Robust Living

20 09 2010

Robust Living

Mountain flowers cover the high altitude pastures and tundra this time of year.  Mountain meadows and the highlands of Colorado are covered with the light pink, flaming red, and sky blue of Columbine, Black Snakeroot, Boltonia, and Balloon Flower.  Last week Liz and I hiked the talus slopes and alpine meadows of the Crags[i].  With each turn in the trail, the mountain flowers, craggy cliffs, and golden hue of Aspen leaves in fall transition, filled our eyes with the light of God’s creative pulchritude and nobility.  Our eyes were filled to overflowing with the richness and uniqueness of God’s creative power.  Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.” (Luke 11:34a)  We rediscovered these words as our eyes swelled with the stunning beauty of the highlands.

As Liz and I traversed this mountain trail we both were brimming over with a passionate ardor to pray and worship God.  It was intoxicating to take in the life of creation.  Allowing our eyes to drink in the artistry of God, our mind and spirit was enlivened with joy and thankfulness.  I was reminded of the lines from the Robert Frost poem,

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds’ song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.[ii]

To hear the birds “oversound” and to be reminded of the voice of Eve in that unblemished celestial garden brought praise to our lips.  Nature speaks of the glory and voice of God.  The Bible echoed our feelings, “the heavens declare the glory of God.”

Almost simultaneous to our euphoric feeling was anguish.  A forlorness for so many we have known through the years having never seen such beauty nor deeply known the love of God.  It is interesting that the second half of the words of Jesus are, “…But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” It has been our unfortunate experience to see many of our Christian friends drifting away from relationships with other believers and their faith in God.  The aftermath has been bitterness, depression, and in most cases, devastation. Their change of eyesight has flooded their lives with darkness.  It’s really sad to watch.

T.S. Eliot once wrote, “We had the experience, but missed the meaning.”  I am coming to believe that many so called “Christians” have never really deeply and profoundly touched the inner workings of a robust faith in God.  They had the experience but missed the true meaning.  They experienced the rules, religion, and outward workings of American Churchianity, but never really caught the real virus of a love relationship with Jesus.  Their eyes were never filled with the incisive ultraviolet light of God’s acceptance, but rather a 40 watt bulb kind of faith—the kind of light that never penetrates the body or saves the soul!

I want a robust faith and vigorous life!  I want to let the light in.  I want to let the landscapes of life reflect an inner landscape of energetic living.  What poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called the inscape.  Ron Dart explains,

Just as there are solid mountains, transient clouds, seasonal flowers, rushing and dry streams, bright and turbulent weather, and shady forests in the outer life and landscape, the same things exist in the inner life or inscape.  The hidden languages of landscape and inscape are there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.[iii]

So often the life we live today robs us of inscape as we escape into a frantic pace of living.  Our tendency is to rush through life with one more appointment, one more project, and one less relationship.  Yet God is inviting us into life—robust living, that encounters God everywhere.  It is the inscape of beauty, deeply drinking of Jesus and His love for us.  It is the inscape of the Holy Spirit, whose voice calls us to a sixth sense of faith and perceptivity.

I have spent many hours traversing mountain tops and valley lowlands hiking, hunting and fishing.  The times on the river and in the deep pine forest have given me times to think deeply and pray earnestly.  As the years go by, as the fourth quarter of my life has begun, I make it my profound prayer to live with rapture, potency, and vitality.  To give out the light even as it pours in.  Robust living!

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve


[i] A popular hiking trail outside of Divide, Colorado.

[ii] Never Again Would bird Songs be the Same by Robert Frost

[iii] Ron Dart, When Mountain Meets Valley, Fresh Wind Press, p.10, 2005.





One Thing Losers

3 08 2010

I’m a loser!  If I were to evaluate my life based on the standards of the sports page, the entertainment section, and my son’s high school friends, I’m a loser.  I’m not all that intelligent, all that funny, or all that cool.  I’m showing signs of a growing spare tire around the belt line, grey hairs are popping up everywhere, I drive a truck with camo seat covers, I turn in the bill of my baseball cap, and love flannel shirts.  None of which constitutes culturally current winning qualities.

