29 September 2005

What Now?

How should the Christian react to news, unexpected news, bad news? Yes, I've had some bad news in my life. In my case, the cancer is winning. The doctor said that this is the time to get in touch with Hospice. He also said that the time frame for my survival is a matter of weeks, and not in months.
Listen to God's Word :
2 Corinthians 4:5-12 ESV (5) For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. (6) For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (8) We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; (9) persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; (10) always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (11) For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (12) So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Death is the enemy. Jesus conqured sin and death at the cross. I can look at the future -- even with the likelyhood that I will die -- confident that the power of Christ's cross is here and that I will see God's promises fulfilled. What matters is that each of us knows that God promises are true and reliable. And so we face the future with confidence, confidence in the God who is there for each of us.
Doc Steve

06 September 2005

Katrina is not the Judgment of God

The enormity of the disaster in New Orleans is something that I can't get my "arms around." Literally, one of America's great cities is gone. My brother in law live (s) (d) in New Orleans and lost everything. They have returned to Texas where they lived until a couple of years ago. But to lose everything that you spent your life accumulating, like kids' awards and projects, wedding pictures and so on.

We can debate whether the Federal government acted quickly enough or that the problems were at the state level. I think that no one really knew what was going on and then the levees went. BTW, you remember that New Orleans is actually below sea level.

What is the Christian to do as we see all these crises. First, if you can volunteer and help the Red Cross, etc., in the disaster area, then go. Most of us will have to restrict our involvement by helping to raise money for the Red Cross and so on. My suggestion is that you give through your church's world relief organization or a Christian group such as World Vision or LCMS World Relief, so that the message of Christ is brought to the suffering at the same time that their physical needs are being met.

After that we have to learn to look at disasters theologically , that is, what does the Word of God tell us about such things.
First, this is not a sign of the end of the world. For Jesus promised that we will have to deal with such tragedies.

Matthew 24:3-15 GW As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will this happen? What will be the sign that you are coming again, and when will the world come to an end?" (4) Jesus answered them, "Be careful not to let anyone deceive you. (5) Many will come using my name. They will say, 'I am the Messiah,' and they will deceive many people. (6) "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Don't be alarmed! These things must happen, but they don't mean that the end has come. (7) Nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. (8) All of these are only the beginning pains of the end. (9) "Then they will hand you over to those who will torture and kill you. All nations will hate you because you are committed to me. (10) Then many will lose faith. They will betray and hate each other. (11) Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (12) And because there will be more and more lawlessness, most people's love will grow cold. (13) But the person who endures to the end will be saved. (14) "This Good News about the kingdom will be spread throughout the world as a testimony to all nations. Then the end will come.

Second, Jesus tells us to focus our attention on what is eternal. Notice how Jesus tied the various disasters to the proclaimation of the Gospel. It is as if Jesus is saying that we need to focus on what is important. What is eternal is what matters, not the tragedies of the day. The tragedies of the day are important and are opportunities for Christian love to be shared with the world. But they are only the beginnings of the End. We have to remind ourselves that everything will eventually be destroyed and be lost. That is an old-fashioned point of view, but it is still the truth. The life we have here is only temporary and that our life in heaven with the Savior is eternal.

Matthew 10:28 GW Jesus said, Don't be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

No, Jesus is not talking about the Devil! He is talking about Himself, the Judge of the Living and the Dead before whose throne we must appear on Judgment Day. Our Christian duty is to do what we are able to relieve the suffering, to care for the homeless and the hungry. We need to share clothes, water and the other needs of daily life. In a time like this we have to read the Book of James.

James 2:14-17 GW My brothers and sisters, what good does it do if someone claims to have faith but doesn't do any good things? Can this kind of faith save him? (15) Suppose a believer, whether a man or a woman, needs clothes or food (16) and one of you tells that person, "God be with you! Stay warm, and make sure you eat enough." If you don't provide for that person's physical needs, what good does it do? (17) In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn't cause you to do any good things.

