Nothing Is The End Of The World Except The End Of The World

From the July 2015 Prairie Preacher

Matt. 6  33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 For Bible-Believing Christian Americans, July 4, 2015 stands as a somewhat auspicious celebration of our national birthday. With the Supreme Court recently granting legal rights to same sex unions, patriotic Christians who hold fast to God’s Word have seen their anxiety about the overall condition of our country rise even further than it has already risen.

In many ways, it is Christian Americans who have been the best supporters of our nation and its experiment in freedom. It was always the Christian Americans who understood that the Founding Fathers, (not all of whom were Christian), were generally agreed that the radical freedoms of our Constitution could not happen without responsible, moral citizens. Although it is hard to find in the Constitution itself, in the other writings of many of our Founding Fathers, there is plenty of talk about virtue and morals. Christianity has always been supportive of the best understanding of our Constitution. It has always stood for the most important aspects of its original intent. Freedom founded on personal virtue, morals, and ethics. Without these things, American freedom can only fail.

Still, as the news about the Supreme Court ruling came out, the reaction among many Christians was not necessarily totally righteous. In the words of Jesus quoted above, He exhorts His disciples not to be anxious. As Christians worry about the erosion of their First Amendment rights, they are not necessarily following the words of their Lord who says not to worry. As many Christian commentators “strike out” at the Court’s opinion, a whole range of emotions can be seen; again, not all of them righteous.

Can we Christians be rightly concerned about the direction of our nation, particularly when it establishes a new definition of marriage that is not Biblical? The answer is most definitely yes. The test of whether or not we are righteous probably is whether or not we are worried or exceedingly angry. How do we sound to others? Do we sound like people who still trust the rule of God over the affairs of the world? Or are we quietly suggesting that God could not possibly be ruling over the world if these are the sorts of laws we are now passing? Are we acting like this is the end of the world? Nothing is the end of the world except the end of the world. It’s one thing to see this as one more step toward the end of the world. It’s quite another to start acting like Chicken Little about it. Jesus does not want His Christians ever acting like that.

There has always been a fine line between a healthy patriotism and idolatry. “My country right or wrong” probably crosses that line. Before we hear Jesus speak about anxiety in the words above, notice what He tells us. “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God…” The Bible teaches us that we belong to a kingdom which will never end. The Bible also recognizes that all worldly kingdoms will fail. Indeed, the Bible also teaches that all worldly kingdoms ultimately fall into use by the devil himself, which is why they ultimately fail. (Indeed, Revelation says quite a lot about this. It’s critical to its understanding).

Our king is the One we find in the Word. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will NEVER pass away (Matt. 24:35). He is the only king who would lay down His own life for you and take it up again in order that you might live under Him in perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. His rule is totally righteous and just. He encourages us to support our earthly kingdoms, but He reminds us that they will pass away with everything else. Faith, in these matters, stands on the Word of God and it does not get angry when it doesn’t get its way. Faith, in these matters, stands on the Word of God and does not allow us to get anxious when we see further decline in our nation. Faith, in these matters, keeps looking for a higher kingdom, the most perfect union, unity with our Lord and Savior and with one another who stand on this Word.

So my encouragement to you in these grey and latter days is actually quite simple. Be good citizens by being good Christians. You don’t have to approve of what’s going on right now, but you don’t have to be consumed by it either. Live as the forgiven sinners that you are. Speak the truth in love. Turn the other cheek if necessary. And love your nation by loving your neighbor. And join me in praying for Christ’s return.

Celebrating freedom by standing firm in Christ’s salvation,

Pastor T.

The Importance Of Integrity

We live in strange times. As our nation continues to drive toward the cliff with dead brakes, righteousness is being labeled as unrighteous and immorality is being labeled as virtue.

I struggle with my inner patriot a lot these days because of it. It was great growing up in the last days of American patriotism. I would say that from 1984-1987, we saw one of our last spasms of patriotism. Sadly, even the patriotism of 9/11 lasted for too short a period of time. I am a proud American. I just feel that the America I am proud of no longer exists.

And here comes a Supreme Court decision which will very likely lock in our loss of integrity. No moral compass left. Right is now wrong. Wrong is now right. We will have a Constitution with no backbone, no integrity.

The impact of these developments on Christianity in America has been considerable. We see national denominations and local pastors/congregations drinking the poisonous Kool-Aid of relativism and universalism. While the LCMS nationally looks more peaceful, and our District had its most peaceful convention in recent memory, local congregations continue to breed conflict and lose their Gospel vision. Some local congregations are even guilty of not making new Christians, but rather cherrypicking disgruntled people out of neighboring congregations in a move which looks more Darwinian than Christian. The numbers may look great, but beware the cost that is coming.

Our numbers show the impact of America’s lack of integrity. Too often American Christianity has looked, well, more American than Christian. (And the Patriot in me just shivered at the fact that I typed that sentence. That was not easy to write, not at all).

It seems we in the American Church have been lowering our standards for decades now, thinking we were “adapting” to the changes in our society. In Matt. 5:20, Jesus says: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Remarkable to me is the quiet compliment this comment makes about the Pharisees. (Of course, He will debunk them thoroughly by the end of the sermon). But His comment seems to say, “Those self-righteous Pharisees are at least genuine in their self-righteousness. Your righteousness needs to exceed theirs.”

