Saturday, September 29, 2012

Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Good Friday

In His Passion...

Christ Died for Sinners, Christ Died for You!

The Church Calendar and Evangelism: Good FridayIn my previous post, entitled Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Lent, I promised to feature the postcard we distributed during Holy Week, prior to Good Friday. Initially, having been first developed for a quarter fold pamphlet (8.5x14in sheet of paper folded twice), it included the full Passion account and additional imagery, along with the image and explanation pictured at left. Over time, however, and for several reasons, it was reduced to this large postcard format. Again, as with the Lenten postcard featured in our previous post, the congregation is not at all on display. There is no hint of self-promotion, no invitation to the reader to “visit us because of us” contained in it. Instead, it's all about Jesus. All that is said about the congregation is on the reverse side: the address and phone number of the congregation, a list of service times and travel directions to the church. That's it.

But I also promised to include some explanation for the criteria we used to determine the level of content we composed for these mailings. As with the Lenten postcard, there are lots of words here, some big words, too. There is a reason for that.

The community in which this congregation is located straddles the border of two, principally rural, western Wisconsin counties: the south end of town is in one county, the north end is in another. The western border of these counties is also the State border, immediately to the west of which is a Minnesota county that was listed during the 1980's and 1990's as one of the top ten richest counties in the nation. Beginning in the late 1990's, property and personal income tax advantages began to draw many high-income families from eastern Minnesota into western Wisconsin, and to encourage this exodus once it had begun, considerable investment in the development of utility infrastructure and optimistic community planning likewise began to dominate the docket of every village, town, and city council in the area. To support community investment, property taxes began to rise proportionately throughout this time period. Significant increases in housing costs also occurred. Interestingly, by 2005, the average wage in this congregation's community was on the order of $10/hr (a full 12% lower than the state average), while the income required to support the average home in this community had grown to approximately $35/hr – this statistic was supplemented by data suggesting that most residents (61%) were employed outside of the local area (mostly in Minnesota). Notably, among new residents, 40% of married adult females were categorized as homemakers. Hence, as a result of continued tax advantages and community investment, these counties saw an average growth of 30% over the decade beginning in the late 1990's, and this growth was mostly due to the influx of well-educated, successful professionals, a significant proportion of whom were heads of single wage-earner households.

On top of this, the community itself is host to a University that is well-regarded in the fields of education, agriculture and others. It is no surprise, then, to learn that the rate of college degree attainment in this area is over twice the State average (over 50% of the population), and the rate of advanced degree attainment is nearly triple the State average.

Having studied our community, we not only thought it safe to err on the side of more words than fewer, we thought it advisable to regard people we had not met with a dignity befitting educated people – by actually assuming that this is what they were (if it doesn't right now, this may make more sense after our next post). So there is no suggestion here that every congregation ought to copy, verbatim, what our congregation had done – this is not “evangelism in a box” by any means! However, my hope is that, as I describe the kind of research we did, and as I describe how and why we made the decisions we did, it will become clear (a) that our effort was calculated to do one thing only, to substantively and directly communicate the message of Law and Gospel as broadly as we could given our limited resources, and (b) to describe the process of developing such materials well enough that Lutheran congregations desiring to do the same for themselves will have in the examples I give, some concepts to apply on their own.

The next post in this series will feature the postcard we sent late in Holy Week, for arrival either on Good Friday or Holy Saturday: the Easter postcard (it doesn't have as many words – not nearly). It will also include a description of our rationale for who we selected to receive these mailings. Our resources were limited, so we couldn't mail them to everyone in the county... but there were doctrinal concerns involved, as well, so our selection wasn't random, either. More on that next time.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Lent

In my previous post, entitled Confessing Scripture's Message: The Outreach Method of the confessional Lutheran, I promised a series of posts sharing a mass media outreach cycle developed by a WELS congregation, which does nothing more than communicate Law and Gospel to those who come into contact with the materials. It was the congregation that my wife and I were members of during the beginning and middle of last decade. As the congregation's leadership was contemplating some sort of organized evangelism effort in our community, it was suggested that the (now defunct) Board for Parish Services might have some useful information. Our pastor at the time acknowledged he had “some stuff” that had been sent to him over the years, disappeared into his office for about twenty minutes, and returned with a pile of pamphlets and booklets, etc., some of it newer, most of it yellowing, while very little of it looked used at all. He plopped it on the table and said,
    “There. You can read through this, if you want. Basically, what it boils down to is this: if you want to draw more people to your congregation you need to have a reason for them to come. When people gather in groups, it is because they are celebrating something. A gathering of people is a social event, and a celebration is the most common purpose for people to gather. It's what people do. So, what this stuff will tell you is, if we want to get people to come here, we need to come up with a reason to celebrate, and then invite people to the celebration.”
He left us with the material, fairly confident (it turns out) how our evaluation would conclude. We looked carefully through some of it, especially the “evangelism in a box” type stuff – you know, the materials developed in an office at headquarters that get's mailed out to every congregation with the expectation that they actually deliver it to homes in their own community. It was all “lowest common denominator” type stuff, having a quality far lower than anything we thought that we had envisioned. We perused the rest of the material. We knew that Pastor was no Church Growth advocate. That we had even heard the phrase “Church Growth Movement,” knew what it meant, and knew it was something we wanted to avoid, is a testament to that fact. In the end, we found ourselves depositing the materials back in Pastor's office. We had no use for it, just has our pastor never really had.