As the physical needs are being met, so must the Spiritual needs be met. The Gospel must be preached even there. People need to have Pastors and Teachers to help them understand and to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is a vital time and the losses are horrendous. But it is also a time to put our faith into action as we meet physical and spiritual needs of millions of people. The needs of the people effected by this storm have to be met, all their needs.

God's love in Christ reaches down to those in need through His people, the Church. We are Christ's hands who are doing the work of Christ.

Doc Steve

Friends, sorry about asking all the commentators use the 'copy the letters' safeguard on the comments page. I actually got spammed with the usual garbage. That's the webworld we live in. Doc Steve

07 August 2005

Problems in the Church

Does your church have problems? Do the members get along, or do they argue like little kids. Wasn't there a time when the church was different, a time when they got along or resolved their problems like adult Christians? Don't be so naive.

There never was a golden age of the church. There never was a time when the doctrine was pure, the love warm and the fellowship supportive of each other.

I am reading the Apostolic Constitutions as a part of my personal growth. This is a 4th century AD document teaching the bishops how they should operate and how to avoid problems with the distribution of food to the needy, and so on. The church had real problems back then and struggled to deal with them the best they knew how. This long book tries to guide the bishops and Pastors into god-pleasing solutions to everday problems.

Every congregation has its problems and issues. No Pastor is perfect and he has a limited set of gifts to share with his congregation. I'm not being critical of Pastors, but it is a fact that some are better at preaching than working with children, for example. Each Pastor has a set of gifts and abilities he is to use in the congregation for the growth of the congregation and the glory of God. Support your Pastor. Ask him what you can do to help. He will thank you for asking.

The church of Jesus Christ exists to share the Good News with the whole world. It is made up of sinful, faltering, uncertain saints, washed in the blood of the Lamb. And these uncertain saints bring their own biases, their own troubles, their own fears to the church. And they are the instrument God has chosen to reach the world with His love. Just imagine that! YOU are a part of the eternal plan of God to love this fallen, dying, sinful world. YOU -- with all your troubles, fears and uncertainties -- as a baptized Child of God are included in His mission to this world.

Give thanks to God today for your church. Take a few moments and pray for your Pastor and the leaders of your church, ask the Lord to give them wisdom, faith and a vision for the future. No matter how small and weak your church seems, God is at work through it to make a difference in the world with the Word of God.

Doc Steve

16 July 2005

A Reliable God?

Lots of folks wonder about God and the evils in the world. We see disease, poverty, racism, and cruelty of every description. Horrors abound all around and there seems to be no way for things to be different, to be really different. And so we wonder, "why doesn't God do something?
What do we want? I mean, what do we expect God to do? To stop the storm, to make sure no one gets afflicted with diseases.
Great ideas, but that's not what we really want. We want God to make our lives more convenient, more comfortable, more secure. We want our loved ones protected and the people we care about kept safe. The problem is that our God is reliable and that He is hard at work. Yes, trials, struggles do intrude into our lives. Keep in mind a couple of things.
First, we do not have the time perspective that our God works with. It was over 400 years that God's people were slaves in Egypt.
Exodus 12:41 GW After exactly 430 years all the LORD'S people left Egypt in organized family groups.
Yes, over 400 years God was at work and waiting for the right time. They, too, had to have wondered, they too had to have doubted. But our God is reliable. That's why throughout Jewish history their rites remind them what God had done in the past and that He would continue to work.
The other problem we have is that we misunderstand such Bible words as "comfort," that we think of a life of ease, a La-Z-Boy kind of life. But comfort in the Bible is God's help in the midst of the trials of life. It is God's presence in the Word and Sacraments that come to us for strength and hope. This is the cross of Christ that deals with our sins and needs.
Psalms 136:1-4 GW Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods because his mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords because his mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the only one who does miraculous things- because his mercy endures forever.
This is where our lack of Bible knowledge, especially our lack of Old Testament knowledge, hurts us. God's plans were for hundreds of years and He accomplished them. This is not me setting one year and five year goals, this is our God whose goals last centuries. This is why God gave us all those long books of history. They are there to remind us of God's past reliability so that we can be sure of His intentions for us today.
And so our God is reliable. He is working for your good right here and right now. We might not see it clearly, we don't see the end, all we do see is what is going on right now. Our God is there for you and He is working. Trust Him in all of life's circumstances and know that He is active and reliable no for you, no matter what.
Doc Steve