But I’m a loser with passion.  I tell my sons and daughters all the time to “give it all.”  Whether it’s a recital for piano or a baseball tournament, I say things like “leave it all on the field,” or “don’t hold back,” etc.  You know, the kind of stuff that parents are supposed to say to their kids.  The only difference is that I mean it.  I’m not saying that other parents don’t mean it, they do.  I’m sure they do because I sit in the stands with a lot of them at games and they shout, scream, pout, and almost cry like 3rd graders.  It’s an amazing thing to watch—otherwise normal middle aged worldly successful adults suddenly morphed into adolescent elementary aged behavior that often leaves me wondering what happened to the adult I was just talking to.

But I really mean it when I say to my children to be all there—focused, determined, and relaxed.  I don’t mean win, win, win, rah, rah, rah.  I mean be hot.  Be hotful (is that a word?); radically give it all—for something greater than yourself.  I sometimes say:  My time is valuable.  Don’t waste my time, the coach’s time, or your time.  Be hot out there.  I don’t care if it’s a piano, violin, or sports contest—be hot and be focused…for God’s glory.

I’m a loser for one thing.  The apostle Paul once said, “This one thing I do…”  Most of us can only do a few things half decent.  We’re just losers who aren’t very smart nor very talented.  But we can do one thing.  Yes, all of us can do one thing.  Instead of dabbling around with drink, entertainment, or whatever we dabble in, I want to be a one thing guy.  One thing.

Years ago I came across these words of Bishop Ryle.  They speak of our calling as Jesus followers,

“A zealous person in the Faith is pre-eminently a person of one thing.  It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit.  He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.  Whether he lives, or whether he dies—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness—whether rich or poor—whether he pleases men or whether he gives offense—whether he is thought wise or foolish—whether he gets blamed or praised—whether honored or put to shame—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.  He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory.  If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it—he is content.  He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work of God for which God appointed him.”

Be a passionate one thing loser…for Jesus!





JesusLiberator!

6 04 2010

Easter 2010 

What a powerful weekend we had at Mountain Springs!  Almost 6000 people came out for our 6 services and over 125 people got baptized!  All the glory goes to Jesus!

Jesus came to the earth as a liberator!  This is the message of Easter.  Jesus came as a kingdom warrior engaging Satan and his demonic hordes in an eternal conflict.  He came as an outlaw to the religious establishment in order to break the old legal manmade systems that hindered people from experiencing freedom, forgiveness, and grace.  The scriptures say that “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”(John 1:17).

JesusLiberator came to change our lives.  Jesus announced his mission on the earth this way:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

      Because He has anointed Me

      To preach the gospel to the poor;

      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

      To proclaim liberty to the captives

      And recovery of sight to the blind,

      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

       To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” [1]

When John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the “Chosen One,” the Messiah, Jesus responded,

“Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  [2]

Jesus came to the earth to give His life as a ransom-replacing our sin with His righteousness.  Jesus came to set us free from the bondages, chains, and addictions of sin.  As a result, Jesus is the ultimate liberator; Jesus is the ultimate freedom fighter.  What a joy to know Him and be chosen to experience His grace in our lives.

Recently it has been my great privilege to receive letters, emails, and to personally talk to so many people at Mountain Springs who are experiencing the newfound freedom and power of JesusLiberator in their lives:

  • One young woman, Susan, upon learning of her husband’s infidelity and multiple affairs, despaired of even life itself.  In the midst of her crumbling life, she began attending Mountain Springs through an invitation of a friend. At a recent service, she gave her life to Christ.  Since that time, her son and daughter have started coming and just a few weeks ago, her daughter came to the front, weeping, committing her life to Jesus.

 

  • Recently a woman shared with me her story of trying to commit suicide in high school due to despair and loss of all hope, she sent me this email last week:

After high school, I became pregnant and the man I was with wanted me to have an abortion. I never could make up my mind to do it, so I never did it. I married my daughter’s dad so she could have her dad. I soon found out that that was the worst thing I could do. I never loved him and he was an alcoholic. We were married for only 2 years and I did cheat on him to find love somewhere else. During this time I continued to find men and sleep with them just to feel loved. I would go out at night to party and I wouldn’t come home ‘til 4 am. My dad took care of my daughter while I was out. One afternoon, I was sleeping from a night of partying, I heard a voice saying,” You need to go to church.” I looked around my room and I didn’t see anyone. I immediately felt a hunger to go to church and get as much as I could of God. I accepted God as my lord and savior. I stopped drinking and partying and I have been free from pornography. I am currently remarried to a man I met in church and we have been married for going on 6 years now and still going strong. To this day I have found love in Jesus and I don’t have this emptiness that I once was. It is a miracle!