Do Christians have Anything to Celebrate?
Still, there was an element of truth in how Pastor summarized the advice contained in that thick stack of paper. When people gather, it is usually for a celebration of some sort. “Okay. So why do we gather every Sunday?”, we wondered. “What's different about our weekly gathering around the Word and Sacraments, if it is not reason enough for people to celebrate? Are we 'celebrating' anything at all on Sunday?” The answer, after we thought about it, was “Yes, of course we are celebrating! We are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – God Himself manifest in the flesh, Who lived perfectly under God's Law, Who carried the sins of the World to the Cross, Whose atoning death on the Cross paid the penalty for those sins, and Who, on the basis of His completed work, promises forgiveness, life and salvation to all who receive it through faith.” We believers have this faith, and with it, the Promises of Christ attending it. This is the reason we celebrate every Sunday morning, and no one should join us for any other, less important, reason! How stupid we felt, then, at having been misdirected by advice which indicated to us that we needed to invent some other reason to celebrate on Sunday, in order that visitors would feel like coming our church. If visitors are going to join us Lutherans in celebration on Sunday morning, then they should want to do so for the same reasons as we Lutherans. There is positively no good reason on the planet for us to change our reasons for gathering, as any change serves only to significantly reduce the importance of our celebration. In such a case, we might as well be the ones to stay home.

Celebrating with Christians Everywhere, through the Church Year
This realization was reinforced as we looked in the hymnal for indication of the celebration we engage in, some clue – maybe in the liturgy??, maybe the pericope??, maybe the.... Church Calendar?? Yes, that was it. The Church Calendar. Littered throughout the Calendar, if one cares to look, are terms like “Festival” and “Feast.” The Church has long known that Christians have very good reason to celebrate, and over the millenia has supplied copious Festivals and Seasons, in addition to every Sunday morning, throughout the Church Year, as opportunities to gather and celebrate – opportunities centering on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This further impressed upon us how fully misleading it was to have had it suggested to us that we needed to invent some “relevant” reason to gather, which would attract visitors on Sunday morning. Instead, we decided to follow the example the the historical Church, to celebrate as it always had, and broadcast our reasons for celebrating to the community.

So this became our theme. We used the Seasons and Festivals of the Church Year as a pretense for initiating unsolicited communication with members of our community through mail – to tell them about the Season or Festival (it was educational) and why it was important (it was evangelical). Each mailing included not only words, but, since we had a competent artist at our disposal, custom artwork that was designed to tell the same message as the words. Thus the words, and accompanying images, reinforced one another. Some mailings had more words, some had fewer, some were better written than others. Over the years, as we evaluated the mailings and their content, the format of the mail changed (from small postcards to tri-fold and quarter-fold brochures to large postcards), the content was improved, some mailings were added, and others dropped. I'm sure that many could still find room in them for improvement. By the time my involvement ended, we were using the format of the large-postcards, mailing cards for Ash Wednesday (Lent), Good Friday (Passion of Christ), Easter (Resurrection), Reformation (Justification), and Advent/Christmas, and had plans to add Epiphany, to redevelop Pentecost (which had been developed and used as a tri-fold brochure, but had not been redeveloped in the large postcard format), and to separate Advent and Christmas into different cards. Over the next several posts, I will be sharing with you Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost (the tri-fold), Reformation, and Advent/Christmas, and along the way, share details about how we determined who would receive these mailings, what criteria we used to determine the level of content, how they were written and approved for distribution in the community, what we expected would be accomplished by sending them, etc. Today, I begin with the first mailing that we developed, a card that would be delivered in the days just prior to Ash Wednesday:

What is Lent?