26 June 2005

At the Wrong Time

Be ready to spread the word whether or not the time is right. Point out errors, warn people, and encourage them. Be very patient when you teach.
2 Timothy 4:2 God's Word Version

When is it ever a wrong time to spread the Word of God? There have been times when I was 'cornered' into teaching the Word of God when the time seemed wrong or inappropriate. These were times at the dinner table, when you are a guest in someone's home, and so on. It was a time when I just felt uncomfortable. It just didn't feel right to get serious about the Word of God and to deal with hard doctrines such as communion fellowship or that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such scriptural teachings are important, but need to be carefully taught. But they were times when the Scriptures actually reached into hearts and lives.

The Christian is called to be ready to speak the Word of God whenever possible. But notice the third sentence in the Scripture above, "be very patient when you teach." Patience is a gift of God and is needed today as we teach the Word of God.

But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22, 23 God's Word Version
We need patience as we try to teach the Word of God to people who know little about Jesus or even have trouble with the very idea that there is such a thing as right and wrong. Patience is needed as we gently explain the Word of God to people. It used to be acceptable to be harsh when teaching the Bible, to be insistent about what had to be done. Not so today, because people expect gentleness whenever it comess to such topics as faith and the Bible.

This means the Christian must be ready at all times to share the Word of God. It is important to take time to learn the Bible, to listen carefully to the questions being asked, to be open to other ideas, even those contrary to the Word of God, so that the seeker is treated with respect. It is the Bible we are to share, not our own opinions or biases. It is the Word of God, the reliable, errorless, and holy Word, given to us for the sake of Christ and His cross.
Doc Steve

11 June 2005

Growing Churches and False Religious Leaders

The media loves churches, but only certain churches. They love churches who are make pronoucements. The media loves churches make statements and who lead causes. But only certain causes and only certain statements. They better not be conservative statements and causes. If a conservative makes a statement then the conservative is trying to impose their point of view on others, which is something the much loved liberal churches never do -- and then they don't tell us the truth.

Liberal mainline churches are losing members in droves and yet the media doesn't tell you the truth about them. To be blunt, the mainstream media is lying to you about the leaders of these churches. They call them "religious leaders," but they are leaders whose members are leaving them in droves. To be honest about it all, I have to call them false religious leaders. They are false because they do not teach the Word of God. They are false because they want to adapt the Word of God to what some power groups ask for. (Did you hear about the falsified "New" Testament where Jesus is made into a woman? ) This is media dishonesty because the same types that hold out these "religious leaders" don't tell you that their members are leaving in droves. Could you imagine what the media would say about Jerry Falwell or James Kennedy if their ministries were losing members by the thousands. But that is what has happened to the self-appointed "religious leaders."

David Shiflett quotes a Glenmary Research Center study from 2000, the Presbyterian Church USA lost nearly 12% of its members over a decade, the United Church of Christ lost 14% of its members over the same period of time. Some conservative churches such as the Christian and Missionary Alliance grew by 21% and the Presbyterian Church in America grew 42%. This is not to mention the conservative non-denominational churches such as Saddleback. This is not to mention the movement of many conservatives from non-denominational churches to Eastern Orthodoxy, a faith which has sought to proclaim a eternal message for the last 2000 years. This is a trend that has been going on since the 1970s.

The so-called religious leaders of the media represent no one but themselves. They don't even represent their own members. Their churches are stagnating and dying. But their own members reject their leadership by leaving the denominations they lead. Why are people leaving? It is because these "religious leaders" do not give anything but a Christ-less left wing morality.

Yes, my own beloved Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod has stagnated over this same period of time. There are various reasons, some are demographic and some are cultural. But the media doesn't like us anyway. The "religious leaders" seem to make themselves the moral and ethical masters of the elite.