  • I received an email recently from Trish:

December 2008 found us suddenly giving a home to my brother’s 3 kids, ages 11, 5 and 3.  Prior to coming to live with us, they had never been to church, never prayed, never even heard the Lord’s name except in vain.  I had been praying for my brother for years.  He’d been baptized at age 10, but hadn’t walked with the Lord since.  I wasn’t sure he was really saved.  When the kids came, Mimi and Steve made sure they had a place in AWANA for us so we both could continue to serve.  Church, Sunday School, AWANA–it was all new to them, but they all seemed to really enjoy it.  I started praying for the salvation of the 11 year old.  He threw himself into his AWANA book.  He’d work on the sections at home with me every week.  One of his sections asked him if he’d ever asked Christ into his heart.  He answered yes, but then I started talking to him and explaining what that meant and he realized that he hadn’t.  He asked me right then if I would pray with him.  We saw a change in his life after that.  When the kids returned to my brother, he decided that he wanted to continue what I had begun in the lives of his kids and started taking them to church himself.  Two months later, he called me to ask about the sermon his pastor had preached that morning.  During the course of that conversation, I asked him if he knew he was saved and he said no.  He prayed to accept Christ on the phone with me that day.  Two lives were changed in the space of 6 months. 

This is why we celebrate Easter!  Jesus died on Friday, becoming a captive to sin, in order to come back to life on Sunday as a liberator from sin!  Jesus has risen!  Jesus has risen in our lives!  JesusLiberator has come to change lives.  That is the message of Easter.


[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Lk 4:18–19L). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. 1982 (Lk 7:22–23L). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.





Death Be Not Proud

21 10 2009

My friend Lewis died this month. Early in the morning, while studying, I received one of those dreaded phone calls telling me that Lewis had died in the early morning hours. As I drove to his home, I found myself praying for the extended family, for the girls (two precious girls of 11 and 18), and for his steadfast and unwavering wife of twenty years.  I asked the Lord for grace, peace, and faith over each person.  I asked the Lord for wisdom in what to say and how to say it.  None of us knows the right way to discuss death. 

Death, whenever it comes up in a conversation, is the show stopper.  No one wants to talk about death.  The topic has a unique way of sneaking up and surprising you.  Just when everyone is enjoying each other, someone mentions that that person just died or this person was killed in a car accident, whatever it might be, and no one can talk after that. From that point, everything else is, might I say, trivial. The jokes aren’t as funny, the story about the trip, not as interesting.  Death trumps everyone, everything, everytime.  It’s the grim reaper in the room.

Death is the specter in the night, dressed up as a kind of dark hooded medieval monk, appearing and then disappearing in the dark trees of our mind.  It is often the dreaded nightmare of fear, darkness, and aloneness.  We fear death don’t we?  Admit it.  We all have a deep dark secret…we fear dying.  We fear our loved one’s dying even more.

Death seems to be the end of everything, so conclusive, so, so, final.  Because of our finiteness and our own mental limitations we just can’t fully grasp death.  All we know is what we’ve experienced here on earth.  All we understand is what we’ve been taught, here in the three dimensional world.  Comparisons and abstract thoughts blend into the stories we’ve heard about death and dying.  What will it feel like?  Who will be there?  Is it true that there are angels in heaven? Is St. Peter really the main greeter at those pearly gates?  Are there really gates?

There is the story of Billy Graham, standing by the bedside of his maternal grandmother, who had been in and out of consciousness, when suddenly in a surprising moment of clarity, sat up and exclaimed, “I see them, they’re all there, and the angels, so beautiful…” and then she died.  What was that?  Was it one of those many supernatural moments that God gives to remind us that everything he’s been saying about eternity is true?  Could it be that God cares enough that he would want Billy Graham, arguably the greatest evangelist of the 20th century, to have a firsthand witness of the eternity he so boldly preached about? 