The Church Calendar and Evangelism: Lent
In mid-western United States, nearly everyone has heard of Lent. That is, they've at least heard the word. They also know approximately when Lent occurs – usually about March. They also know what happens during Lent – fish goes on sale everywhere. True, many people know more about Lent that just this, but for most who have at least heard the word, this is about the extent of their understanding. Knowing this, we decided to write a mailing that would at least appeal to curiosity as Lent was beginning – when fish all of a sudden goes on sale, and people leave from work in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, and return an hour later with a black smudge on their foreheads. In addition to piquing their curiosity, such a mailing also tells the message of Law and Gospel. We expected nothing other than the Holy Spirit's work though this Means, to prick consciences and to create or strengthen faith. Maybe we would see some of the people we sent these cards to, maybe we wouldn't, but we knew for a fact that apart from our direct use of the Means of Grace, the Holy Spirit would not work in anyone who received contact from us via this, or any, medium.

The next post in this series will feature the postcard we sent during Holy Week, prior to Good Friday. It will also include some explanation for what criteria we used to determine the level of content we composed for these mailings – there are lots of words here, some big words, too. This was not done without thought and research, however. More on that next time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Confessing Scripture's Message: The Outreach Method of the confessional Lutheran

The final edition of Rev. Spencer's “Getting Right to the Point” series was posted on Sunday. Begun in August, these posts are a series of newspaper ads which are run by his congregation over the course of the year – one every two weeks for a total of 27 ads. For those who missed the series, or popped in sometime in the middle of the series and didn't understand what was going on, here is a listing of those posts:

There Is Such a Thing As Objective Truth!Jesus Is The Only Way To Heaven!
Every Human Life Is Sacred!Church Isn't Group Therapy or Mere Entertainment!
Surprise – Lent Is Not All About Us!Paying For Our Sins Was Expensive!
It’s The Lord’s Supper, Not Ours!The Resurrection of Jesus is a Fact – of Faith!
Christ Is In Control!Prayer Is Worship, and That's a Fact!
“Born Again” = Believer in Jesus – PERIOD!The One and Only True God Is the Holy Trinity!
Marriage Is Defined By God!Baptism Means To Apply Water – Any Way You Choose!
Homosexuality Is Against God's Will – Like It or Not!Are We Really “One Nation Under God?”
Don’t Take A Vacation From The Lord!Yes, Our Church Is The Only “Right” Church!
Too Much Education Can Be A Dangerous Thing!God Put Us Here To Work – For Him and His Truth!
Please Don’t Pray To Angels!Believe It or Not – The Church Does Not Just Want Your Money!
Martin Luther’s Reformation Was Not A Revolution!There Is No Such Thing As The Millennium!
Thank God for Who and What He Is!Christmas Is NOT a Pagan Holiday!
This New Year May Be Your Last!

I, for one, found this series to be a refreshing example of truly Confessional outreach and evangelism. It stands in stark contrast to contemporary Church Growth recommendations which impress upon congregations the use of gimmicks of various sorts, the sole purpose of which is to draw a crowd – like advertisements for special events, entertaining worship, and/or social services of various sorts, all of which amount to little more than self-promotion – and from which the message of Scripture is conspicuously absent or shunted off into the background. Not so in this series, where communicating the teaching of Scripture is central and unobstructed, and distributing that teaching as widely as possible is the sole motivation behind it. Rev. Spencer even admitted to us in private,
    “Can’t even say how many hundreds of thousands of mailings I’ve done over the years! Plus billboards, plus bus ads, plus fair booths, plus you-name-it. Even put a 'boiler-room' in the fellowship hall for a month – nine additional phone lines, twenty members calling every night for a month – hit thousands of homes; got mostly answering machines.

    “From all of it – never one single solitary soul walked through the door of our church because of any of this stuff, not one...

    “But... got some great members who came out of the blue during those times. 'No, sorry, didn’t see your ad... mailing... billboard... get your phone call... don’t know what you’re talking about. The wife and I were just looking for a place to go to church and thought we’d try this one.' Others planted, I watered, God gave the increase.

    “Just do the work – God will bless it when and where and how and IF He sees fit.”
Given this attitude – an attitude expecting, quite correctly, that no measurable growth in the Church will result from man's efforts, that such growth is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit – I consider Rev. Spencer's distinctly Confessional approach to doing “outreach and evangelism” in his “Getting Right to the Point” series to be among the finest examples of Christian Stewardship I've seen. If one has been granted limited tangible resources by his Master, and, desiring to be a good steward, is looking to invest those limited resources in His Master's interests to produce for Him the “greatest return,” what investment vehicle should the good steward use? How about that vehicle which the Master Himself has promised the steward, “Will not return to Me void.” (Is. 55:11)? What a complete waste of resources it is, then, when a steward expends the limited resources God has given him in his own interests instead, by using evangelistic methods devoid of Scripture's message and therefore having no such guarantee by God at all, methods which are primarily designed to produce a tangible return which pleases the steward; and how fraudulent it is when the steward claims that his interests are really His Master's interests, when the truth is really the opposite.

