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A recent article suggested that the Christian church is seeing a decrease in attendance largely due to the ability to connect with people electronically. In other words, instead of going to church for a weekly dose of social int…
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Glenn Beck told his listeners to check their church websites for the words, “Social Justice,” and if they find them, to run away. Well, for the first time, they now appear on our site, as of this post, the words n…
A paper on the Gospel elements in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.Continue reading →
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Earlier this week, a man scammed several churches in Akron by sending fake utility bills to them. When reported on TV, the reporter commented that the churches must now choose between justice and forgiveness.
But that reporter didn’t understand that churches (and Christians in general) need not draw this distinction and can (and should) choose both.
We live in two kingdoms at the same time. God’s Kingdom of Power, also known as “The Kingdom of the Left,” includes lawful government. Government is called on to carry out justice for the benefit of its citizens. This means punishing criminals to deter crime and protect the law-abiding citizens. The government’s job is to see to it that people get what they legally deserve.
But the church is God’s Kingdom of Grace, or “Kingdom of the Left.” The church’s job is to forgive, to love, and to share God’s undeserved love. We support the lawful government and let it do its job, and at the same time, we love even those who seek to do us harm.
How does this play out in real life?
While the churches need to press charges, they also need, in whatever way they choose, to say, “We believe that you need to face justice and learn to avoid that sin in the future, but Jesus died for your sins, too.” If the man is jailed, members or the pastor should visit him in jail if allowed. They should invite him to attend their services or other events and go out of their way to get to know him and make him feel loved. Let him know that, yes, sin is serious business, but God forgives.
But this applies to our lives, too. Who has wronged you recently? Is this something that you’re in a position that you should correct it somehow? More importantly, how can you reach out to that person in love and forgiveness the way God has reached out in love and forgiveness to you through Jesus? We tend to care more about the justice end of the equation, but even justice, in our personal lives, must be loving. But thank God that He has not only modeled that love to us, but given it to us in forgiveness through His Son!
While apparently around since April, I just saw the Covergirl ad on TV featuring Ellen DeGeneres. (See below)
We actually backed up the TiVo and rewatched it several times, just to make sure we didn’t misread it. Sure enough, you heard it right. Outer beauty is more important than inner beauty. Somehow, this just doesn’t seem like the message we want to send to our daughters.
That said, as Christians, we know that we’re not all that beautiful on the inside (Mt 15:18-19), being corrupted by sin. But we also know that God loves us, and through Jesus’ merits and sacrifice, we’re beautiful to Him.
How do we take that beauty that He has given to us and make it outer beauty? By giving it to others by sharing the love of Christ in Word and deed (Ro 10:15). In doing so, we point the world to true beauty, the beauty of the Son of God, Who is beautiful because He became ugly for us (Is 52:14-15).
I just got this note from Lutheran Church Charities. If you’re looking for a way to help, here’s your chance.
Help is urgently needed for Haiti
Immediate Need is for Food and Water
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat… The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35, 40)
As you are aware, yesterday afternoon Haiti was hit with the worst earthquake in 200 years. Most of the capitol city, Port-au-Prince, has been destroyed. In addition, there have been over 30 aftershocks, which makes the situation even more dire. Having been to Haiti numerous times, I know that Haiti is always in dire circumstances without a disaster! But disasters such as this allow the Christian Church to show the Compassion and Mercy of Christ to those who do not know Him (over half the population in Haiti practices Voodoo).
Some of the ministries that Lutheran Church Charities works with in Haiti are all right since they are not located in the Port-au-Prince area. Pastor Isaac and his orphanage are safe. However, they will be indirectly affected since Port-au-Prince is the key hub for Haiti.
Haiti, The Poorest Nation in the Western Hemisphere
Few countries are as vulnerable to natural disaster as Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Wracked by political instability and poverty, and hammered by a series of hurricanes in 2008, Haiti faces a tough recovery ahead. Poor communications are making it difficult to immediately assess the extent of the damage and fatalities, but as daylight comes, the scale of the quake’s destruction is slowly coming into focus.
