Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Are You Persecuting Me? - a review

Why Are You Persecuting Me?

A Christian Response to Hostility and Persecution

A Bible Study from
The Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

In 2014 the CTCR published a six-part Bible study in response to a request to examine hostility towards Christians. Such hostility is present around the world and in our own country. The title to the study is “Why Are You Persecuting Me? A Christian Response to Hostility and Persecution” I have just finished it.

This is an excellent and comprehensive treatment of the subject and is something of a blend between a sermon, a Bible study and a survey of persecution from New Testament times to today. The documentation includes first-rate internet links to resources at the end of the study. Perhaps the best way to give you a taste of the study is to provide a few quotes.

In the past decade, the Christian population of the city of Mosul in Iraq dropped from 35,000 to 3000; more recently these remaining Christians fled after ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) militants took control of the city. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, leave, or face death. (3)

The world that hates us needs our witness and our prayers. In 1523, an Augustinian monk and pastor, Henry of Z├╝tphen, was arrested in Antwerp for embracing the evangelical faith of the Reformation. He was freed and continued preaching in other cities, but two years later Henry was kidnapped and murdered by an angry, drunken mob. After Henry was martyred, Martin Luther wrote to the Christians in Bremen to console them at the death of their pastor. Brother Henry was with the Lord; it was his murderers who needed the prayers of the Bremen Christians: “His murderers have already been repaid enough and more than enough by staining their hands so terribly with innocent blood and heaping upon themselves such great and awful guilt in the sight of God. There is really far more reason to weep and lament for them than for the sainted Henry, and to pray that not only they, but the whole land of Dithmarschen, may be converted and come to the knowledge of the truth.” God could use even the evil deeds of Henry’s murderers “to strengthen his Word so that it wins more people than it otherwise would.”(9)

In a wave of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in India, churches were desecrated and destroyed, Christian homes were burned, and hundreds of Christians were tortured and murdered. Yet a man who had been part of a mob later said of the Christians, “They are still suffering. But they have no complaints and they are living happily . . . If Jesus could influence people’s lives to such an extent, I would prefer to be part of that faith.” Another man said, “I have seen the violence and their suffering. Yet they have not given up their faith. So I decided to embrace their faith.” (10)

One of  the many features I found enlightening was the treatment of the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer for the persecuted. (Of course, Lutheran’s never tire of finding spiritual gold in the Lord’s Prayer.)

Again, two thumbs up.

Want to read the study? Just follow the link.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

What is the CTCR?

The Lord be with you

For anyone who comes to this blog often, they will note that I have posted numerous reviews of CTCR reports. CTCR stands for the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LC-MS). Readers may be wondering about this commission, when was it formed, what are its duties, who is on it, how does the commission determine topics to issue reports or opinions about and how much "authority" the commission has.

The link below will take you to a four page document that answers such questions. It was posted in 2013 and I expect it will be updated following the upcoming Synod Convention listing the four members such a convention is charged with electing. Because it is a couple of years old, some of the pending projects listed have actually been accomplished.


Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Racism and the Church - a review

Racism and the Church
A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

February 1994

56 pages

Racism is alive and well in the USA and around the world. That, however, is not the focus of this
report. Its focus is “Racism and the Church.” That is to say, what God’s position on Racism is (and therefore what our position as Christians should be), how has it crept into the Church (especially into the LC-MS) and what we can do based on guidance from the Bible.

The preface of this excellent study says:

In April 1986 the officers and staff of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, at the request of the President of the Synod, met with a number of African American pastors in the Synod to discuss issues related to black ministry and to share matters of mutual interest. Following this meeting, the Executive Director of the Commission on Black Ministry expressed appreciation for this opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions and, at the same time, forwarded a request from black leaders in the Synod that a document on racism be prepared. The Commission on Theology and Church Relations responded positively to this request and immediately placed this study on its agenda.

Calling on all of its members “To Combat All Racism,” the Synod at its 1992 convention in Pittsburgh urged “the rapid completion of the CTCR study” and asked the members of the Synod “to make maximum use of this study upon its completion and to pray the Lord of the church to bless this study and cause it to effect appropriate changes in attitudes and actions.” The Commission on Theology and Church Relations joins in the prayer that this document on Racism and the Church will be a blessing to the Synod, assisting us all not only in understanding the problem of racism, but also, with God’s help, in dealing with it in our own personal and corporate life. For those who wish to explore in more detail what the Scriptures teach regarding racism and its consequences, a Bible study has been included with this report (pp. 45-56).