The Means of Grace are always Central to Lutheran Practice – even in Outreach and Evangelism
For those relatively new to the controversy over the intrusion of ideas and methods from the Church Growth Movement into Lutheran congregations – yes, even WELS congregations – rest assured, neither the controversy nor the public discussion is anything new. For example, the blog Bailing Water was active for several years through the latter half of last decade, dedicated to discussions over issues concerning trends in doctrine and practice in confessional Lutheranism, especially in the WELS. Although not really very active anymore, the blog owner still maintains it as a “Confessional and historical resource”, and it remains so for those desiring background on issues that have since been taken up by Intrepid Lutherans. I mention Bailing Water because the distinctly Confessional nature of Rev. Spencer's “Getting Right to the Point” series, reminds me of commentary following a 2008 Bailing Water post entitled, Growing Our Churches, in which a commenter shared the fruit of his congregation's multi-year study into the issue of congregational evangelism. Excerpts from his commentary are worth considering today:
    The Holy Spirit works by Means of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament to produce and strengthen faith. This is what we believe, teach, and confess. It is what we live by. So when Christians consider evangelism, what we are concerned with is that the message of Law and Gospel is received by those with whom we communicate, that the Holy Spirit may work in them through His message, and draw them into relationship with Him. As a congregation, our further concern is that we use our resources in the most efficient way possible, to meaningfully carry this message to as many people as possible. Indeed, this is the commission Christ left us, it is the reason we gather together to be equipped and emboldened, that together we may carry out this task for the sake of Christ... Following the example of the Apostle Paul, who studied the people and culture of Athens before addressing them at Mars Hill, the start of this project was the culmination of nearly two years of research and assessment regarding the nature of our congregation and community, and also regarding past and present changes and future trends in our community and congregation. It was also the culmination of study and application of Christian teaching to the question of leading a congregation in the task of evangelism. Such study was intended to help us determine what, for our congregation, (a) constitutes genuine opportunities for evangelism in our community, and to (b) develop a strategy for exploiting those opportunities at the corporate level, that (c) would also remain valid going forward. The result was a three-phased approach attempting to balance mass appeal methods with individual contact that functions well in a corporate setting...

    Concerning Mass Appeal
    ...Then we considered the question of what to communicate. The objective we settled on was to communicate a clear, complete, yet concise Law and Gospel message. Our hope with this objective was to put the Means of Grace – the Gospel message – in the hands of everyone who received communication from us, that the Holy Spirit might work through this means to create or strengthen their faith. This was especially critical to us. Given that we were expending resources that God had provided us with, we considered that communication attempts devoid of the Gospel’s message, or providing an unclear or incomplete message, would have been a wasteful use of these resources. Given the likelihood that most, if not all, recipients would at most only read the message, or only part of it, we considered, and concluded that merely sending invitations to join us in worship (where the recipient would have to respond ...before s/he benefited from the Holy Spirit’s work through the Gospel), had a much lower likelihood of accomplishing our goal, which was to meaningfully communicate the Gospel to as many people as possible. That is, while we could eliminate or significantly reduce our communication of the Gospel via this medium, and instead replace it with content about our congregation, like our helpful ministries, our adult and youth programs, our meaningful worship experience, and, of course, our special people, we could probably draw more visitors. But far fewer people would actually receive the Gospel in a meaningful way. No, this is precisely the type of Church Growth strategy that we consciously chose to reject. Such a strategy requires us to make the Gospel a secondary message, while making Us the primary message, drawing people to Us on false pretenses, based on what they stand to gain by association with Us, rather than with God. It significantly reduces our representation of, and actual communication of, the Gospel. It is not Biblical evangelism. Direct and consistent use of Law and Gospel is, however, and it is this approach we embraced and have maintained. Knowing that the Holy Spirit would work through the Gospel to produce or strengthen the faith of those who receive the Gospel, it was our hope that He would also draw them into a relationship with us. Whether or not this would happen, however, it was still our Joy and privilege to share the Gospel with them...

