In Faith

“We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

The congregation of St. Paul located in Pensacola, Florida began the discernment process of leaving the ELCA in 2018. We had the 2nd vote to leave the Florida-Bahamas (FB) Synod of the ELCA in 2019. We expected some challenges in leaving because of the small group of members who wanted to remain in the ELCA. The congregation voted with a super-majority to leave the FB Synod. St. Paul applied to and joined the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) in 2020. Shortly after being received into the NALC, the congregation council received a letter from the FB Synod informing us that we could not leave.

The congregation council of that period were faithful in their commitment to Christ. They had a strength in faith that was unwavering. It proved to be a blessing for us as the FB Synod attempted to stop the people of God from leaving. To resolve the issue of St. Paul leaving the ELCA, the congregation council filed a motion in court. This was to maintain our rights to the building and the financials of St. Paul. During the legal process, letters with false statements were sent to the church members of St. Paul (NALC). Slanderous statements were made against the council and me. The ugliness of letters from the FB Synod showed a lack of Christian love for others and did not speak the truth of the intentions within the ELCA. The object of the ELCA was and I believe still is to “suppress the truth” of what they are doing or what they have done. We had suggested that the majority (us) and the minority (them) could share the building. But that was met with another ugly response. The Bishop of the FB Synod stated in words like these: Any other denomination but the NALC would have been okay. But not the NALC.

Eventually after many legal disputes the FB Synod Bishop filed a summary of judgment with the claim of ecclesiastical hierarchy. Taking the matter away from the civil court and giving it back to the FB Synod to make the final determination. The ruling gave our building, bank accounts, and endowment funds to the FB Synod and the small group of people who wanted to stay in the ELCA.

This could have been crushing for us if it were not for “faith.” Instead, the ruling of the judge based on the ecclesiastical hierarchy was freeing! Shortly after we lost everything to the ruling, God founded a new name for us. Led by the Spirit, Epiphany Lutheran Church became our new name. In 2021 we sought and found a new location for worship. I was introduced to Rabbi Tokajer in September, and we began worshipping at the Synagogue on Nov. 7, 2021.

In faith we left the building in Pensacola for a new beginning. With our vision clear and our faith steadfast in Christ, we began rebuilding and evangelizing for God’s church in the new location. With little financial stability we stepped out. In our faith journey, we didn’t think about what was lost. Instead, we recognized how much God was providing.

I encourage pastors discerning their call to contact the General Secretary of the NALC. The threats from the ELCA that place fear into individual pastors is nothing more than evil. If you want to remain faithful to the Word of God, I encourage you to place your assurance in Christ not the ELCA. The letters I received informed me that I was nothing without their endorsement. The ELCA didn’t call me into ministry. God called me into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. What about my pension and medical benefits? Have faith! As God is my witness, this question came to my mind too. It was a fleeting thought as I discerned the call to serve in faithfulness. 

In March of 2023, I spoke to the congregation about our faith walk. I referred to the summary of judgment and the loss of our assets and property. In the message of faith I said, “We lost everything for the sake of Christ.” It is in this loss that we found out just how strong and faith filled we were. As I’ve said many times, “It’s easy to have faith when everything is going well in your life.” With the help of God, we’ve grown in number, in spirit, and in faithfulness. Like the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, we lift up the church and all those who continue their journey in “faith.” We share the love of Christ with new believers and all visitors at Epiphany Pensacola. All are welcome to experience the love and joy of Christ in worship.

As I am writing this article it just dawned on me that on Nov. 7, 2023, when we break ground on a new church building it will be our 2nd anniversary of this new start congregation in Pensacola, Florida. God has blessed us with generous financial support for the church property. The mission and ministry have been financially supported by several NALC churches. We’ve received domestic mission partnerships from other NALC churches. The congregation has grown, and the people of God have been generous in supporting the mission and ministry of Christ. Losing everything for the sake of the Gospel has been transformational to the members of Epiphany Pensacola.   

Faithfully Serving,

The Rev. Dr. Franklin J. Gore

Epiphany Lutheran Church

850-287-5667

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Photos courtesy of Brenda Ekstrom and Donna Busarow.