I think God knows that we can’t fully grasp death.  We can feel love, feel friendship, feel forgiveness, but whoever heard of feeling death? Death is not easy to understand.  It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  I believe that God in His created order, never intended death for His creation.  Death wasn’t the perfect plan in the creation of Adam and Eve.  Death is not natural. Our hearts and minds were never created to fully comprehend death.

Life was the original purpose and plan. We get life.  Our minds and hearts enjoy thinking about life.  We love talking about it, experiencing it, reveling in it.  Life is cool to talk about.  Life is all about running, laughing, joking, falling in love, and friendships.  Life is three dimensional and fun.

Jesus taught us about life.  He even said, “I came that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b)  Jesus, with consummate insight, is offering wild possibilities in His invitation.  Jesus wants to give us life, His brand of life, His way of living.  He wants us to really live.  Jesus is all about living.

On another occasion Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus seems to be saying that “the way,” and “the truth,” and “the life” are all somehow wrapped in the same package.  Could it be that Jesus has given us a “way” of living?  Could it be that Jesus has given us the “truth” about life?

Jesus understands our questions, our false hopes, our fears about death.  And he has placed himself as the ultimate anecdote for fear.  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (John 11:25)  No grand teaching on fear.  No expansive sermon on dying.  Just a simple statement about faith and trust.  Jesus is placing himself as the answer to the sum of all our fears.  Not a theory, not an explanation, not a formula.  Jesus wants us to know that He is the resurrection from death.  He is the life. 

Do you see it?  Death has nothing to be proud of.  Death has no sting, no power, and no allure (1 Cor 15:55).  Jesus has conquered death with life (Romans 6:9-10).  Jesus is the life and he has defeated death on his terms. Jesus died on the cross, went down into hell, took the keys of death and the fear of death away from satan and has secured life (Hebrews 2:15; Ephesians 4:9).  Life is secure because Jesus secured it.

For the Jesus follower, death is now swallowed up with life!  Death means life.  Death cannot be proud for life has overtaken it.  We have nothing to fear.  Fear is ravaged by the hope of life.  Life rules in our minds if Jesus reigns in our hearts.

My friend Lewis isn’t dead.  Lewis is alive.  Lewis passed from the three dimensional world into the fourth dimension of life the way I want to pass someday.  He passed from this life in his sleep, in his bedroom, with his family nearby. Lewis passed with faith, with joy, with a purpose.  Lewis is healed of his brain tumor.  Right now Lewis is living the most active, joyful, productive life he has ever lived.  C.S. Lewis once said that death is just passing from one room to the next; from one reality to another.  My good friend Lewis got up out of his bed at 4am yesterday and walked into another room and met Jesus face to face.  Now that’s a great life!





ELCA Misstep leading to Division

8 10 2009

Many of you have asked about the latest in the earlier “ELCA Misstep” blog that I wrote several weeks ago. Here’s the latest from the OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, and The Associated Press, as used by permission from my dear friend and Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, H.B. London.

Conservative Lutherans Gather

More than 1,200 biblically orthodox members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, spent last weekend in suburban Indianapolis praying and discussing what can be done about the left-leaning policies of their denomination. Just last month, for example, the ELCA dropped a long-held ban on partnered homosexual clergy. Delegates eventually approved a resolution directing its steering committee to report back in one year on whether these conservative churches should stay within the ELCA, form their own denomination or join another.

The meeting was sponsored by Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform, but changed over the weekend to Coalition for Renewal). Mark Chavez, president of Lutheran CORE, explained the need for the weekend meeting: “It’s primarily about gathering those who have had their denomination, namely the ELCA, withdraw from the Christian faith and pull away from most other Christian churches in the world.”

Chavez also commented on a letter written to denominational leaders by the presiding bishop of the ELCA, which warned of a disaster if conservative church members withhold funds: “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis in the ELCA to those who continue to practice and believe what the ELCA says it believes — that the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testaments [is] the authoritative source and norm for our faith.”

Lutheran CORE’s chairman, 71-year-old Rev. Paull Spring, a pastor for 44 years, received a standing ovation Friday night when he said, “God is calling us to do something. The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided,” said Rev. Paul Ulring, a member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. “We’re just mopping up what the church did.”