International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally said an estimated 3 million people (one third of Haiti’s population) may have been affected by the quake and that it would take a day or two for a clear picture of scope of the destruction to emerge.
I have been in communication directly or indirectly with those in Haiti and with the Lutheran and Christian ministries that LCC works with. I have also been in contact with ministries in the United States such as LCMS World Relief and Human Care (Rev. Glenn Merritt) to find out what their immediate needs are.
We have a mission group scheduled to leave for Haiti on March 11th, headed by Susan Gross at Christ Orland Park and other congregations. We will be able to send relief efforts over with them.
The Immediate Need And How You Can Help
Given that Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere – food is ALWAYS a need. With four out of five people living in poverty and more than half in abject poverty, any financial assistance to help with food and water is desperately needed at this point.
Lutheran Church Charities has a program called “Feed The Invisible Guest” based on Matthew 25, where for .50 a day a child can be fed. You can contribute to the “Feed The Invisible Guest” fund here.
Make A Difference!
Having spent time in Haiti over the years, I can testify to the great need there, even before the earthquake. With the earthquake hitting Port-au-Prince the whole country will be affected as Port-au-Prince is the main hub.
LCC always guarantees that every dollar given goes directly for its intended purpose with NO administration charges taken out. We will work through the Lutheran Church in Haiti for the distribution of the food.
Thank you for your compassion and help!
Serving Together, Serving Christ, so we can serve others IN HIS NAME,
See our web site for the most current updates.
Web site: www.lutheranchurchcharities.org
It’s that time of year again, a time to celebrate peace on earth and, if necessary, shove it down your neighbor’s throat. While this year’s controversies seem fewer than previous years’, the question of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” vs “whatever holiday you Wannakuh” continue. What’s a Christian to do?
First of all, this is a question of Christian liberty. The simplest answer is, “Whatever you want,” and the answer may be that simple. The Bible doesn’t dictate how to respond to a cashier in a store except with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15) Sadly, we’re sometimes so adamant about making sure people keep “Christ in Christmas” that “Merry Christmas” becomes a battle cry instead of a joyous greeting. You can’t demand that anyone acknowledge or observe a particular holiday any more than you can demand that someone believe that, in Jesus Christ, the infinite God became a human baby.
It seems that we’re more concerned about shopping centers proclaiming Christ than our own lives. Instead of getting angry when the store clerk says, “Happy Holidays,” you have several options:
- Say, “Thanks. You, too.” (You do celebrate the pagan holiday of the New Year, too, right?)
- Say, “Thanks, and merry Christmas to you,” with a smile on your face.
- Say, “Thanks. I’m sure the extra work for you can make it not so happy, but I hope you can find joy in the midst of it.” (Compassion—pretty novel, right?)
- Beat them to it, but not as a race. As they ring up your order, say something like, “Sometimes, it’s hard to see how all this was intended to point to God becoming a baby to save mankind.”
Whatever you say, say it with joy. God has become man, and since the world crucified Him the first time, we shouldn’t be surprised if they do it again and again, but that’s why He came. Whatever the world happens to say to you, thank God that the same stores that don’t allow their employees to say, “Merry Christmas,” often have, “Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord,” piped over their speakers in the store. Enjoy the irony, and take a moment to pray for those who work and shop in that store, that as they wrap their gifts, they come to know the One who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger to save them.
The Cleveland City Council has fallen under fire for beginning each meeting with a Christian invocation or prayer, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have called foul, claiming that the council is endorsing Christianity through their actions. While this has happened in many cities and small towns and even in the United States congress, the debate rages as to the role of religion in politics, especially in our nation that guarantees religious freedom.
Not being a constitutional lawyer, I can’t address whether the council has the right to do so, but I can address the question whether they should.
As Lutherans, we understand God’s Kingdom to come in three ways, as His Kingdom of Power, Grace, and Glory.
God’s Kingdom of Power exists everywhere. (Psalm 103:19) He created all things and has established not only the laws of nature, but the natural law of morality that He has written on all people’s hearts. He has also put in place earthly governments to protect us, and in our nation, our elected officials act on His behalf to execute justice. God places them there out of love, and, recognizing them as God’s representatives, we respect the positions they hold. (Romans 13:1-7) Note that the state’s job is to carry out God’s justice, not His mercy.
