Friday, December 29, 2017

Anger

by Pastor Paul Wolff


God destroyed the world with a flood
in anger over their sin and violence,
but He spared Noah’s family.

I remember a comic strip from when I was young which for many years I had pinned to a bulletin board in my room. The comic depicted a child in school taking a test with the question: “What was the cause of the U.S. Civil War?” The answer that the child wrote was only one word: “Anger.”

After a murderous gunman killed 26 people in a Texas church in 2017, and wounded all of the survivors in attempting to kill them, he was described as having “a lot of hatred inside him.” Such is the result of holding on to anger so that it is no surprise that the ancient Church listed anger or wrath as one of the seven deadly sins. The consequences of untamed anger are violence, murder, and war. There are clearly terrible things which result from anger, yet if we look at what Holy Scripture says about anger we might be surprised to find that anger is not always sinful.

Saint Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Because the Apostle encourages Christians not to sin in their anger, it follows that there can be anger without sin. We call that righteous anger. Righteous anger is anger over things that are wrong or evil. We should be angry when people sin against our neighbors and treat others in an unrighteous manner. God, Himself gets angry over sin because He didn’t create us to sin, but to be holy. We, however, have corrupted what God made holy, and have turned to sin. In the New International Version of the Bible a quick word search finds 256 occurrences of the word “anger” and 190 occurrences of the word “wrath”. Many of these are describing the anger and wrath of God. Yet God does not sin in His anger and wrath, even when He takes it out on those who sin against Him, or other people. God is righteous in His anger because He is holy, and because He loves us and doesn’t want us to do evil. He may let us see that there are wicked consequences to sin, but He does this to show us that we need His forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ.


Contrary to what Job’s friends thought
God was not punishing Job
but testing His faith to strengthen it.

When Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15:17; John 2:13-16) He acted in anger. He even acted violently by overturning tables and driving the thieves out of the holy place. Yet, Jesus did not sin in His anger, and he certainly didn’t hurt anyone. God’s temple was to be a place where God’s people would go to find forgiveness and peace from God, not a place they dreaded to go because they knew they would be cheated by dishonest merchants. Jesus was always in control of His anger, and never hurt people in His righteous anger. Even when wicked people falsely accused Him of wrongdoing and beat Him and nailed Him to the cross to kill Him, He did not respond in anger, but forgave His murderers and let them kill Him so that He could pay for their sins so that they could be saved through faith in Him.

Yet, even though there is such a thing as righteous anger, it doesn’t mean there is no such thing as unrighteous anger. Jesus Himself teaches in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” We sinners are much more likely to sin in our anger than Jesus or His heavenly Father. So we ought to be careful in how we act according to our anger.


God gives authority to governments
to punish wrongdoers
as Joshua did in Jericho.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Since sinners are more likely to sin in expressing our anger, we need to keep it under control unless we are sure that we are acting properly to work for what is right. In that church massacre in Texas in 2017, the murderer acted out in great evil by shooting all those innocent people, but while that was going on, a neighbor to the church heard what was going on and grabbed his gun and went in and shot the murderer, wounding him, and drove him away before he could kill any more people. In a way, this man was doing the same thing as the murderer, shooting a gun at a person in a church, but he acted righteously to punish a murderer and protect those innocent people who were being attacked, and he saved the lives of many people.

Now, just because there is righteous anger, and even a righteous use of violence to punish wrongdoers, this doesn’t give us the excuse to exercise our anger in all cases, even when we can be justified in acting out in anger. Saint Paul counsels in Romans 12:17-21 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is what Jesus did at all times, and in doing so He won our salvation. Because God is righteous and holy, He is always right when He acts according to His anger and wrath.


Jesus did not act in anger
when he was wrongly accused and
forgave his murderers on the cross.

If punishment is called for, God will punish. However, if He can resolve the situation without violence, He is right in withholding His punishment in favor of forgiveness. This is why in most circumstances we should not act out in violence. If punishment is called for, God has established worldly authorities to carry out justice. In a just society the guilty are punished and the innocent are rewarded. In most cases citizens ought to let the authorities punish the wrongdoers. The church shooting described above is an exception. The situation was desperate, and there wasn’t time for the police to respond, so the neighbor had to act quickly to save lives, but he was able to stop the massacre without killing the murderer. After he fled from the church, some more neighbors followed him and were on the phone with the police so that they could come and bring the murderer to justice. This was proper also. Though the murderer did not let this happen and murdered himself last of all.