Video Book Review – “Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty”

Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to Maurice Lee, NALC pastor and theologian, for doing a review of Mark Mattes’ book, Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty: A Reappraisal.  Dr. Mattes is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Grand View University in Des Moines.

Dr. Lee begins by referring to Dr. Mattes’ “astonishingly prolific and insightful scholarship over many years.”  He then goes on to mention how Luther would have come to a conclusion similar to that of the philosophical tradition — that truth, goodness, and beauty are closely interconnected — but only on the basis of his rigorously Christological perspective, in that we can rightly see truth, goodness, and beauty only in the light of Christ crucified and risen.

Luther and the Lutheran tradition did not remove music and the visual arts from the church.  In fact, Luther’s praise for music was second only to his praise for the Word of God. This deep appreciation for beauty was in line with Luther’s understanding that God’s Word comes through earthly, physical, and bodily means.  The finite is capable of bearing the infinite.  The body and earthly things can be channels of grace when appropriated by the Word of God.

This review, as well as 18 others, has been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.

PLAYLIST

If you would like to watch Lutheran CORE’s playlist of all of our video book reviews, click here, then scroll down and start the video by selecting the play button or click on the three vertical lines near the top right of the first video to select a new video from the list that will pop up. 




Letter from the Director – February 2022

HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

THE ELCA AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZING – PART TWO

Introduction

For the January 2022 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, I wrote the first part of a two-part article entitled, “How Did It Happen?”  How did LGBTQ+ values, priorities, and agenda completely take over the ELCA, and so quickly?  I began with an explanation of the principles of community organizing and how that methodology has been used extremely effectively by such groups within the Lutheran community as ReconcilingWorks.  A link to that article can be found here.

In that article I covered such things as –

  • Resources for further study
  • Community organizing as part of the curriculum at ELCA seminaries
  • The emphasis upon strong relationships and shared values
  • The “Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit” from ReconcilingWorks
  • Minimal use and major misuse of Scripture

In this second part I will further describe how those who put into practice the principles of community organizing can take over a congregation.  Then I will close with several suggestions as to what those who hold to a high view of the authority of the Bible and the Bible’s clear teachings regarding human sexuality can and need to do.    

Mapping the Journey

A key component of community organizing is categorizing people according to how supportive and/or useful they will be to the cause, and then working to change the minds of the others who are most likely to change their minds and support the cause.

The fourth (out of eleven) steps is called “Mapping the Journey.”  In this step people are divided into five categories according to the level of their support or lack of support.

  • Innovators – 2.5%
  • Early Adopters – 13.5%
  • Early Majority – 34%
  • Late Majority – 34%
  • Laggards – 16%

The percentages given for each category reflect the estimated percentage of people in the total group (a typical congregation) who will fall into that particular category.

The Innovators are expected to be either already on board or easily convinced.  They are then appointed as core team leaders and/or congregational influencers.  After the Innovators, the Early Adopters are the easiest to convince.  The Early Majority will require more persuasion to be on board, but with some effort, they, too, are not too difficult to convince.  Therefore, the Building an Inclusive Church (BIC) Toolkit recommends that these three groups be the primary focus of the efforts.

Because a vote to gain RIC (Reconciled in Christ) status requires a 75% vote on the part of the congregation, the Late Majority will also have to be engaged in order to have enough people to say “yes.”  The BIC Toolkit’s strategy for dealing with the Late Majority is to do the following:

  • Focus first on the Innovators, Early Adopters, and Early Majority.  These people will be easier to convince.  Only then start working on the Late Majority.
  • It is hoped that efforts to win over the Early Adopters and Early Majority will have some effect on the Late Majority so that it will be easier to convince them.
  • Engage in One-to-One Visits with the Late Majority in order to get to know them better, build trust, make them feel heard, and form a strong relationship with them.
  • Leverage this trust with the Late Majority in order to press them to agree with you, or at the very least to not be opposed to you, as you push for change.  (Statistically most people who do not agree with a decision will be willing to live with that decision if they feel that they have been heard and included in the decision-making process.)
  • Gradually work on their hearts and minds, until they are willing to say at least “maybe” if not “yes.”

Laggards are regarded as lost causes.  No attempt is to be made to meaningfully engage with them.  Instead, the BIC Toolkit’s strategy is to engage with everyone else, get all the others on board, and then force the Laggards to either change their minds, begrudgingly accept the decision, or leave the community.  The expectation is that many Laggards will choose to just leave.

