“No Divisions Allowed!”

SONY DSCSeveral years ago I “preached” a sermon on ‘Divisions,’ based on the words from 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. As I listen to the news and hear the people in the country either gloating or pouting or even rioting about the elections in the U.S.A., I think we need to take a serious look at this topic again. I hope and pray that among Christians we will leave this behind and certainly, most importantly, leave it at the cross before we enter the church.

Quarrels are a part of family life, as sinful people with different ideas and goals collide with each other. Quarreling is not only demoralizing it is also divisive, breaking families apart. Quarreling can invade the church, too. Such was the case in the Corinthian church. Cliques were forming within that congregation. Some were followers of Paul, others of Peter, still others of Apollos, while others claimed allegiance to Christ. These opposing parties threatened the unity of the church with their divisive quarreling. Paul urges a different attitude, “I appeal to you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you, and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” In the church, there are no divisions allowed.

Divisions can destroy the church. Paul demonstrates his horror at the fact that the Corinthian church was divided. He reminds the Corinthians that since they have fellowship with Christ, they also have fellowship with each other. They are to be united in mind and thought as they agree with each other for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. When Paul speaks about divisions in the church, he is not talking about doctrinal differences or standing on the Word of God against error and false teaching. This was not the issue. The divisions were personal rivalries, where people quarrel with each other in harmful ways, where power struggles disrupt relationships and hurt the ministry of the church.

Quarrels can erupt in the church, because the church is filled with sinners. But, God has knit us together as brothers and sisters in Christ. There are spiritual implications to divisions in the church. When a church is divided against itself, ministry gets put on “the back burner.” Conflict takes all the time and energy. If a body is at war with its self, it becomes ineffective. Paul expresses concern that there be “no division,” “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” When a church is divided, ministry suffers and Christ is dishonored. Quarrels are a product of immaturity. When church members fight, they are no better than unbelievers. As some have said, “We don’t want to give the devil an opportunity here.” Good advice!

So, the real issue is how we deal with each other as fellow members of Christ’s church. We are joined together in Christ. He stands between us whenever we relate to each other. When Jesus stands between us, the rules of the game change. We “accept one another as we have been accepted in Christ.” There is no room for holding a grudge. There is no room for judging the motives, sincerity, or spirituality of another. There is no room for political movements. We trust the Holy Spirit to lead and direct us into His way. Leave the world and its politics to the world. We must remember that God has joined us together in His church. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another…that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We are all God’s children, so let’s play nice together. No divisions allowed!

Pastor Bill Lowrey

“Practicing What We Preach”

Though the title phrase does not exist in the Bible, the sentiment does in many verses and with various applications. Romans 2:21 is one example of such, practice-preachyou then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?” Consider even Jesus’ reminder to the people who were prepared to stone a woman for her sins saying “let he/those who are without sin cast the first stone(s),” and they all walked away.

There are so many public examples over the last few months that come from the political realm we can use as illustrations in understanding the importance of “Practicing What You Preach.” Not seeking to make this a partisan post, please note now that I include statements from folks on differing sides of the political realm.

Most recently President Obama gave public advice to the President Elect not to use the president’s power of executive orders too much. The irony being the number of times President Obama did such and even more times he threatened to do so and on very controversial issues. President Elect Trump backed away from several of his hyped up campaign promises that excited people and encouraged their vote. Within 2 days of his election, several of his promises/threats were backed away from. So he did as most have done before him and said what he needed to, to get elected, but lacked integrity in his words.

There were statements made Hillary Clinton and the First Lady that they would work with the new administration and they were taking the high road on dealing with criticisms and the like. However, in almost the same breath they pointed to indiscretions and made inflammatory accusations about the President Elect. On the other side of the fence people who pointed to faults, flaws and the weakness of the President Elect’s character from years past were quick to ignore such and jump on the bandwagon with hopes of gaining a position in the new administration. Even several who were unfairly criticized and lied about by PE Trump quickly forgot such when the opportunity for a new and powerful position was presented to them.

In the weeks prior to the presidential election claims were made that things could be rigged, or fraudulent. Those were scoffed at that idea then made those claims themselves after the election when the votes didn’t go their way.

Back when Obama was elected there were many claims that this was God ordained and the Lord certainly had a hand in this election. God brought about this presidency so everyone should heed this as such and fall in line and work together. Many of those same people, now refuse to accept that Trump’s election is even valid crying “not my president.” There were people calling for the impeachment of President Obama early in his terms. There are people now calling for the impeachment of PE Trump even before he has taken the oath of office. We seemingly only cry for non-partisan working together when that means work with me on my ideas, my side, my values.

Many news reporters long ago stopped being reporters and now fashion themselves as pundits. There really is little evening news to watch anymore. Most of it, liberal or conservative has become more like the evening opinion. Some have gone so far as to call for the destruction of holdings/properties of the PE Trump. So now the news people and (talk show people who have joined the rally cries) are insurrectionists and anarchists.

