Monday, June 29, 2015

Toward UNConfusion!

[ NOTE: The below article was first published in our parish's July Newsletter. The rest of the newsletter can be found HERE. ]

        Confusion reigns. Lord, help us!
Someone recently took me to task for commenting on the Bruce/Caitlin Jenner sex change which has recently been in the news. They said that it is so obviously wrong that it needs no commentary at all, much less from a pastor. My answer was/is that if I remain silent, then there will be some people who, confused by the media responses, will say that, hearing nothing to the contrary from the church, they figured that the church agrees. It’s maddening.
Even as I write this article, I am waiting, with others of  you, for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on same sex marriage.
There is so MUCH confusion in our culture. People are confused about who they are, where they belong, what they should (or should not) do, and what is their future (if they even have one).
On top of people’s personal crises, there are far too many “churches” which are trying to find out where the cultural winds are blowing, and then are rushing to get out in front to pretend that they are somehow representing God. Many are MISrepresenting God!
I offer here for you and anyone who will pay attention, the cure for the astonishing cultural confusion: DOCTRINE.
Yes, that’s right. The very doctrines (teachings) which too many people (and even churches!) reject, are what will lead us toward Cultural UNconfusion!
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It was/is a problem which repeats itself. Judges 17:6 - “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”
Whenever Scripture says this, it always carries a negative connotation. Look up some other, similar Scriptures in:
Judges 21:25
Psalm 81:12
Proverbs 3:5
Proverbs 14:12
Proverbs 21:2
Isaiah 63:10
Jeremiah 8:2
and others.
Our culture (and some churches) arrived at this point by the relativism phase through which we went some years ago. Your pastor preached against that, too. :-)  Relativism taught us that there is no such thing as absolute truth. You may have your truth and I may have my truth. And, even though those truths may conflict with each other, they are both equally true.
Yep, it always confused me, too! 2 + 2 can equal 4 AND 5? BOTH are true? It can’t be! Can you see the devastating effects which such thinking could have on families? The husband’s “truth” is that he can have girlfriends; the wife’s “truth” is that she can have man-friends; what a mess will be made of that family! Who CAN’T see that?!
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Toward UNconfusion: The Doctrine of Man
The purpose of doctrine is to teach us how things are, and how they are to be. A famous theologian has been noted as saying “doctrine is life” (“google” the phrase sometime). The doctrine teaches us about man. While MUCH has been written to teach us about man, we share a nutshell teaching here.
1. We come from God. God created humankind. We were created for life with Him. We do not exist independently from God. He created us for fellowship with Him. We were intended, by our very creation, to live forever in fellowship with God. We were made the way He wanted us to be: perfect. Man and woman. Together. To serve each other. And to procreate. In other words, to be a family.
2. BUT, tragically, our parents Adam and Eve rebelled against God. As a result of their “fall” into sin, the entire creation has been tainted with sin.  Where there is sin, there is death. Where there is death, there will be decay and trouble. Now we are subject to things like disease (of the body and the mind). As we all know, there are entire industries which have sprung up to deal with disease (consider St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Kenny Rogers Center, etc.)
3. Where there is sin, there is continuing rebellion against God. Some things which we know are right we do not do. Intentionally or unintentionally. Some things which we know are not right, we do anyhow. This is called “sin.” The Bible says that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
4. Therefore, humankind is in need of redemption. If you do not believe that, you do not have to look any further than to history, where you will learn all manner of the atrocities and perversions of humankind.
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Toward UNconfusion: The Doctrine of God 
God is not something which you can just make up (though many try to do just that). God has existed from before the beginning of time, and will exist until after the end of time. He is eternal.
The Bible ascribes any number of attributes (characteristics) to God. Omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnipresent. eternal. Just. Merciful. Holy. Just to name some of them. You can find more of them by reading Luther’s Small Catechism (or, directly, by reading the Bible).
God has revealed HImself to us as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three separate and distinct Persons in the one God. While we generally speak of God the Father as the Creator, of God the Son as the Redeemer, and of God the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier, it is proper to understand that all Three Persons participate in all of the work of God (see the Athanasian Creed).
It was in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ that God the Son became flesh and blood, born of the virgin Mary. Jesus is God Who took the sins of the world upon Himself. He never sinned. He died to pay for all sins. He arose from His grave on Easter morning. He forgives the sins of those who repent of their sins and believe in Him. He does not forgive the sins of those who are impenitent. He will visibly return to the the world when time ends and will judge all sin and evil. The unbelievers will be damned to hell for all of eternity. The believers will be taken into heaven for all of eternity.