The community organizing approach reflects what ReconcilingWorks has been doing throughout the ELCA to bring the ELCA to becoming LGBTQ+ affirming.  This is how the liberal/progressive wing of the ELCA has managed to gain so much power and to have so many things, such as changes in liturgy and in church policy and practice, go in their favor.

Response and Actions

Clearly, the confessional Lutheran community has not been effective in battling the community organizing method nor in responding to the needs and concerns of those who get swayed by these tactics.  What do we who hold to a high view of the authority of the Bible and the Bible’s clear teachings regarding human sexuality need to do?  I can think of several things.

  • We need a strong and effective response to these community organizing techniques.  We need to build strong relationships with people.  That is at the heart of how the LGBTQ+ affirming community was able to get so many people who were once opposed to their ideology to accept it.  If they can do it, we can do it too!  In fact, I believe that the revisionists may have had the advantage in gaining empathy through their telling stories of same-sex attracted people who have experienced rejection, are suffering from depression, and are even suicidal, but those who hold to traditional Biblical moral values should be able to have the advantage of gaining empathy through telling stories of people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery and now regret their decision, are experiencing medical ill affects because of their decision, and/or have found that their undergoing that surgery did not bring them the joy and peace that they had been hoping for. 
  • We need to build a strong understanding of the basics of the Lutheran understanding of the Bible.  We need to promote and model good engagement with Scripture and proper understanding of Scripture – the whole of Scripture – in light of Scripture’s primary message of Law and Gospel.  People’s lack of Biblical knowledge and failure to properly engage with Scripture leave them vulnerable to all manners of false teaching.
  • We need to model what showing love to the LGBTQ+ community looks like in a biblically sound way.  The charge against us – that we are angry and hateful – is widely believed because some people have experienced far more anger than love from those who hold to traditional views of human sexuality.
  • We need to have good answers to such questions as, “What do I do if I am gay?” and “What should I do now that my child or friend has come out as gay?”  We need to do more than just tell people not to sin.  We also need to equip them with tools and support to resist sin.  We need to provide and be for these people a loving and supportive faith community which will walk alongside of them in their struggles against sin and will proclaim God’s gift of forgiveness for them so that – when they do fall – they will find hope in Jesus.
  • We need to find resources that have been created for LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones that are biblically sound.  We need to find them, let people know about them, and promote their use.
  • We need to provide support for LGBTQ+ identified persons who are honest about struggling with sin, yet who want to live in a biblically faithful way.  We need to encourage them and show them that it is possible to live a life that is pleasing to God.  These people carry a heavy burden, which is often made only heavier by rejection from conservatives (because of their having same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria) as well as from liberals (because of their wanting to live in a biblically faithful way).  These people need our support.  We need to have empathy for them and show love to them. 

Conclusion

There is no question but that those who have wanted to totally remake the church’s view and practice of issues related to human sexuality have been extremely effective – much more effective than those who desire to maintain traditional, Biblical moral values. 

In Luke 16: 8 Jesus said, “The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”  Those within the ELCA whose beliefs, values, and priorities reflect the world rather than are based upon the clear teaching of Scripture I would call children of this age rather than children of light.

We need to be concerned for upcoming generations, who more and more are going to be told lies concerning human sexuality, so we must be aware of the principles and methodology of community organizing.  Traditionally minded congregations need to be made aware so that they will not fall prey.  We who believe that the Bible is the Word of God need to show compassion and care for those who struggle with same sex attraction.  We need to be of encouragement, support, and help to their family members and friends.  And we need to be prepared to point them to resources that will help them live a life that is pleasing to God.        

* * * * * * *

VIDEO BOOK REVIEWS

“THE PATIENT FERMENT OF THE EARLY CHURCH”  

Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to ELCA Pastor Matt Voyer for his review of the book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, by Alan Kreider. 

We all have admired and been in awe over the phenomenal growth of the early Church, even in spite of opposition and persecution.  Alan Kreider argues that the great growth of the early Church was driven by the lifestyle of early Christians.  What attracted people were not moving and relevant worship services but the way of life of the early believers.  It was not what Christians said, but what they did.  Their lives and habits and ways of being and living in the world drew people not just to the Church, but to our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Voyer highly recommends this book and suggests that it be read by individuals, church councils, and within small groups.