If you disagree with someone regarding any issue around race, sexuality, spirituality, politics or a host of other topics, you are judged for your opinion, perspective or belief as being “hate” or “hate speech.”

In our day to day relationships we hear words like “bullying,” by people who are doing the very same or worse. Our hypocrisy is also often evident in words like “do as I say, not as I do.” When we argue we close our ears because our mouths are so loud and busy saying what we think or believe and we “dig our heals in” without wanting to hear anyone else’s views or perspectives.

We allow ourselves to be swayed even more by friends who affirm us even when we are wrong. Or when a loved one tells a lie we take it as true because of our relationship bonds, so rumors take flight without reality being addressed.  We ignore God’s wisdom “Without wood a fire goes out, and without gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20).” Instead we fuel the flames and make a bonfire from a spark. We feed on fiction “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost part (Proverbs 26:22)” and grow in strength, but it is not God’s strength it’s the devils.

I’ve learned over the last 20 plus years in the ministry how easy a target pastors and their families are, even from within the very congregations they serve. People will make accusations from hearsay, half-truths or even outright lies and defend them to the death. But if the pastor were to dare speak about them or try to bring the truth to light, the roof could fly off the church. There are ministers whose lives have been ruined by such lies and rumors by the people who claim the name Christian that spread them. I know several men who have left the ministry because of such evil.

Whenever I preach a sermon, I always have to preach it to myself first. I follow the old idea that when you are pointing one finger out at someone, you are pointing three back at yourself. We are all sinners. We all need the Savior. The devil is against us as Christians enough in the world. We dare not get caught up in allowing politics, stories, rumors and the like to cause dissension. The end of Romans 8 reminds us to let “nothing separate us from the love of Christ.” What we find is that the only thing that can separate us is ourselves. Don’t let anything stand between us as a Christian family either. Be Christ-like, and live for His love and each other. Never point the fingers out without looking in the mirror first. Never make accusations without listening to the other person first. Practice what you preach as a Christians, or better yet, let’s practice when Jesus preached.

Pastor Bill

Bible Thumper

Recently I was labeled as a Christian Bible Thumper by someone online. The manner in which the person used this term was intended to be an insult. What they didn’t understand is that as a Christian, any Christian, all Christians should be Bible Thumpers.

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The term in sometimes understood to mean someone who uses the Bible as an affront to other people who don’t follow the Word. However, a simpler use is that it is someone who seeks to impose their Christian beliefs on others. In fact, in the exchange we were having, I never sought to change the person or to influence them over to my mindset, I was only expressing that the Scriptures are the basis for my mindset and thus guide my words and faith. Thinking about that more in the time after the exchanges were complete, I came to hope that I would be a Bible Thumper and so should every Christian.

We are called to take the Word of God into the world and teach all people, everywhere. If we are not seeking to bring the Word of God into the lives of everyone, and seeking guide them in transforming their lives through the Word of God and a relationship with Jesus, we are not fulfilling our Christian responsibility. The Bible is the Word of God and it should be our only source and norm for all our faith life and beliefs.

If we are living by any other code or creed, it dare not be in conflict with God’s Word. If we are following any other path, we are not following Jesus and if we are not following Jesus, we will not be saved. So, YES!, thump the Bible. Seek to bring light to those living in darkness. Make the effort to influence them away from their sinful mindsets. We should want to impose our belief on others because without it, without a faith in Jesus, well, we know of no other way of salvation.

If we are not seeking to change them, can we truly say we love them. If you love someone, are you willing to let them go to Hell without having made any effort to show them Jesus? This is certainly not the Love that God has shown to us.

The world is more receptive to your Christian witness right now that at any other time of the year. With the lights, decorations and Christmas music playing in the stores and adorning the neighborhoods, we have an easy reference and starting point for conversations about Christ. Don’t let this great opportunity for witness pass you by without seeking to share your faith with someone or helping them to know Christ (and that catch phrase that is popularized) as the reason for the season.

Keep the Word of God close to your heart and deep in your spirit. Talk about Jesus. Thump when necessary, without any concern about influencing them to change their hearts and minds for Jesus. That is our goal after all. We are to bring Christ to the nations. Jesus can dispel and heal the darkness, the erring, the lost in life. Jesus can change the heart of the non-believer. But, they have to hear the Word before they can know how to follow Him and they can’t follow Him, if they don’t know Him.

Pastor Bill (thumper of Bibles)

Synod (Walking Together or Follow the “SP” Leader?)

04f49f9e3aabeb9d9c9476dec98b7dadGoing into the LC-MS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) Convention this summer it looked like the Bully Pulpit and Money Train that we have seen over the last few years out of our Synod leadership was planning to steam roll the convention more than they had in the past. There were many resolutions reflecting a desire to limit the authority of individual congregations, either distrusting local pastor’s leadership or simply displaying a desire to gain more control of and money from individual congregations.