David Schiflett makes the point in a new book that conservative churches are giving people what they want and what they need. He says that people are rejecting the left leaning morality and people want Jesus Christ. And that is what we have to give people: teach people what the Word of God says about morality, about the family. Give people the truth about the human condition and who we are. Our task is to make others know about Jesus Christ and what He did for us. Our task is to teach God's Word.

And so we must give that same message. But not for the reasons you might think. It is vital that we proclaim this message, not because it's what the crowd wants, but because we are called to share the one message that our God has give us. It is His message that we are to make known. We can not alter His message, we can not adapt His message to what the crowd wants, we can not change the Word of God. And that message we must take into our hearts every day. The Word of God is God's message to us, a message to be believed, loved and taken seriously.

As defined by the "religious leaders," I am a fundamentalist. That title does not scare me because anyone who believes the Bible to be the errorless Word of God is called a fundamentalist by them.

Take time to get to know the religious situation in North America because it effects every Christian and every congregation. Understand that the elite is pushing legislation that could make it illegal to teach what the Bible teaches about sexual morality and family life. Get to know the situation that Canadian churches had to be told by their former Prime Minister that they would not be required to do same-sex marriages. Some Canadian churches wondered that if they did not do same-sex marriages that they would be charged under "hate crime" laws.

Yes, share God's Word with everyone around you. Reject the opinions of false "religious leaders" you hear about in the media and listen to Christian Pastors who teach the Word of God. Judge the "religious leaders" and even your Pastor on the basis of the Word of God and not on what the elite tells you that should believe and do.

Dave Schiflett's book, which is I encourage everyone to read, is entitled Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity.

Doc Steve

02 June 2005

Rejoice with Me!

If you had read the post which was drafted a week ago, you would have been reading a very different post. Somewhat down, pretty resigned to death.
Today we saw Dr. Shields, my oncologist. Good news! The last CAT scan shows that the tumor has stabilized and the blood tests show the cancer agents in the blood are decreasing. This means that there may be other reasons for my fatigue. We are looking at non-cancer causes for the fatigue. That means there may be easy ways to get the fatigue under control.

Rejoice with me!
Philippians 2:17-18 GW My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. (18) For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me.

Give thanks to the Lord for all His blessings. What does all of this mean for my future? In the short term it means that we will keep on the same treatment plan, but it also means that I will try to do more. See if I can get the energy levels back up. It might even mean that I could be getting closer to being back in the ministry on a full time basis.

Rejoice with me!
Philippians 2:17-18 GW My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. (18) For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me..

Recently, I have worked my way through Leviticus. Hard book, isn't it? Lots of stuff that seems difficult to get through. One thing I did notice is that the Lord wants His priests to be holy. Remember, we New Testament Christians know that all baptized believers are
"a royal priesthood." (1 Peter 2:9) He has called His priests to be holy, that is, dedicated to Him.

Leviticus 21:6-8 GW "Be God's holy men, and don't dishonor the name of your God. Be holy because you bring sacrifices by fire to the LORD. It is the food of your God. (7) You should never marry prostitutes, those who have lost their virginity, or divorced women because a priest is God's holy man. (8) Be holy because you offer the food of your God. Be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I set you apart as holy. .

We are set apart for the Lord. The way the Old Testament priests showed their "set apartness" was very specific and does not apply today. But they are reminders to us that we are set apart for the Lord today and this includes such things as our choice of spouses. Are we looking at a possible future spouse with God's eyes or just our own. 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5 both have some important things to say about marriage. I know that I am blessed with Sandie, my wonderful wife of 26 years. I give thanks to God everyday for the my wife. She is a fine Christian woman, dedicated to her Lord.

What does this have to do with me today? Easy, the Lord is not going to let me go. He will find ways to use the gifts which He has given me to use them in His service.

Rejoice with me!
Philippians 2:17-18 GW My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. (18) For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me.

Even if I am going home sooner than I might want, the Lord will continue to use me here. And He will use you too. Each of us are blessed with the gifts He has given us to use in His service. Each of us are set apart as priests of God. And so rejoice with me! Now I see that there may be opportunities for service in His kingdom. Now all I have to do is to find them.
Doc Steve