“A PLACE FOR TRUTH” – EDITED BY DALLAS WILLARD

I would also like to remind you of ELCA Pastor Kevin Haug’s review of a book edited by Dallas Willard, A Place for Truth: Leading Thinkers Explore Life’s Hardest Questions.  Dallas Willard was a long-time professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California and is well known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation.

The book is a series of fifteen lectures covering such topics as truth in relation to post-modernism, an examination of the exclusive claims to truth of Christianity, human DNA as evidence for a creator, and a psychological study of why some people may be atheists. 

Pastor Haug commented regarding the book, “I found it to be very intellectually stimulating and satisfying.  If you have a high regard for the authority of Scripture and a high regard for reason, logic, and science, if that is you, this book is for you.” 

These reviews, as well as fourteen others, have been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.

PLAYLIST

If you would like to watch Lutheran CORE’s playlist of all of our video book reviews, click here, then scroll down and start the video by selecting the play button or click on the three vertical lines near the top right of the first video to select a new video from the list that will pop up. 

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

dennisdnelsonaz@yahoo.com




Embracing the Challenges and Opportunities of Worship in the Digital Age

Editor’s note: Congregations using music, videos, and other items downloaded from the internet should check on whether they have copyright permission for streaming them over the internet as part of worship services. CCLI and similar licenses often do not grant such permission. Read carefully in the documentation of your license to learn what you do and do not have permission to stream outside the building, or seek legal advice.

I know: The above title is too long.  But let’s not quibble.  This is too important an issue.  And many of you reading this can do something to address this ministry challenge; hopefully sooner rather than later.

Fundamentally, this is about what is passing for streamed worship services during this pandemic, and how we can do so much better.  Because here is the brutal truth: Worship life post-COVID will not be returning to the “normal” we remember before the year 2020.  Why?  Post-pandemic, in-person worship attendance will, for most congregations, be at least 25% to 40% below what they had in 2019.  Too bleak?  Well, as the saying goes, “Just wait.”  Most congregations — especially those that just launched their online, streamed worship services in 2020 — will find that many of their members have grown too comfortable with the ease and comfort of in-home worship.  And for those members who have largely avoided in-person worship since early 2020, it’s almost like they’ve left their congregational community for a one-year (or longer) deployment.  As a result, many of them will find it’s easier to stay away than it is to return to in-person congregational life and worship.

So what can be done about this?  The biggest initial challenge will be to focus on the mission opportunity that is before us.  Because improving the quality of your online worship ministry can not only retain members; it can reach new people with the Gospel.  However, before going over practical ways to improve your online worship ministry, one caveat: It will take a very intentional and on-going effort to motivate online worshipers to grow in their faith.  More on that later.

Now for practical suggestions for improving the quality of your online, streamed worship services.

Online Worship Music

The first step is to recognize the obvious: That the online worship experience is very different than pre-COVID, in-person worship.  I have watched online services from scores of different Lutheran churches over the last year.  Some have been inspiring; most have been disappointing.  My biggest disappointment has been online worship music; especially in the case of small and mid-sized congregations.  Disappointing in what way?  The lack of quality music.  This has been true in respect to both congregational hymns/songs, and performed music such as anthems and solo performances.

Part of the problem here is that with online worship I find myself becoming even more of a music critic.  With in-person worship not so much; partly because in the case of hymns and songs I am participating.  With “couch potato” worship I tend to be a passive member of an audience of one.  So if I notice the worship vocal team is struggling, or an instrument is slightly out of tune, the music becomes an unfortunate distraction.  This critical appraisal also applies to solos; whether vocal or instrumental.

The solution?  Only select the songs and hymns that can be done well.  Remember that, in the case of online worship, this is essentially a performance for your online audience.  So it needs to not only be easy enough for your musicians to do well; it also needs to be of high enough quality — both musically and lyrically — to do at all.  For some smaller congregations with a limited number of talented musicians and vocalists available, this might mean less worship music than you offer at your in-person service.  So in this case, “less is more.”