    Concerning Face-to-Face Evangelism
    ...But why is face-to-face communication necessary to begin with? After all, if our concern is that the message of the Gospel is received, there are many ways for a message to be received that do not require people to directly interface with other people. It must be admitted that this question did occur to us. The answer, however, was clear. While the Great Commission was given to the Church, the task of evangelism was also directly given to individuals. Even in the context of the organization we call “the congregation,” the clear emphasis in Scripture is people personally carrying out this task and communicating the Good News. In addition, while the most effective method of propagating a message is mass appeal (a valid and important tool used even by the Apostles), the most effective method of communicating a message is person to person. Thus, mass communication and individual communication are both methods that need to be used, but which require a balance favoring person to person communication. Even our use of mass appeal should be calculated to favor personal communication – it should be clear that people are responsible for the communication, not just an organization, and the communication should invite further, personal inquiry...

    Finally, the conclusion
    ...With the issue of resource expenditure, the question arises, "What is our measure of success?", "How do we know that we are doing any good?" This is a difficult question to answer, as we must admit that in this life we will never know what benefit, specifically, most of our evangelistic effort has been. Those who hear the Word of God as a result of our effort may be at any stage in the Holy Spirit's process of creating and strengthening faith – in some cases we may be just scattering seed, in others we may be watering sprouts, and in a few cases we may actually be doing the harvesting. We know that all Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. We also know that God's Word will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it, that it will not return to Him void. Therefore, to the extent that we use the Scriptures to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, we can have every confidence that we are doing "some good", employing the Means of Grace and giving opportunity to the Holy Spirit to work. One thing the Board of Evangelism has been adamant about is that correlating success in evangelism to an increase in collected revenue is strictly out of the question. We are engaged in the all important work of delivering the Gospel message to those in our community solely for the sake of Jesus Christ, and we look for no return on this effort – particularly financial return. We also cannot use an increase in congregation membership as a measure of our success. Our objective is not an increase in number, our objective is to joyfully communicate the Gospel as widely and as effectively as possible. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to produce faith through the Gospel and to draw new Christians into fellowship with other believers. He will produce an increase when and where He sees fit. Whether this means increase in our congregation or not, our commission to preach the Gospel remains clear, and it is our joy and our privilege to carry it out to the best of our ability.

    Indeed, the Holy Spirit works by Means of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament to produce and strengthen faith. This is what we believe, teach, and confess. It is what we live by. So our concern is that the message of Law and Gospel is received by those with whom we communicate, that the Holy Spirit would work through this Means. Therefore, since our job is communication, it is reasonable to put forth some effort to assess how well we communicate. Do those with whom we wish to communicate actually receive our message? That is the success we desire, and to measure it, we can only rely on feedback from those with whom we attempt to communicate. Whether via telephone, land mail, email, website visit, personal conversation, or a visit to our congregation, whether they provide positive or negative comments, or merely inquire further, all of these measures constitute feedback indicating that someone we have attempted to communicate with has received our message – the Gospel’s message. Communication is difficult, as is reaching our intended audience with a specific message. That is why it is important that all our communication be seasoned with the Good News...
There is more information shared by this commenter, and others, in the thread following that post on Bailing Water – some of it is good, some of it less than good. Regardless, it is important to point out that Rev. Spencer is not the only one to independently discover that our job is simply to communicate Scripture's message and to let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest – a hard fact to land upon in pop-Christian environments aggressively pushing man's methods of drawing crowds as necessary to “man's task of gaining souls for heaven.” The fact is, others have landed upon the simple truth demonstrated by Rev. Spencer, as well. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing with our readers ANOTHER example of an evangelism series, produced by a WELS congregation, which flies in the face of advice emanating from the Church Growth Movement, doing almost nothing but placing a substantive message of Law and Gospel directly in the hands of those they attempt to reach. No gimmicks. No crowd-pleasing programs. Nothing but the Offense of the Cross and the full expectation that the Holy Spirit will use that Offense to create and strengthen faith, and draw believers into fellowship with one another.

Stay tuned for more examples of confessional Lutheran evangelism – advice that you will probably not receive from any other source...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

This New Year May Be Your Last!

Dear Readers,
This is the final piece in the "Getting Right to the Point" series. Thank you for your patience - and your comments! Once again, if a Pastor or congregation would like to use the series in some form of outreach program, please feel free to do so. All I ask is that you don't edit the content without my permission. Thanks!
Take care and God bless!
Pastor Spencer

Getting Right to the Point!

This New Year May Be Your Last!

No one, except God, knows what tomorrow will bring, we all know that. If that is true of the next day, how much more so the next week, the next month, and the next year! Perhaps it is for that reason that at the end of the year we spend most of our time looking back. In fact, the favorite song for this time of year, "Auld Lang Syne," actually means "old long since," or more accurately, "long, long, ago." We focus on the past because we can only guess about the future. 