“We now have two churches within one organizational structure. One church emphasizes Bible and theology; the other culture and experience,” said Rev. Kenneth Sauer in his opening remarks to the weekend convocation. “There are deep divisions over the fundamental meaning of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. The division reaches into congregations, synods, and seminaries and agencies.” [OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, The Associated Press]

Let’s keep the ELCA in our prayers. As predicted by many who have watched such theological charades for many years, chances are strong that this will be one of those divisively defining issues within a denomination.

There are wonderful pastors on both sides of the issue, and the breaking of fellowship will be very painful and frustrating. It’s a denominational divorce that will hurt the children more than the parents. Having grown up in the ELCA, my heart breaks for what I believe breaks the heart of God.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





ELCA Misstep leading to Division

8 10 2009

 

Many of you have asked about the latest in the earlier “ELCA Misstep” blog that I wrote several weeks ago.  Here’s the latest from the OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, and The Associated Press, as used by permission from my dear friend and Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, H.B. London.

Conservative Lutherans Gather

More than 1,200 biblically orthodox members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, spent last weekend in suburban Indianapolis praying and discussing what can be done about the left-leaning policies of their denomination. Just last month, for example, the ELCA dropped a long-held ban on partnered homosexual clergy. Delegates eventually approved a resolution directing its steering committee to report back in one year on whether these conservative churches should stay within the ELCA, form their own denomination or join another.

The meeting was sponsored by Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform, but changed over the weekend to Coalition for Renewal). Mark Chavez, president of Lutheran CORE, explained the need for the weekend meeting: “It’s primarily about gathering those who have had their denomination, namely the ELCA, withdraw from the Christian faith and pull away from most other Christian churches in the world.”

Chavez also commented on a letter written to denominational leaders by the presiding bishop of the ELCA, which warned of a disaster if conservative church members withhold funds: “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis in the ELCA to those who continue to practice and believe what the ELCA says it believes — that the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testaments [is] the authoritative source and norm for our faith.”

Lutheran CORE’s chairman, 71-year-old Rev. Paull Spring, a pastor for 44 years, received a standing ovation Friday night when he said, “God is calling us to do something. The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided,” said Rev. Paul Ulring, a member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. “We’re just mopping up what the church did.”

“We now have two churches within one organizational structure. One church emphasizes Bible and theology; the other culture and experience,” said Rev. Kenneth Sauer in his opening remarks to the weekend convocation. “There are deep divisions over the fundamental meaning of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. The division reaches into congregations, synods, and seminaries and agencies.” [OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, The Associated Press]

Let’s keep the ELCA in our prayers.  As predicted by many who have watched such theological charades for many years, chances are strong that this will be one of those divisively defining issues within a denomination. 

There are wonderful pastors on both sides of the issue, and the breaking of fellowship will be very painful and frustrating.  It’s a denominational divorce that will hurt the children more than the parents.  Having grown up in the ELCA, my heart breaks for what I believe breaks the heart of God.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





The ELCA Misstep

1 09 2009

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, with my father being in the clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). I have many fond memories of my formative years in the Lutheran heritage. My father and mother love Jesus and love the history and liturgy of the Lutheran Church. They taught me to love God and revere the Scriptures. Most of my deepest convictions about life, work, family, and God were formed by these two precious saints. I went to church every week and, due to the high church style of my dad’s churches, I learned by heart the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, and Luther’s shorter treatise on baptism. Now, that’s not bad upbringing.

But the ELCA that I grew up in has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Like a tiny leak in the upstairs bathroom that, unattended, will cause the ceiling to cave in, the ELCA has gradually and slowly been moving further and further from the Bible that Luther so loved. As of a week ago, the slow theological leak has now become a flood. A week ago the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) during its national convention in Minneapolis voted to allow practicing gay and lesbian pastors to be ordained. The following are excerpts from the Bishop Julian Gordy, the bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Synod, explaining the new policy on homosexual clergy.

This past Friday, after hours of heart wrenching discussion and debate, our church, meeting in Assembly in Minneapolis, voted to ease limits on gay clergy and to allow congregations which wish to do so to recognize committed, life-long, publicly accountable same-sex relationships. It was a time for dancing for some, a time for mourning for others.

Some feel that they are finally included fully in the life of our church. The day for which they have worked and prayed for years has arrived.

Others find this change to be deeply troubling. They view the actions of the Assembly as contrary to the Bible and Lutheran teaching and practice.

During the weeks and months to come, I hope that both those groups and all those who find themselves somewhere in between will be able to talk with one another as we continue to discern the Spirit’s direction for us and for our church.