However, if you can access Christian music available from the internet for your online service, do so.  This can be an invaluable and inspirational resource.  If your congregation has the necessary technological capability to access online music videos, contact me.  I have specific videos I can recommend.

Worship Liturgies for Online Worship

Move toward a “service of the Word” more than a full musical liturgy.  Again, this is because your online worshipers are unlikely to participate in sung responses.  The one exception to this principle might be if your liturgist has a solo-quality voice.  In that case hearing the chanter sing both call and response portions of the liturgy might still be meaningful to your online worshipers.  However, the overall principle is this: Online worshipers are more likely to participate in spoken liturgical responses than those that are sung.

Sermon Message

I have found sermons, by in large, to be effective and meaningful online.  Suffice it to say that the great majority of recommendations for what constitutes quality preaching in person also apply to online messages.  My one suggestion would be this: For pastors who have the time and energy, you might want to do a video sermon that is specifically crafted for an online audience.  Especially post-COVID, the majority of your online worshipers will be very different than most of your in-person attenders.  And the biggest difference will be the contrast between those with an unchurched vs. churched background.  As an added bonus give different messages for your in-person and online service. You can encourage members to participate in both services on a weekly basis.

Communion Practice

It depends.  If your congregation is more high-church you might want to offer consecrated elements to be picked up at church in advance.  Perhaps you can even offer to deliver the elements to the homes of some members.  If your congregation is more low-church, then invite online worshipers to have the elements ready at home so they can participate during that part of the service.

Online Worship and Technology

One final and obvious challenge in regards to providing meaningful online worship is the matter of the technology involved.  There is no way to address this with detailed, specific recommendations due to the unique challenges faced by each congregation.  But one important and more general recommendation: Whether it be your video streaming or sound system, only offer what you can do well.  In other words, don’t let your creativity in worship planning get ahead of what your “systems” and tech volunteers can handle without major glitches or disruptions to the “flow” of your service.

None of the above recommendations address the significant and often overwhelming challenge of actually discipling online worshipers.  I will address that in the May issue of this newsletter.  (This article is already long enough.)  My next article will cover, in some detail, the following strategies for discipling online worshipers:

1. in-home, “micro” worship gatherings

2. small group Bible studies

3. one-to-one coaching ministries; online, by phone, or in-person

4. organizing discipleship/accountability triads

5. pastoral care and discipleship

Pastor Don Brandt

Director, Congregations in Transition ministry

pastordonbrandt@gmail.com




What Is Contemporary Critical Theory?

Background Notes: One of the dangers and difficulties of discussing almost any issue these days is how easily any discussion can become highly divisively politicized.  It is not the intent of Lutheran CORE to speak either for or against any political party or candidate.  The political views of the friends of Lutheran CORE cover a very wide spectrum.  In this discussion of Contemporary Critical Theory we are neither endorsing nor speaking against any political candidate or party.  We are discussing an issue which we feel is critically important for Christians to be aware of and be prepared to deal with.

The First Reading for September 6 was from Ezekiel 33, where God compares the role of the prophet to the role of a military sentinel.  Verse 6 says, “If the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them,” God will require the blood of the people at the hand of the sentinel.  In the same way, verse 8 says that if the prophet does not warn the people, God will require the blood of the people at the hand of the prophet.

Lutheran CORE defines its mission as being a Voice for Biblical Truth and a Network for Confessing Lutherans.  As a Voice for Biblical Truth we feel called by God to serve as a sentinel to warn people of forces and movements in our world today – even in the church that are incompatible with if not actually hostile to the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  This is in addition to our role of alerting people to ways in which orthodoxy is being challenged and compromised within the church today.

One of the mindsets and movements that are growing and prevailing today – within our culture and, unfortunately, even within some segments of the Church – is Contemporary Critical Theory.  There are two articles within this issue of CORE Voice which deal with this very powerful and I believe very dangerous force within our world today.  This first article is intended to give you an overview and introduction to Contemporary Critical Theory.  If you are not already familiar with this way of thinking, I am certain you will recognize it as the mindset behind much of what is happening in our nation and our world today.  The second article is a longer and more detailed evaluation and critique of Contemporary Critical Theory.  The intent of this second article is to show how this mindset is incompatible with and even a threat to the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  Many thanks to Brett Jenkins, NALC pastor and former member of our board, for writing the second article.