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Toward UNconfusion: What Happens When . . .
So, we rightly ask, “What is happening when so many societal values are being challenged?”
The answer, simply, is sin. Mankind is naturally inclined, since the fall into sin, to challenge God’s Word and Commands. Different people challenge different commands: one challenges marriage by committing adultery; another challenges marriage by “shacking up;” another challenges marriage by refusing to befriend his/her spouse; still another challenges marriage  by their homosexuality;  and on it goes. One can easily discern that it is not just one sin which marks man’s rebellion, but many different sins. Against many different commandments, not just against one. Nor are these sins unique to one generation or the other (some years ago, there was reported to be a significant rise in STD’s in some of the retirement communities where there were a number of widows and widowers who reasoned that, since they could not get pregnant anymore . . .).
All of this results in the confusion which we see in our current day. We have seen it before. We will see it again. It is man’s rebellion.
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Toward UNconfusion: What is the Cure? What shall we do? 
Two different questions need two different answers:
[1] The “cure” is obvious, but many people don’t “get it.” Repentance is: turning from the sin and trusting in God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Just like faith is the gift of God, so this repentance truly is a gift from God. He is the one who teaches you His ways, shows you the error of your ways, and breaks down whatever rebellion or stubborn pride is keeping you stuck in the world’s confusion. He will also welcome you and not throw your past in your face.
[2] We in the Christian Church need to learn to simply stand fast. Too often, we long to be a part of the latest and greatest “movement.” We get tired of being called “fuddy duddies,” or the like, we get tired of our statistics going the wrong way (because the world keeps rejecting God!), and we are sorely tempted to compromise with the Word of God.
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May the Lord help us poor sinners to get things straight and to keep things straight! We know of the Lord’s great love for us. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins which we have through our blessed Savior! 
And may the Lord cause us to stand fast against societal confusion, model the life which God intends for us all, and make a concerted effort to reach all who are confused, and to lead them (with us!) to repentance!   +
                                                                                                             In Christ,
Pastor Wollenburg
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QUESTION: So, Pastor, I have acquaintances (friends) who are homosexual. How should I as a Christian treat them? And what does the Church say about them?
ANSWER:  That’s a very big and certainly “loaded” question in our day and age. EVERY SIN is an abomination in the Lord’s eyes. He Who is holy in every way is offended by our every transgression of His commandments. That is what makes the work of Jesus shine so very brightly! That God would place every sin upon His Son and that Jesus would pay for every sin is awesome.
You or others may be troubled by another’s sin. But try to remember that Christ has paid for every single sin. What God wants is for every sinner to be led to repentance and to war against their own sinful flesh. God wants the heterosexual to repent of his/her natural (and sinful) tendencies toward lewd thoughts and crude words and actions. He wants the same for the homosexual.
You should continue to love your friend, and they should continue to respect your Christian view of homosexual acts. Even though some in the homosexual community have sought to rewrite the Scriptures and even though some of the churches have “bought into” those rewrites, it will be plainly evident to any student of the Word that God condemns such actions and tendencies. If the person says that they can’t help but be homosexual (another discussion for another time), remind them that the Lord still expects them to be celibate (the heterosexual is also commanded by God to live a celibate life unless the Lord brings him/her into marriage).
As to the subject of same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage plainly is NOT God’s plan for our world. He created Adam and Eve and placed them together in Eden. There is simply no Biblical support whatsoever for same-sex marriage.
Please try to understand that your friend/acquaintance may be just as lonely as the heterosexual might be. We in the Church befriend all kinds of sinners. We call all sinners to daily repentance. As the heterosexual should repent of his/her unnatural and sinful desires, so should the homosexual. When the heterosexual sins, s/he confesses his sins and receives absolution. The same would be true of the homosexual. No one should EVER use confession and absolution as a license to sin more.
  In a nutshell, then, while the Christian Church condemns every sin of every stripe, so the Christian Church is also called by God to love and speak of Christ’s forgiving work to sinners of every stripe.
By maintaining an appropriate relationship with your friend/acquaintance, the Lord may be giving you the opportunity to lead him/her to repentance.
There is SO MUCH MORE which could be said on this subject. I pray that this much is helpful to you . . . for Christ’s sake! /s/ Pastor ajw