While the Synodical President (SP) was reelected, gratefully some of the most disturbing resolutions he was pushing were not approved. Still, there were several resolutions that were approved that make no sense at all. Why? Likely because the average lay voter (which makes up half of the convention, each Circuit sends one Pastor and one Lay representative) is not well informed as to the ramifications of some of the programs or policies they are voting on. Not all mind you, some lay voters are well read on the ways of Synod, but many more are not. Then there are pastors who are not so well read on the politics of Synod and tend to go the direction of the wind.

A couple of programs (costly ones) were approved that are not even completed. They are simply ideas that have not been fleshed out. The result is that blindly approving something before we can even read it means we may end up with something that we would absolutely despise, but have no recall in it, because it was pre-approved.

The SP, even before the convention was swaying voters in sending out synodically paid for mailers to each delegate with his name on them. Then, from the chair of the convention floor, he made no effort to advise voters against following a suggestion list of candidates for offices that was mass distributed by an extreme right wing group of people in our synod. They were certainly the people he would be prone to support.

Our church body as a whole is becoming more an administratively authoritative political machine looking out for itself than what we are to be about, which is sharing the Good News of Jesus with world. Praise God that they (the synod presidium) were not able to pass the resolution which would have limited a congregation’s right to support the missions and missionaries that they choose. Our District President Ken Hennings, who also chairs the Council of Presidents, was instrumental in shutting this down. So glad we live in this District.

Many resolutions were passed that consolidate more control in the office of SP. Considering the number of committees alone that the SP chose to create, this convention was a huge money pit. It was an example of ‘Big Government’ at its finest.

Praise God that Jesus, the head of the true Church, is still who we will follow at Holy Cross. We will continue to do the work we have always done, care for the people around us, witness to Arlington and to the ends of the earth, support the missions and missionaries from our church family whom we love and answer to Christ alone. We will ‘walk together’ (the meaning of the word “Synod”) with the LCMS, but follow only Jesus.

Pastor Bill

 

I can’t believe the Church teaches this! (You won’t believe number 4!!!)

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Sensationalism, it’s appears in the magazines and newspapers, for those of you who still read newspapers. There is a headline with some sort of a “hook” to try and get your attention so you will read the article. It’s done on the news as they have some teaser of a moment before they go into a commercial to get you to stay tuned and listen for more. The most prevalent place it’s done is on the internet, where they tempt you to click on a picture or ad so that you will start scrolling through their site – it’s all about their getting income because you “click” on the links.

There are many misleading headlines and ambiguous stories that people believe in. There is so much that we have bought into that not only leads us away from truth, but replaces truth with itself.

I can be a good Christian and not go to church.  Only if you throw out the Bible verses where we show ourselves to be His family. In Lk 8 and Matt 12 Jesus says those who do His Father’s will are His brother, sister and mother. Heb 10:23-31 makes it clear that God wants us in the fellowship of the Christian family worshipping Him and if we continue neglecting that fellowship, we may end up forfeiting eternal life.

God won’t give us more than we can handle.   The whole point of God’s law is to show us the very opposite. Everything is more than we can handle. That’s why we need God. With Him all things are possible (Philippians 4:13), without Him we can do nothing, Jn 15:4-5.

God helps those who help themselves.   In Jer 17:5 and Prov 28:26 we see that those who trust in themselves are fools and even cursed. The Scriptures say over and over that God helps the helpless (Rom 5:5, Is 25:4).

Once saved, always saved.  If this were the case, then we would have to disbelieve God when He said “the wages of sin are death” Rom 6:23. Matt 13:20-21 is where Jesus warns there are those who will fall away.

God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.  Simply, Psalm 5:5 and Psalm 11:5 say the Lord hates all those who do evil. This is why we desperately need the forgiveness of sin.

Add to these the distractions of the world such as sports, vacations, internet and television, staying in bed, shopping, entertaining guests, affluence, the spirituality of self over God, etc. and what is truly sensational is lost. Jesus died for your sins! He rose to proclaim your forgiveness and salvation! How’s that for something truly sensational? Shouldn’t that be motivation enough to get everyone in church and worshiping Him continually? Or is Mark 7:6 true, “these people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” Or again, Lk 16:31, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.”

To what are you listening? 1 Tim 4:3 says “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

When were you last in Worship and Bible Study and where have you been every week that was more important? Are you holding fast to the forgiveness earned for you in Christ Jesus or holding fast to the world, the myths and the self-interests? Which brings you salvation and the hope of eternal life? The world or the Word?

You know the answer. Now, with God’s Spirit guiding you it’s up to you to do the right thing.