Of course, we have no righteousness of our own to claim here. Then Jesus raises the bar impossibly high in the Sermon on the Mount, taking the Ten Commandments and raising their bars one-by-one. How can one have integrity against such an impossible standard? How can the Christian Church today get its integrity back against the pressures of our immoral age when it can’t even meet Christ’s standard?

Well, maybe the answer is more simple than it looks. Beginning with repentance, we admit we can’t do this. We admit it. We confess it. We haven’t met Christ’s standard. We can’t meet it. We need Him to meet it.

And the Good News is that He does…and then He gives you that righteousness as if you had won it yourself!

As I have written recently, echoing our Synod President Matt Harrison, NOW is the time for us to be who we are. Sinners who are not proud of our sin. Saints who rejoice in Christ’s gifts. And NOW is the time to show others what real Christianity looks like.

It’s not our integrity we are demonstrating. It’s Christ’s. His perfect righteousness. To Him be the glory.

We must decrease. Christ will increase. A humble Christianity, it seems to me, will teach America far better than a proud one, a vain one, a Darwinian one.

The Good News is that it’s not on you or me to save the world. Christ does that. But He does work through you. It’s as simple as being a Little Christ to your child, your spouse, your neighbor, your co-worker, your family, your friends, your enemies, etc.

Integrity, it seems to me, is being who we are as Christians and not pretending to be someone we are not. It’s time to be sinners. It’s time to be saints. It’s precisely what this country and its people need. Christ and His righteousness. That is all.

Rejoicing in Christ’s covering of my sins,

Pastor T.

The Highest Honor

1 Tim. 1  15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

For many years now, I have underscored my signature with these verses. I have always been struck by Paul’s humility in referring to himself as the Chief Of Sinners twice in consecutive verses.

That’s my confession too. I’m not rejoicing in it in any way. The log in my eye makes me the Chief of Sinners.

We humans like to honor people and dishonor them. We’re good at assigning villains and assigning heros. Paul was not one to accept “hero status.” (In truth, he wasn’t a villain either due to the grace of God). But in his own eyes he was chief of sinners.

Can you imagine how different the world would be today if people looked at themselves as chiefs of sinners rather than the other person?

One cannot praise, glorify, magnify Christ without that humble recognition of one’s own sin. Paul teaches us that it’s only in the chiefs of sinners that Jesus Christ displays his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. This is the setup to the Doxology in v.17. Only to the King of Ages be honor and glory forever and ever. AMEN.

I have been honored recently by our District, and humbled by it at the same time. But the highest honor is to be Christ’s child. The real honor is to serve in God’s vineyard. The real honor is to be a husband to my wife, a father to my children, and the pastor of St. John’s in North Prairie, WI.

Because the first thing you should know about me is that I am the Chief Of Sinners. God be praised for His love and grace toward me.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor T.

Time To Be Who We Are…But Who Is That?

Who are we? Who am I?

I am a Lutheran Christian.

I believe that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative Word of God without errors. I believe that God’s grace comes to me through instruments such as water, bread and wine, and pastors which only forgive as these are combined with the same powerful Word of God that is the center of my confession. I believe that forgiveness means my sins are removed as far as the east is from the west FROM ME by the power of the saving death and resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

I also believe that the FIRST thing I must say of myself is that I am a sinner in need of God’s grace. I have not always done what my Lord requires of me in my vocation. I have not always honored my wife and my children. I have not always performed the tasks of this high and holy office entrusted to me with honor and integrity. My worship and prayers have faltered. I have denied God’s love for me. I have had sinful thoughts, spoken sinful words, done sinful things, wasted precious time, worried about how likable I am, coveted, lusted, gossiped, and basically neglected that same Word of God that I claim to hold so high.

In other words, the problem isn’t “the other person.” The problem is me. The other person is all these things too, but their eye “specks” are not worth comparing to my eye “logs.” I am chief of sinners.

I am a Lutheran Christian. A sinner…and yet by Christ’s grace and mercy…a saint. I did absolutely nothing to deserve this grace and mercy. What I enjoy in Christ (forgiveness, life, and salvation) is nothing but a privilege extended to me by a Christ who somehow loves me. It’s hard to explain something you yourself will never understand. What motivates God to love sinners? What drove Christ to His cross? Surely it’s love. But our world’s shallow ideas of love don’t even come close to this love. Indeed, “toleration-love” is actually lovelessness.

It’s because our modern world knows nothing about this love that it is time for us Lutheran Christians to be who we are; sinners, yet saints; forsaken, yet approved by God; dead, yet alive. All as a gift from the one God who actually loves people enough to save them Himself. (None of the other false gods do this. They ALL tell you to measure up to their standards).

Yes. It is time to be who we are. The world depends on it. The world needs it. My brothers and sisters in Christ need it. And I need it.

We need Christ. The world doesn’t need me, but it does need the Christ who has put Himself in me, body/blood, water/Word.

Time to be who we are. More than Lutheran Christians. Little Christs.

Rejoicing in this undeserved love, mercy, and grace,

Pastor T.