The one basic question each and every human being needs to answer as we peer into the unknown is this: If God would ask you why He should let you into His heaven, what would you say? If the next year is your last – and it may be for any of us – nothing else matters nearly as much!

The answer given in the Bible is very clear and very simple. St. Paul writes, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9) That's it. That's the answer, plain and simple.

So, what will your top "New Year's Resolution" be? If you have this faith, ask God to help you keep it. If you don't, starting looking to find it, because it is what you will need if next year is your last. And that's the point! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Christmas Is NOT a Pagan Holiday!

Getting Right to the Point!

Christmas Is NOT a Pagan Holiday!

Contrary to popular opinions we hear a lot today, Christmas did not come from the Roman festival of “Saturnalia.” It is true that during the brief rule of the Roman Emperor Aurelian, he attempted to institute a lavish festival around what he called “The Birth of the Unconquered Sun,” on December 25th, A.D. 274. But the fact is that he created this new celebration only to try and breathe new life into Roman idol-worship, which was dying.

Indeed, Aurelian’s pronouncement came after Christians had already been associating December 25th with the birth of Christ for decades in various parts of the Empire. The truth is, this so-called “Sol Invictus” festival was just a feeble attempt to create a pagan alternative to a celebration that was already important to believers in Jesus Christ, God’s true and only Son.

Therefore, Christians were not imitating the pagans, but the pagans were imitating them! So, believers in Jesus as God, Savior, and Lord can celebrate Christmas with great joy! Don't let people try to spoil your birthday party for Jesus! Gloria in excelsis Deo! And that's the point!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thank God for Who and What He Is!

Getting Right to the Point!

Thank God for Who and What He Is!

Have you ever noticed that historically speaking many proclamations of thanks often take place after a great tragedy or disaster? In both Jamestown and Plymouth a special day of prayer was held AFTER most of the inhabitants had already died! Why? Because it is at these times that we humans realize how puny we are and how great and powerful God is; how evil and sinful we are, and how wise and merciful God is. So, we very often thank God that things were not a lot worse.

But, now imagine for a minute having another god like Baal or Odin or Shiva, or some other false and non-existence idol like those of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These are gods who can’t do miracles. These are gods who lie, cheat, steal, murder and rape, who are vain and weak. They are gods who are shifting as sand, without honor, unworthy of respect. They are gods who are deaf, blind, asleep, gone, and dead. In other words, they don't even exist!

Ours is the only true God who is always constant, faithful, good, powerful, kind, loving, giving, and wise. He applies His Son’s death to our sins. He gives us faith and then accepts us because of that faith. He welcomes us with open arms into His eternal family. He rules all things to create, strengthen, and preserve our faith. He works tirelessly to bring us safely to heaven forever. This is the one and only God Who was and is and always will be. We thank Him for being Who and what He is! That’s the best Thanksgiving! And that's the point!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

There Is No Such Thing As The Millennium!

Getting Right To The Point!
There Is No Such Thing As The Millennium!
The term “millennialism” can include many false beliefs: That Christ will return visibly to earth a thousand years before the end of the world and rule over this world in a political sense; That before The End Christians will enjoy special prosperity; That before Judgment Day a number of Christians will be “raptured,” and escape the tribulation; That before the Last Day a universal conversion of the Jews will take place; and many other wrong ideas.  

But Scripture teaches: That the kingdom of Christ on earth will remain in tribulation until the very end, Acts 14:22; John 16:33; 18:36; Luke 9:23; 14:27; 17:20-37; Second Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 12:28; Luke 18:8; That the second visible coming of the Lord will be His final coming to judge the quick and the dead, Matthew 24:29, 30; 25:31; Second Timothy 4:1; Second Thessalonians 2:8; Hebrews 9:26-28; That there will be but one resurrection of the dead, John 5:28; 6:39, 40; That the Last Day is unknown, even to Jesus Himself, Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:32, 37; Acts 1:7; That there will be no conversion en masse, of the Jewish nation, Romans 11:7; Second Corinthians 3:14; Romans 11:25; First Thessalonians 2:16.

Therefore the teaching of Millennialism not only contradicts the Bible, but also gives a false idea of the kingdom of Christ, turns the minds of believers upon mere earthly hopes, and leads people to look upon the Bible as a mysterious and obscure book, which it most certainly is not! It is very clear about the end of the world. And that's the point!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Martin Luther’s Reformation Was Not A Revolution!

Getting Right to the Point!

Martin Luther’s Reformation Was Not A Revolution!

“re-form: 1. to make better by removing faults and defects; to correct.”

It was never Luther’s intent to create a new Christian church or divide Christianity into the myriad sects we see today. All he wanted was the leaders of the church to recognize the abuses and false teachings that had crept into the church and take steps to remove them.