In light of what we hear so often in the news, the need for this report has not diminished in the two decades since it was published. You may be thinking, but we aren’t a racist denomination. Consider this one fact. If our membership gains in the black community had kept pace with our membership gains in the white community, then we would have over a quarter million black members in the LC-MS right now. Instead, black membership is somewhere around 20,000. Why? Racism doesn’t express itself only by taking a gun into a church with membership different from you.

If you are not a member of the LC-MS, this report is still an excellent read. The theological/biblical insights will serve Christians of any denomination well. The Bible study at the end is also excellent, but would certainly take more than one meeting. I give this report “two humble thumbs up.”

(Oh, the footnotes are excellent.)

If you would like to read the report, follow this link: Racism and the Church

Blessings in Christ
Pastor John Rickert

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Lutheran Response to the “Left Behind” Series - a review

A Review of:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him … 2 Thess. 2:1
A Lutheran Response to the “Left Behind” Series

A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
April 2004

24 pages

A provocative interpretation of the book of Revelation, indeed of the entire Bible, was offered in 1995 when Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins published Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days. By serializing the tribulations of the book of Revelation the Left Behind novels have become the all-time best-selling Christian fictional series. It is estimated that Tyndale Publishing House has sold over 55 million copies of the Left Behind books at the time the CTCR published this document (2004). There has even been two movies based on the books,  a game and a children’s series of books based on the original series. It is no surprise at all, then, that the books have had significant impact on peoples' understanding of the Bible and what it says concerning the Second Coming of Jesus (or, if you accept the theology of these books, the second, third and fourth comings of Jesus).

In 2002, then president of the LC-MS Gerald Kieschnick, sent a memo to the CTCR reporting ”a growing concern in our church about the impact that the popular Left Behind series of books is having on people today, including members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” After sharing his conviction that “this is a legitimate concern and that some attention needs to be given to the matter,” the President requested that “the Commission review this topic and prepare a statement on it that will be helpful to our people as they exercise discernment when reading such literature.” This report is the CTCR’s response.

The theology undergirding these books is called “premillennial dispensationalism.” It is a deeply flawed way to interpret the Bible. If you wish to know how this view is reflected in the Left Behind books, as well as what the Bible does actually teach concerning the topics the Left Behind books fictionalize, then this short report is for you. There is an excellent glossary at the end of the document, as well as an easily understood diagram comparing different views of “eschatology” (see the glossary for this word as well as “premillennial dispensationalism”).

To read the document, just click on the link: Concerning the coming of our Lord JesusChrist.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lutherans For Life video

It is time to end abortion.
Posted by The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on Thursday, August 27, 2015

Worship Notes for Pentecost 14, 2015

Thursday after Pentecost 13
August 27, 2015

The Lord be with you.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost 14. We will be using the Service of Prayer and Preaching for our liturgy (page 260). This is a non-communion service. We use the appointed Psalm instead of the Introit for the Day. Our readings will be Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Ephesians 6:10-20; Mark 7:14-23 and Psalm 119:129-136 (antiphon v. 132). Psalm 119 is sometimes called the “giant Psalm.” It is an acrostic poem following the Hebrew alphabet. The first eight verses all begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The second eight verses begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and so on. In this particular set of verses, the Hebrew letter is “Pe.” The entire Psalm is about the word of God. You will notice the role of the word of God in the other readings as well.

I will again be using the epistle lesson for the basis of the sermon. This will conclude Ephesians in our Sunday readings, and therefore the end of this little mini-series. The sermon is titled “Stand Together.” The text is Ephesians 6:11.

The hymns Sunday will all be well known. Our opening hymn will be “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” (LSB 660). Our sermon hymn will be “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (LSB 662). Our closing hymn will be “Rise! To Arms! With Prayer Employ You” (LSB 668).

Our adult Bible class is working through the study, Word: God Speaks to Us. The author is John T. Pless and it is part of the Lutheran Spirituality series published by Concordia Publishing House. This Sunday we will continue with the second lesson, “The Words That Kill and Give Life.” To be honest, the discussion was such that last week we only covered one question. Some of the questions left to answer are: “What will the Law not do? What will it do?” “What is the ‘righteousness of God’ and how is it made manifest?” “How does Isaiah demonstrate the connectedness between Word and Spirit?” Participants are asked to read 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 to prepare for class. We have extra study guides. Join us and be blessed by the Word of God, which is a means of grace.