Grace means “undeserved love,” and God’s Kingdom of Grace refers to that place where He displays His grace most clearly: in the forgiveness of sins that He gives through the sacrifice of His Son for us on the cross. (Romans 14:17, Colossians 1:13-14) The responsibility to pass on this message rests with the church. (Matthew 9:38) Prayer, which is only heard through the worthiness of God’s Son on our behalf, rests firmly in the Kingdom of Grace, so using the Kingdom of Power to promote the Kingdom of Grace confuses these two, however well-intentioned. (Matthew 22:20,21)
God’s Kingdom of Glory refers to heaven and the New Creation that we will all see on the Last Day at Jesus’ return at the Resurrection. (Job 19:25-27) There, the other two kingdoms will merge, and we will all acknowledge Him and know the truth once and for all.
So should our elected officials pray before and at their meetings? We should pray at all times! (Ephesians 6:18) Should they force others in attendance to pray, especially when they may not believe in the God being addressed? No.
Instead of insisting that all of our elected officials include public prayer at their meetings, let’s encourage them to pray privately throughout as they make decisions intended for the good of the community, and spend our time praying for them, that the Lord would guide them to seek justice for all people.
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When Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-13), He gave a great list to begin with, and in the Lord’s Prayer, we find in many ways a summary of all those things we pray about, but as you set time aside to be with God in prayer, do you ever find yourself at a loss what to pray about?
Here at Shepherd of the Ridge, we have a list each week of specific people seeking others’ prayers for them. That’s a great place to start. Even if you don’t know the details of that person’s need, God does, and He will provide as that person needs.
But consider praying for those you might not normally pray for:
- Those who annoy you: (Matthew 5:44) But I tell you this: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. Sometimes, “enemy” means that person who took 15 items into the 12 item checkout, or that person at work who just irritates you, or telemarketers. Pray that God would bless them with love and faith, and that He would give you opportunities to love those people.
- Terrorists: Speaking of loving our enemies, pray for those who’ve been fooled into thinking they’re doing God’s will by murder. Pray that God show them His love, that they may know His love, that His love would save them, and that they in turn would reach out to the world in love.
- Those farthest away from you & toughest to love: Think of those with whom you simply have nothing in common, those with tremendous needs that leave you feeling like you could never help them, and ask God for opportunities to help those you don’t think you could help.
- And if you’re brave, pray for faith. God often allows suffering to strengthen our faith, because it’s through those difficult times that we struggle the most and find ourselves running to God, whereas in times of abundance, we think we can do it ourselves.
Whom else can you pray for that you wouldn’t normally think of? God has given us love beyond our ability to comprehend, and we can share that love without fear of running out of love. Pray for opportunities to love. the wisdom to recognize those opportunities, and the courage to act on them.
Recently, the nation was held captive by a bizarre situation that appears to have turned out to be a publicity stunt for a potential “Reality TV” show. The “Balloon Boy” event caught our attention, and we’re still talking about it, even though it turned out to be nothing. Most of what I hear comes across as condemnation for abusing the public’s trust for personal gain.
Pastors live in the public eye enough that I often feel like I’m on a Reality TV show, but that’s the nature of the life God has called me to live. That said, I would not want a camera crew in our home at all times, broadcasting our family’s private lives. They’re called “private lives” for a reason.
At the same time, every Christian, not just pastors, lives under scrutiny. When you cut someone off on the road, and they see your “Pray for our troops” ribbon on the back of your car, what are you telling that person about Jesus? When we act judgmental and look down our noses at those we consider worse sinners than us or gossip about them, what are we saying about the unconditional love and forgiveness of God through Christ?
While our good works don’t save us—Jesus’ work for us has already done that—what message does your life send to others? If your family were on a Reality TV series, would the viewers know you’re Christians? What would you be telling them, through your lives, about Christianity?
You don’t have to be on a Reality TV series. The world is watching you. Let them see the life of a broken sinner who lives by the grace of God, whose sin has been forgiven, and who now reflects that love to the people He has brought into your life.