Some of the most serious false doctrines Luther attacked included: elevating human opinion, such as the decrees of Popes and Church Councils, as equal with Holy Scripture; salvation by works, including penance, indulgences, purgatory, etc., instead of by grace alone through faith; and the Lord’s Supper as a good work of man, rather than a gracious gift of God. These were and still are aberrations from God’s Word, and put precious souls in great spiritual danger.

Father Martin was not starting a revolution against the church, nor was he rebelling against God. He was upholding God’s Word and the saving work of Jesus Christ. That’s what he stood for, and we here still stand solidly and completely with him, and with God! And that's the point!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Believe It or Not – The Church Does Not Just Want Your Money!

Getting Right to the Point!

Believe It or Not – The Church Does Not Just Want Your Money!

The church – that is, God – wants your LIFE! First off, please understand that everything we are and everything we have is given to us by God. Thus, a believer will serve God out of gratitude for all these gifts. It's not how much we have, but what we do with what we have that’s important. Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (First Peter 4:10)

Truly, God’s gift of life carries great responsibilities with it. Our lives are sacred trusts. We are stewards of those lives and God wants us to use them to accomplish His purposes in this world. Paul writes, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God!” (First Corinthians 10:31)

Our entire life is a partnership with God. We cannot “give” Him anything, but we can fulfill His purpose by using our gifts wisely, and living the Gospel. True, God's church here on earth needs earthly offerings to do its work. That's to be expected. And any and all offerings, whatever their type or size, are always welcome. But God wants YOU first, only after that, what’s in your wallet! And that's the point!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Please Don’t Pray To Angels!

Getting Right to the Point!

Please Don’t Pray To Angels!

As all things should be, the focus of the holy angels is on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and not themselves. They announced His birth, protected the Christ-child, served Jesus in the wilderness, and are still instantaneously available for His service. Angels were heralds of His resurrection and ascension, and give their special attention to ministers of Christ’s invisible Church.

Today angels continually praise the ascended Christ before His throne, and will accompany Him and assist Him at the final judgment. And it is only because of their relationship to Jesus Christ, and at His bidding alone, that believers receive the help and protection of angels.

However, Colossian 2:18; Revelation 19:10; and 22:8&9 expressly and absolutely forbid and condemn the worship and invocation of angels. The Christian Church, through the time of Pope Gregory the Great, completely condemned any such practices. Indeed, up to the Seventh Century it was proclaimed gross idolatry to invoke or adore angels in any way.

Luther put it best when he said, "Although the angels in heaven pray for us, as Christ Himself also does, . . . yet it does not follow that we should invoke and adore the angels and saints, and fast, hold festivals, celebrate Mass in their honor, make offerings, . . . and in still other ways serve them, and regard them as helpers in need, as patrons and intercessors . . . For this is idolatry, and such honor belongs to God alone!" And that's the point!

Monday, September 10, 2012

God Put Us Here To Work – For Him and His Truth!

Getting Right to the Point!

God Put Us Here To Work – For Him and His Truth!

Many fall festivals today include a chili cook-off. To do well you need the best recipe and follow it to the letter. If you don’t, your entry may not be edible, and might even make people sick. The same is true with religion. If you don’t follow God’s Word exactly, you could wind up believing lies, and even lose your eternal soul!

There is NOTHING good about false doctrine. Even a little bit can kill your faith. And there’s nothing even worthwhile or truly meaningful in false and unbiblical religions. Stay away from them! The Good News is so simple and so comforting, it’s amazing more people don’t believe it. So, if we want to do God’s work, and really help our community and nation, we will proclaim the pure Gospel – Salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ!

You may luck out in a cooking contest without following a really good recipe. But that’s NEVER true of religion. We need to listen to God. We need to follow His Word – His recipe for salvation – completely and without deviation. That’s our task – our work – as long as we live! And that's the point!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Too Much Education Can Be A Dangerous Thing!

Getting Right to the Point!

Too Much Education Can Be A Dangerous Thing!

Too much of anything can be harmful, that’s agreed. But too much education being bad? How is that possible? Education is suppose to be the path to the “good life” – nice job, nice home, nice family, nice car, nice retirement, etc… So, the average person spends twelve to twenty years of their life getting a good education.

But what happens when that education questions, conflicts with, and contradicts the Word of God? What happens when education overrules trust in Jesus Christ? Saving faith can be destroyed, and your place in heaven lost! Education is wonderful, but not when it puts your soul in danger. St. Paul put it best. “For the Word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? . . . The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (First Corinthians 1:18-25)

Don’t let worldly education for this life ruin your faith and your hold on eternal life! The best knowledge is knowledge of the one true God and His plan of salvation. And that's the point!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Yes, Our Church Is The Only “Right” Church!