There is a major difference between the claim that “there is no truth” and the claim that “there is truth, but we have a hard time seeing it on our own.”  While those who are more orthodox-minded may be inclined to assert the latter, those who are not so orthodox-minded may be inclined to assert the former. The former has its roots in the claims of Contemporary Critical Theory.

Contemporary Critical Theory asserts that all knowledge is “socially constructed.”  Therefore, there is no single, objective body of knowledge which all must accept.  All of knowledge is rooted in experience, and we all have different experiences.  My experience will be different from yours; therefore, the knowledge that is “socially constructed” by me may be different from the knowledge that is “socially constructed” by you.  There is no body of knowledge which is wholly objective, as every area of knowledge is tainted with subjectivity.  “Even the field of science is subjective.” (Robin DiAngelo & Öslem Sensoy). 

Because we all have different experiences, we all have different levels of access to truth. The degree to which we have access to truth depends upon positionality: that is, I may have greater access to truth than you do, or vice versa, based on our respective positions in life.  Greater value is given to the perspectives of those with positions in life that give us lived experiences that may provide us with greater insight on the topic(s) discussed.

The idea that there is such a thing as objective reality is looked upon with great suspicion, or even rejected entirely.  Some say that, historically, those in positions of power and privilege have falsely claimed that things which are subjective are actually objective and have used these false claims in order to marginalize and oppress those without power and privilege. Some also say that the privileged misuse these false claims in order to normalize forms of injustice that we should not be accepting as normal. When this is done, “Those in power sleep well at night; their conduct does not seem to them like oppression.” (Richard Delgado).

Contemporary Critical Theory pays great attention to the particular demographic status of the person, and, based on that status, to whether the person might, in context, be considered privileged or marginalized (i.e., rich or poor, white or black, male or female, straight or gay, cisgender or transgender, etc.). The marginalized have the benefit of lived experiences which the privileged simply cannot experience first-hand.  Because the marginalized have greater access to truth than the privileged, the voices of the marginalized are considered to be of greater value than the voices of the privileged. That is especially, but not exclusively, true of matters in which the lived experience of the marginalized provides particular insight into the matter being discussed.  For example, a powerless person who has experienced discrimination at the hands of a person in power will be better equipped to explain such discrimination than a person in power who has never experienced such discrimination first-hand.

Contemporary Critical Theory warns that those with power and privilege do not easily give up their power and privilege.  Rather, they establish institutions, rules, norms, and claims of objective truth in order to establish and protect their dominance in society.  Those in power use all those institutions, rules, norms, and claims in order to subject the powerless to marginalization and oppression.  When the dominance, power, and privilege of the privileged are challenged, they cast doubt on the validity of the claims of those who challenge them.  Consequently, the act of questioning those who are marginalized, especially when done by those who are privileged, is frowned upon, looked upon with suspicion, or even forbidden entirely.

These are not just the opinions of a small number of peculiar individuals.  Rather they are ideas that have spread far and wide in our society, even within the church.  These ideas are driving forces, though not the only driving forces, behind several contemporary movements in the political and social arenas.  These ideas are widely, but not universally, accepted.  They have their critics, on the left as well as on the right.  And there are those with more nuanced positions who will partially but not wholly accept these ideas.  Nevertheless, the influence of these ideas is strong, with variants on the left and on the right.  It is critically important for us to be aware of them, in order that we might be able to respond effectively.




Devotion for Sunday, October 7, 2018

“The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” (Psalm 97:1-2)

 

It may seem for a time that things are not as they really are, but this creation belongs to the Lord. He is the One who reigns and in Him all hopes are made real that are in accord with His will. He is Sovereign and although this age continues in rebellion, it shall come to pass that all things have always been in the hands of the Lord. Come into His presence and know righteousness.

Lord, there are so many questions that many ask. Their questions are based upon their own understanding and not upon the truth You have revealed. Guide me, O Lord, to look to You, for You are the Creator of all things. Lead me in the goodness of Your mercy that I would humbly walk in Your presence knowing that You alone have the words of eternal life; for there is no other way.

