was generally an unruly handful of a pre-adolescent except when my father was around, which he wasn't much anymore.

Again, mine was not a unique scenario. Many baby-boomers, raised in the prosperous post-WWII years embraced radicalism as a function of one or another form of indulged disillusionment.

Near the end of my radicalism, my father once said, after receiving yet another earful of my radical observations, "Douglas you don't even believe most of this bullshit yourself." Another pivotal de-radicalizing moment.

My father taught more about life than he went to his grave realizing. I still learn lessons today from things he said and did. More importantly, I fervently believe that he is Christ's arms, based on conversations we had shortly before he died and what I know that his last words were, thanks to his wonderful girlfriend, Norma, who was with him at his departure.

So, after spending the '80's moving evermore to the right as a function of life and its everyday micro-lessons rather than as a conscious ideological choice, I found myself in church. We had decided that our three year old daughter should be raised in a churched family.

But even as in the full blush of my radicalism, Christ was in the back of my mind despite my conscious rejection of Him.

One afternoon in 1970, shortly after the Kent State shootings that resulted in the National Student Strike, I was walking across the UCLA campus in the throes of revolutionary ecstasy, thinking about some coming or past "action" against "the Man". Suddenly, out of nowhere, a voice in my head whispered "but what about Jesus?" That voice, in my opinion, was Grace. God's Grace has always worked in my heart even when I was farthest from God.

Grace is a pivotal aspect of Lutheran theology. The prevailing theology of the current American "evangelical" movement does not understand Grace and its relationship to Faith. You will read about that here, of course.

I will also write about misguided theology on the other end of America's contemporary religious spectrum, Liberal Protestantism (including the more liberal strains of "Lutherans" who have recently voted to include openly homosexual men and women as ordained pastors).

Today's struggles for a true Lutheran; someone who is promulgating Luther's teachings that the Holy Bible IS the inerrant Word of God (as opposed to merely "containing" the Word), are a reflection of Dr. Luther's dual struggles during the Reformation against the horrors of state sponsored Catholicism (really the other way around, so powerful was the medieval Catholic church) and the no less horrific theological misconstructions of the emerging Protestant movements who were likewise adding to, subtracting from and generally misinterpreting Holy Scripture and sullying the concept of Christianity.

When my wife and I decided to start attending church, we did not embark on a long "church-shopping" mission as do so many church visitors that encounter today. Rather we saw a yellow page ad for Zion Lutheran Church in Piedmont, CA saying it was "liturgical, traditional and Biblical". "Sounds good", said we and never looked at another church until moving to Seattle necessitated a new church home.

And the first church we attended in Seattle is the church we still do.


Also, I believe that folks who think they participate in their own salvation, rather than the correct Grace of God interpretation of faith and salvation are more likely suffer indecision regarding a suitable place of worship.

I went on to serve as Elder and President of the Congregation at Zion, our first church in California and have been an Elder for around eight years at Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle.

Posts in this blog are strictly my opinion and despite my affiliation are not endorsed or sanctioned by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod or any other church body.

I speak only with the meager authority of someone who has spent the last 20 years studying the Bible and Holy word once or twice a week. Sadly, that is more than most people these days, but probably not nearly enough.


"We are all but beggars at God's door"

--Martin Luther