Getting Right to the Point!

Yes, Our Church Is The Only “Right” Church!

No brag just fact. True, there are dozens of Christian denominations, and hundreds of congregations – most of which claim to be correct. But the sad fact is that there are far too many churches where the Bible is a fairy tale; where God is not capable of creating the world; where Jesus is just a figment of someone’s imagination; where you have to prove you’re saved by speaking in tongues, or making decisions for Jesus; where the Ten Commandments have become the Ten Suggestions; where there is more concern for a social agenda than simply preaching God’s Word; where the worship service has become an entertainment production rather than a focus on really listening to Jesus and praising the Lord with respect and dignity.

Ours is a church which believes the Bible is true in everything it says; where God can do the impossible; where Jesus is true God and true man, lived a perfect human life, died and rose again; where you are saved by God’s grace through faith, not your works; where God’s will is proclaimed without excuse or compromise; where the main emphasis of the church is on preaching the Gospel; where worship is joyous, yet dignified, following the pattern used by Christians two thousand years ago. Those are not mere boasts; they are facts – which we would be very happy to share with you! And that's the point!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don’t Take A Vacation From The Lord!

Getting Right to the Point!
Don’t Take A Vacation From The Lord!

Weekends and vacations as we know them today were a long time in coming. True, already in A.D. 321 Roman Emperor Constantine decreed Sunday as a day off of work for rest and worship. But it wasn't until 1926 that Henry Ford was the first to set up a five-day, forty-hour workweek, and in 1938 this was established in the federal Labor Standards Act. In 1910 President Taft pressed for two to three month paid vacations for all Americans every year, but this was rejected by Congress. Today most nations of the western world have anywhere from seven to twelve weeks of paid vacation per year for all workers!

Jesus often told His disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (Mark 6:31) And truly it is good to take a break from work and rest from our labors. The problem is we very often also take a break from meeting our spiritual needs. Sunday has become just another day off to far too many, with no time for the Lord. And there is no reason why daily prayers, reading the Bible, and meditating on God's grace in our lives has to stop, even though we may be at the beach, in the mountains, or at a resort.

You can be sure God never goes on vacation, or takes a break from His work of getting us to heaven. He wants to give us an eternal vacation. And that's the point!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Are We Really “One Nation Under God?”

Getting Right to the Point!

Are We Really “One Nation Under God?”

When congress added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1955, what meaning did they intend those added words to convey? The dictionary gives nearly two dozen meanings for the word “under.” Are we merely saying that God is over us, metaphorically speaking? Or, are we simply admitting that we are inferior to God? Or, do we mean that we are subject to God’s will and authority?

Neither our government nor our people as a whole seem to value anything higher than the “rights” of the individual, nor does it seem we are subject to God’s will. Otherwise, there would no cold-blooded murder of the unborn sanctioned by our courts, to cite but one example!

And which “god” did congress identify as the one we are under? Was it Brahman, Allah, Ishtar, or Zeus? There is only one true Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So, the conclusion is obvious and inescapable: Individual believers in Jesus Christ as Savior can certainly speak and interpret the words “under God” in a Biblical and God-pleasing way, but sadly these words added to the pledge are really meaningless for many Americans today, and do not make us a "Godly nation" merely by people reciting them. And that's the point!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homosexuality Is Against God's Will – Like It or Not!

Getting Right to the Point!

Homosexuality Is Against God's Will – Like It or Not!

Some Churches and their leaders are wrong to claim that the Bible does not speak out against homosexuality. Indeed, the Scriptures are clear – even quite open and blunt – on the subject. (see Romans 1: 26, 27; First Corinthians 6:9; Timothy 1:10) Simply put, homosexual thoughts or acts are against God’s will and therefore sinful, period. This is not hatred, bigotry, or discrimination; this is just a plain and simple Biblical fact, no more, no less. This teaching may not be popular today in many circles, but it is the truth nontheless.

Of course, this is also no different from any other sin. This too has been completely paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and can be forgiven. Homosexuality is not some kind of "unforgivable sin,” and homosexuals should in no way be hated, shunned, or looked upon as hopelessly condemned to hell.

However, a person may only receive the eternal benefits God’s free forgiveness if they acknowledge the truthfulness of His Word, and their sin, and thus repent and believe the Gospel. And people are not going to admit they are wrong and repent if they are told that what they are doing is not a sin. So – all churches that are doing this – cut it out! You're not helping, you're actually hurting people! And that's the point!

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