Below is a video of “The Lutheran Warbler” (Rachel) singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” our sermon hymn.

What follows is a synopsis of Sunday’s lessons, provided by the synod, then the lessons. As always, the synopsis does not factor in the appointed Psalm, but you should have no trouble understanding how it relates. Following the readings are some additional notes. Don’t forget to check out the other posts from earlier this week. You can also link one or more of our posts to your personal facebook (or other social media) page. Find one you like and share it.

We Are Cleansed and Sustained by the Word of God
Wickedness and evil come “from within, out of the heart,” and that is what defiles a person (Mark 7:21–23). Hence, we cannot save ourselves, because we are sinful and unclean from the inside out. But as the Lord Jesus “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19), so He cleanses us by His Word, by the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, “listen to the statutes and the rules” of the Lord, “and do them, that you may live” (Deut. 4:1). For His Word is righteous, and to live according to it is “your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples” (Deut. 4:6). Cling to His Word, and also teach it “to your children and your children’s children” (Deut. 4:9). Put on this “armor of God” by hearing and heeding what He speaks to you, that you may “stand firm” in the evil day (Eph. 6:11–13). Gird yourself with the righteousness of Christ, by faith in the “gospel of peace,” and take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” by confessing Christ Jesus and “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:14–18).

Psalm 119:129-136 (antiphon v. 132)
129            Your testimonies are wonderful;
                        therefore my soul keeps them.
130            The unfolding of your words gives light;
                        it imparts understanding to the simple.
131            I open my mouth and pant,
                        because I long for your commandments.
132            Turn to me and be gracious to me,
                        as is your way with those who love your name.
133            Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
                        and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134            Redeem me from man's oppression,
                        that I may keep your precepts.
135            Make your face shine upon your servant,
                        and teach me your statutes.
136            My eyes shed streams of tears,
                        because people do not keep your law.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
4:1         “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. …
6           Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
9           “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children—

Ephesians 6:10-20
10          Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Mark 7:14-23
14          And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”a 17And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
aSome manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear

Some Additional Notes

There will be a special called church council meeting following Sunday’s worship service.

The September newsletter will be available Sunday.

Keep Praying for your Neighbors and Walking your Neighborhoods.

The next hymn our ladies will examine at the WBF (September 2) will be “When I Behold Jesus Christ,” LSB 542.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Fall Professional Church Workers Conference

One-day Event - Two Locations
Redeemer Lutheran Church
3799 East West Highway, Hyattsville, MD 20782

Resurrection Lutheran Church
100 W Lochmere Dr., Cary, NC 27518
Rev. Victor Belton - Pastor, Peace Lutheran Church, Decatur, GA, LCMS Board of Directors
Linda Hartke - President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 

Loving Our Neighbor - Jesus' Real Presence in Our Neighborhood
In light of the events in Baltimore and Charleston (both part of the SED) and events in other major cities, we have been called to re-examine our own hearts in the ways that we are loving each of our neighbors. There are many perspectives that are important; listening to those who are leading ministry in the city and those to whom they minister, it becomes evident that:
  • The presence of Jesus in the neighborhood is the answer to racism, poverty, and systems that allow injustice to go unchallenged among us.
  • The absence of the church in our communities has left a vacuum that is quickly filled with fear, discouragement, and hopelessness
  • The answer to the present urban struggle begins with the step we each take towards our neighbor - wherever it is that we live
  • It's important to be in places to listen to the stories of people who live in the city - the real life stories of our sisters and brothers will change our perspective
  • Listening prayerfully leads to a new place in our hearts and possibly a different kind of response
At our Regional Professional Church Workers Conference we are delighted to have Linda Hartke and Rev. Victor Belton serve as our presenters leading us to explore the topic:  Jesus' Real Presence in Our Neighborhood. 
Optional Workshop - Mobilizing for Sustainable Mission Multiplication
Dr. Peter Meier, from The Center for United States Missions, will lead us through models that multiply the Word into new neighborhoods. Principles of multiplication will be introduced. Ryan Radke, SED Digital Outreach Coordinator, and Rick Steenbock, from TwoFish Media, will show participants first hand how to live stream content into homes and neighborhoods. More information 
Please contact Brent Smith, SED Director for Mission Development if you have questions.

Conference registration fee is  $50 (Optional Workshop is offered at no additional cost.)
Agenda and more information is available on the SED website 
Southeastern District, LCMS   
6315 Grovedale Drive
Alexandria VA 22310