The implications of the Assembly’s actions will unfold more fully over time. Over the coming months, processes to implement the Assembly’s decisions will be worked out by church-wide leaders and staff, in consultation with the Conference of Bishops. This will not happen right away, but will take some months.

We know this much for sure: Whereas persons in committed same-sex relationships formerly were barred from serving on any of the official ministry rosters of our church, a way is now being opened for such persons to serve in rostered ministries, but only if they are otherwise qualified, as determined by the synod’s candidacy committee, and if a congregation chooses to call them. The call process will operate in the same way that it has since the beginning of our church, with congregations free to call that person to whom the Spirit directs them…

In Galatians, St. Paul admonishes us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This mutual burden bearing is one of the things that separate the church of Jesus from the world in which we are each required and expected to bear our own burdens.

Playing on the ELCA tag line, “God’s work. Our hands,” Dr. Ishmael Noko, a Tanzanian pastor and the outgoing executive director of the Lutheran World Federation reminded the Assembly that unity is a work of God. Our hands are called to serve that unity. The church of Jesus Christ is not ours to dismember. I am convinced that no church in the world has put the gospel into practice any better than the ELCA. We are bound to do all that we can to preserve its God-given unity and health.

Thank you for your prayers and for your support.

Julian Gordy
Bishop
ELCA Southeastern Synod

I believe the ELCA has made a profound theological and missiological misstep with this decision. Like the Presbyterians and Episcopalians before them, this decision will lead to more disunity than the denomination ever bargained for. Disunity is most pronounced when churches have no plumb line for determining truth and unity. When the hermeneutic for truth, life, and vision is surrendered to majority vote, a denomination is in deep trouble.

The culture is changing. Never has a nation so quickly abandoned the ideals, foundations, and mission as America in the past 40 years. The disunity of our nation politically, spiritually, and culturally is evidence of a nation that is anchorless. Even the mainline churches that once stood strong as a “light on a hill” have now abandoned their source for truth, the Bible. The Bible has become a dusty old historical book that, like the so called “progressives” in Congress and their view of our constitution that it is a living document that is open to anyone’s interpretation based on the wants and whims of the culture. Praise God this was not Moses’ view of the Law when he returned from Mt. Sinai.

It is true that methods for proclamation of the gospel must change to fit our landscape, but our message remains rock solid, based on the foundations of truth through a literal historical hermeneutic of God’s holy writ. Contextualization means just that. We study to understand our changing context, so that we can present the ageless truths that never change. If we abandon our foundations and traditional convictions, upheld with blood through the centuries, we abandon the anchor for truth.

I’m disappointed by the ELCA’s decision but I am not surprised. I told my dad five years ago that I saw this coming to the Lutherans. Now the ELCA has joined the ranks of most of the mainline denominations who bought into Barthian, neoorthodox, slightly less liberal theology of the 40’s and 50’s that has now proverbially become the chicken that has come home to roost. I’m sad to say that God will not be mocked and the Bible is still inerrant and infallible.

So, the great heritage of biblical commitment of Luther and Melancthon will gradually fade away in the ELCA. These are the gasps of a dying denomination. It will not happen overnight because there are still many of the Builder generation and late Baby Boomers who love the liturgy and the style of Lutheranism, but the younger generation will not be impressed. They are not persuaded; and this decision will continue the trend in the ELCA of young people leaving the church. Why? Because the ELCA (and all of the more liberal denominations) are looking more and more like the culture they have grown up in. The standards being lowered only lowers the commitment and faith of the adherents, and there will be fewer and fewer to be found.

I do hope that some Bible-centered evangelicals that are left within the pastoral ranks of the ELCA will choose to stay and fight, but I would not blame them if this is the last sign on a winding theological road that spells “exit.” For many the vestiges of a biblical standard for judging culture, the nature of man and the mission of God, will seem to have faded away in a momentous vote in Minneapolis that will leave them frustrated and depressed. And they will leave in droves.

The good news is that new denominations and new relational church networks will be formed. This is already happening within the Presbyterian and Episcopal evangelical churches, and it will certainly happen within the ranks of the ELCA. And Jesus will still be Lord and He will still continue to build His church and the gates of hell will still not prevail against her!

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,
Steve