Lord Jesus, You have come to shine light on the truth. You are the way and truth and only in You is there life. Help me now and always to seek the way You have established that I may walk humbly in the way of salvation. May I now and always be guided by the eternal principles You have given and be lifted up by Your grace. Lead me to be faithful in all that You have given me to do. Amen.




Devotion for Tuesday, October 2, 2018

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” (Psalm 96:3-4)

 

How does one come to realize that in comparison to the Lord everything else pales? Why does the world carry on as if the Maker of all things is just a side note? Come into the truth of reality and praise the One who made all things. It is He alone who holds all power and authority. He is the One who is the center of all things. Come to Him and praise Him for His might and glory.

Lord, You are the greatest in all creation, for creation is Yours and You made it. Guide me, O Lord, in the way I should go that I would now and always walk according to Your never-failing love and purpose. Lead me in the right way to live that I would fear, love and trust You above all things. You are God. Teach me to praise You in all circumstances and for all things.

Holy Spirit, lift my heart to see the truth of the reality of creation and Your center in it. Lead me away from the distraction of this age which focuses upon things rather than the Creator of all things. Teach me to be a person who is filled with praise and thanksgiving for all of the goodness that comes in knowing the truth. Lead me through the difficulties of this life knowing that You are with me always. Amen.




Devotion for Thursday, September 27, 2018

“For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also.”  (Psalm 95:3-4)

 

Kings of the earth come and go.  Leaders in every nation come and go.  The Lord is forever.  He who made You knows all things and has laid out the course for those who will walk in His ways.  Because all things are in His hands, you need fear nothing, for He is with You always even to the end of the age.  Everything belongs to Him, for it is He who made all things.

Lord, teach me the elemental truths that I may not kick against them, and walk the tried and failed way of thinking that there is any other way to live this life.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way You would have me go that I may now and always walk in Your sight.  You are the One who made all things and they are Yours.  With this in my heart, teach me how to live a life of praise and thanksgiving.

Holy Spirit, nurture my heart in the things You have taught me.  Guide me according to the principles I have already learned to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.  Help me now and always to see through the distractions of this age to abide in the truth of Your presence.  Everything I have and that I am is Yours.  Guide me this day in a life that gives as You give.  Amen.




Devotion for Sunday, September 23, 2018

“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.  If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.”  (Psalm 94:17-18)

 

We were born with a wandering heart, going to the places of our imagination.  The Lord calls out to all and invites us to journey with Him in truth.  The Lord watches over your going out and your coming in.  He knows who you are and what you need.  Come to the place where your soul is fed by His goodness and mercy.  Know that the Lord will hold you up.

Lord, I need Your guidance, for this world is filled with traps and pitfalls.  Guide me, O Lord, in the way I should go that I would forever dwell in Your presence.  Help me through those places where I slip that I may look to You, the One who made all things.  You are my help in every time and the One who is able to save me from this world that is heading to destruction.

Savior of the world, You have come that all who hear Your voice would rise and walk with You.  Keep me from going down into the pit.  Help me that I may now and always walk according to Your grace and mercy.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way You know I need to go and then give me the strength to follow where You lead.  You are my help and strength.  Guide me by Your lovingkindness.  Amen.




Devotion for Thursday, September 20, 2018

“He who planted the ear, does He not hear?  He who formed the eye, does He not see?  He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, even He who teaches man knowledge?”  (Psalm 94:9-10)

 

Will not God bring vengeance upon those who rail against Him?  Which nation has survived from times of old?  Which civilization has been able to continue when it does evil and promotes wickedness?  All you need do is look at history to see that the way of the wicked goes down to the dust.  Yet, many will fall for the lie and not see and not hear the truth.  Come to the Lord while you may and live in the truth.

Lord, I have fallen prey to the lies of the wicked in this age.  You who formed all things know and see clearly.  You have caused all good things to remain.  Help me to live in Your goodness and not give in to the wickedness of this age.  Help me to hear and see what is right and true.  Lead me in the way I should go and then help me walk in that way all the days of my life.

Savior and Spirit, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear that I would not walk in the darkness of this age.  Lift me up above the noise of this world to clearly hear the beauty of the truth You have revealed for all to hear.  May I now and always walk humbly in Your presence and live according to Your never-changing Word which was spoken long ago.  Lead me in the way of everlasting life.  Amen.