Pastor Bill

Some Will Disagree!

UntitledIn our country, the Supreme Court can make a ruling where 5 of 9 judges agree and 4 dissent and the outcome becomes the Law of the land. The decisions they make are far reaching and long standing in forming the direction that our country takes, good or bad. Some people agree with the decisions and others do not.

This happens on a local level as well. Consider the many recent rulings that have taken place around the country concerning the actions of police officers. Some of the situations have brought about indictments and even convictions of officers. Other cases have found that the actions did not merit any charges against the officers. With that, the public agrees or disagrees and there is often much clatter among those who do not agree with the court’s decision.

As the LCMS approaches its Synodical convention in July, this is something that plays out in our church body as well. There will be, as there have in the past, decisions made that some will abide by and will embitter others. This goes so far as to even cause some people to consider leaving the Church body.

Let’s bring it down another level. There are decisions that are made by voters’ assemblies within churches which some people agree with and others do not. At times this has resulted in some who rather loudly lamented the decisions or even have left the congregations because they did not agree.

On a more singular level, there have been decisions that have been made by pastors which some folks in the churches have agreed with and others disagreed. Even these have at times made for feelings of consternation among the laity, resulting in bad feelings and folks skipping church.

Then, there is the Word of God. The voice inside my head recalls the Jim Nabors’ show back in the 60s called Gomer Pyle, Pyle’s phrase, “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise,” people don’t agree. In everything up to this last point I can perceive why some people might have a variety of opinions which run counter to any decisions made. But, when it comes to God’s Word, there should not be any arguing, voting, or reason to even consider making a “decision” on the veracity of what is said (at least not among any who would call themselves Christian).

God did not give us a Word that is unclear in the areas that pertain to our salvation or to His expectations for us as His children/disciples. Where God has said something is good, who are we to judge? The same goes when God speaks concerning what is evil, sinful or even in some cases an abomination. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

Evangelist Billy Graham once wrote, “Someone has said: ‘A wrong deed is right if the majority of people declare it not to be wrong.’ By this principle we can see our standards shifting from year to year according to the popular vote!” We need to get our values straight with God and then start working in reverse of this letter. From being right with God all the way back to getting things right in our country. If we all submitted to God’s authority, then the other areas of life would begin to work out better because the faithfulness of a country (or any group of people) depends on the faithfulness of the individuals who make it up. It all starts with God and obeying Him. Or, if you will not yield to God, well “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise” the old beer commercial is right “It doesn’t (or wont’) get any better than this”

Pastor Bill

 

 

Has God Not Given You What You Deserve?

imagesAre you upset because you think God has not given you what you deserve? Perhaps others (not as worthy as you) have what you want (1)? They have the good job, a great salary, a happy family, toys and material blessings. But, you’ve worked harder and longer and you deserve _______, right (2)?

Have you considered the debt of your sins (3)? Do you deserve forgiveness? If so, what makes you feel that way? What have you done to earn it (4)? Did Jesus get what He deserved in life (5)?

Fortunately, you and I don’t get what we deserve. If we have faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we get something much better (6), forgiveness and the promise of eternal life are because of God’s mercy, not your works. Perhaps you should consider, “Do you really want what you deserve?”

Perhaps you feel you’ve done everything you should and so God owes you (7). Perhaps somewhere along the way

you forgot that this life is not about you. It’s about Jesus, His grace, His mercy, His love, and He can do whatever He wants with that which belongs to Him. So, again, do you really want what you deserve (8)?

Quit comparing your life to that of others. There is good and bad in both, I guarantee you! Never take the blessings you have for granted, there are others who wish they had what you have. Thank the Lord for what you have (9) instead of complaining about what you don’t have.

Everything comes from God. The failure to recognize this is where the virus of indifference invades our spirit. God’s generosity, is not based on what we deserve. We deceive ourselves when we believe that God’s grace is distributed according to what each and every one of us deserve. Have you ever noticed how happy and excited you are when the bad guys “get just what they deserved” (10)? We lack compassion when we see it as undeserved. We want people to get what they deserve for the evil they do (11). God is better. He sees His undeserving people and is merciful.

I don’t want what I deserve. I hope you feel the same. But, I do hope that together we desire to live a faithful life with Jesus, in response to His love, generosity and His even handedness in giving us, what we don’t deserve (12).

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  1. Matthew 5:45 “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
  2. Matthew 20:10 “So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive. But each one of them also received a denarius.”
  3. 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”
  4. Isaiah 64:6 “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
  5. Romans 4:25 “He was delivered over to death for our sins”
  6. Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”
  7. Luke 17:10 “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
  8. Psalm 103:10 “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”
  9. Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things.”
  10. Luke 18:11 “I thank you that I am not like other men.”
  11. Jonah 4:1&4 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry…. And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’”
  12. Jeremiah 31:34 “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”