Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts on a simple verse

Taking a step away from M.T.D. for the moment. Just finished reading 1 Corinthians. I have encouraged the congregation to read this book as we are working through it as the epistle reading during the season of Epiphany.

Many wonderful verses to consider. Today: "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV) Be watchful - keep your eyes out because the devil is prowling about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. It might just be you! You are in the wilderness. Wild animals are all about you. be watchful. That doesn't mean curl up in a ball and hide from the world. It means go about your day with the watchfulness of faith. Know that you will be assailed on all sides.

Stand firm in the faith - maybe I can't get away from M.T.D. Stand firm in the one faith - the faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord as Savior. God is not a god that you use according to your whims, whenever you have need of Him. He is in your life, active every single moment. He with you in good times and in bad times. He is the One who has rescued all of humanity from sin, death and the power of the devil. Standing in Jesus Christ, that the faith that we stand firm in, not the wishy washy faith of a pluralistic society, one that stands on absolutely nothing. Stand firm in the faith.

Act like men. All right, so this one hit me as I was thinking about our Men's Ministry. The goal is to help men to live like men - Christian men. We are always talking about and studying how we can be men of God not men of the world. It is a challenge each and every day. Women - the challenge is for you too! Act like women. Be women of God. Men and women are given their identity by God. They are given their direction for life. Act like it!

Be strong. Weakness is all around us. In fact, we are encouraged by society to be weak. How? By robbing men and women of their God-given identity. By giving in to the pluralism of society. By not standing firm in the faith. Be strong - not in yourself but in the strength of Christ who has overcome and lives and reigns to all eternity!

Let all that you do be done in love. Let the love of Christ guide you. That is the love that causes you to reach out to the hurting person at work, the frustrated student in the classroom, the spouse who is struggling with temptation, the child who is lost in the ways of the world - treat them with the love of Christ. Go back to 1 Corinthians 13 for the love that is to guide you in your life. Don't be a bull in a china shop. You might have the right message but don't destroy people just because you are "right." Too many do that. Instead, reach out to others with the depth of love that God has reached out to you with. We forget too often that we too are people in need of the love of God.

God's word to guide your day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

MTD - a few thoughts

Penny and I attended the Youth Ministry 2011 conference at the beginning of January. The presentation was by Christian Smith, a sociologist who has been involved in a major study called the National Study of Youth and Religion. They found that the youth of the nation are basically religious, with many saying that they are Christian. The problem they found was what the youth meant by Christian, religious or spiritual. Many of them had an interesting definition that began to take shape in a form of religion. It isn't like Lutheranism or Methodism. Instead, it forms a relationship with the accepted religions and begins to change and morph that religion within the lives of the youth.

The more they studied it, the more they began to get a handle on what was being said by the youth. Christian Smith and company came up with a name for this "religion." They called it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or MTD. It is an interesting form of religion. You can't really say that it is Christian, but it builds upon Christianity. You can't really say it is biblical because it builds upon feelings. It is truly deism in the modern sense of the word.

What does MTD look like? It has 5 basic tenets.
1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's live except when he is needed to resolve some problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Now on first glance, you might agree with what is said in MTD. In fact, you might agree on a second glance. One thing I have come to understand is that it is not just youth that feel this way about their spiritual life. They are learning this not from the world "out there." They are actually learning this in two places: at home and in their church!

That is right, they are learning this at home, from the most influential people in their lives - their parents. (That might just be you!!) And they are learning that from the church they attend. That means that their pastor, their Sunday school teacher, their youth minister, and the various other people they come in contact with are actually following this form of "Christianity' themselves.

That was an amazing insight to me! I have been struggling with trying to figure out what is going on in Christianity today (including in many Lutheran churches) and have come to see that in many ways, MTD has come to have a great influence upon the teachings and beliefs of the church. It fits very well in our pluralistic society, one that wants to let all things live together in harmony and peace, without any differences or disagreements. When was the last time you heard someone stand up and publicly state that they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and that only those who believe in Him will go to heaven? Did they catch a lot of flack for it? I was thinking of the new governor of Alabama when he, speaking in a church, said that those who are Christian are his brothers and sisters and that he wanted those who didn't believe in Christ to become his brothers and sisters. You would have thought he was proclaiming that it was all right to hang your puppy dog and skin the cat! There was such a backlash from various organizations and media outlets. But is not what he said true? Not according to MTD.

He actually broke a cardinal rule of MTD - don't be a jerk to others. And in making such a statement, he was a jerk. He needed to retract the statement and apologize to all those he offended. Imagine how Paul the apostle would have responded to that! There on Mars hill or in any of the other places he preached the gospel.

OK, that is enough for the moment. I will post more about MTD. Actually what I will do is take each point and begin to help us understand it in light of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Talk with you soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

I was thinking...

Sorry I haven't blogged since Thanksgiving. It has been rather busy -what with Advent services, weekend services, Christmas services, New Year's Eve, Adult Class during Christmas break and then a week in Florida for a conference and time with the family. So you haven't had the opportunity to read my ramblings - which might be a good thing.

I have been thinking recently about how we are saved. This comes from the conference we went to and from some happenings in the immediate community. We went to the "What is a soul worth?" Youth Ministry 2011 conference. We heard Dr. Christian Smith speak about the state of faith among the youth in our country. They have undertaken a long-term study on the spiritual life of teems - starting in 2002 and will continue until those same teens reach the age of 26-29. It is pretty amazing to see the results. They have published two books so far with the findings, the latest one is "Souls in Transition."

They have found that many youth have a type of religion which has been named MTD - Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. I will talk more about that on another occasion. It is fascinating. And the more I think about it, I have come to believe that it is the type of "religion" that many adults have as well.

The question I was asking myself this morning was, "How is a person saved?" Simple question with a simple answer - unless you don't like what God says in His holy word. We are told simply, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Jesus tells us, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." In Acts we read, "There is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved." This is simple. Believe in Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior and you will be saved.

You aren't saved because you are a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Troy, IL. Nor are you saved because you are a member of any church anywhere. You aren't saved because you are good person who hasn't committed some terrible crime. You aren't saved because your parents believed or your grandparents started a church somewhere. You are saved only by believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

He is God's only-begotten Son. He is God made man at the birth of the Son of Mary. He is the One who is sinless, living a sinless life, obeying the will of the Father, never falling into any kind of sin. He was not born sinful like us. He did not die a sinful life like us. Instead, He gave up His life, His sinless life, upon the cross, for the salvation of each and every person. And only by believing in Him will you be saved.

There are confirmed Lutherans in heaven and there are confirmed Lutherans in hell. There are really nice people in heaven and really nice people in hell. There are people who help others in heaven and people who help others in hell. There are drug users in heaven and there are drug users in hell. How is this? Only those who believe in Jesus as their Savior went to heaven. Those who didn't went to hell. Plain and simple.

That is something that you and I must take hold of, believe, confess, live and share. It is a matter of spiritual life and death. Spiritual life - believe in Jesus as the Savior. Spiritual death - by trusting your goodness, yourself, your actions, your thoughts, and any other belief other than the one that believes in Jesus as the Savior.

I will write more soon. I promise. I was just thinking about this and felt I needed to share.