Because Jesus has overcome sin and death through His sinless life, and His innocent suffering and death in payment for our sins, all those who were wrongly murdered will live again, and those who murder will also live again. Jesus has destroyed the power of death. All who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins have been forgiven and will live in paradise as God’s beloved children. This includes some people who were guilty of murder in life, but who repented of those sins and trusted in Jesus to forgive them. On the other hand, those who reject Christ’s forgiveness will suffer God’s wrath for eternity because although Jesus paid for their sins and gives them life and salvation as a free gift, they reject the gift and place themselves under God’s righteous wrath. This may include both unbelieving murderers, and the otherwise innocent people they kill. In such a case the tragedy is compounded.


When Jesus returns in glory
He will bring salvation to all believers
and judgment for all who hate Him.

This is why we should leave vengeance to God. He knows who is forgiven and who should be damned. One who is a murderer today may repent tomorrow and be saved. Such a person we will greet in heaven as a beloved brother in Christ and will rejoice in his repentance and salvation, even those Christians whom he killed will rejoice in his receiving Christ’s forgiveness. Some people may complain that this is unfair, but do we really want what is fair? If God were simply fair and just, and not merciful, then we all would be condemned to death with no chance of salvation because we are all guilty of sins against God and against His people. What is fair is that we all ought to suffer hell for our sins. However, God is merciful and He took the punishment for our sins in our place when He became incarnate as a man, Jesus Christ. It wasn’t fair that Jesus had to suffer for the sins that you and I are guilty of, but Jesus acted in love to save us. Jesus wasn’t so much concerned with fairness as He was with doing what was necessary to save us from our sins. Although Jesus was innocent of all sins, He suffered death to rescue us all from death, and to win our forgiveness and eternal life with Him in His heavenly paradise. In the end, all praise goes to Jesus, who rescues us all from our sins.



 
Here is a small selection of Bible verses about anger.


Psalm 6:1  
O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

Psalm 7:6  
Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.

Proverbs 29:8
Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.

James 1:19-20
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Colossians 3:5-10  
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.




Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Is Christmas Offensive?

by Pastor Paul Wolff



Christmas is the celebration of
God’s gift of a savior
to redeem us all from our sins

In a Pennsylvania town near Gettysburg, a family was asked to remove a Christmas decoration from in front of their house which prominently displayed the name, Jesus, because one of their neighbors described it as “offensive.” Is Christmas offensive?

I suppose there are many ways to answer this, but the truth is that yes, Christmas can be offensive to some, but the reality of Christmas celebrates the least offensive event in all of history.

First, there are people who misuse the name of Jesus only as a vulgar exclamation. If they see the name of Jesus as vulgar, then they would certainly see His birth as offensive. However, those who only use Christ’s name as a curse word are misusing it, and any offense they give or receive at the name of Jesus is their own fault, and not something that Jesus Himself is responsible for.

Likewise, there are people who would never use Jesus’ name as a vulgar exclamation, or as a curse, and in fact see themselves as good people, and who still might be offended by Christmas. Jesus is God who became incarnate as a person because that was the only way He could redeem us from our sins. Those “good” people who don’t admit to being sinners are offended that the birth of Jesus shows that they aren’t nearly as good as they think they are. They think they don’t need a savior, much less do they think that God Himself had to die to save them from their sins. They think that if God had to die for sinners, it must have been for “other people” who are worse than them. The birth of Jesus offends them because it puts them in the same category as people they despise nearly as much as Jesus.

The temptation to idolatry is the most common temptation that we face. We usually think of idol worship as bowing down to a man-made statue or some kind of false god. However, the most common form of idolatry is to think of one’s self as god. This, in effect, was the temptation which seduced Adam and Eve when they were still in the Garden of Eden. If this temptation corrupted Adam and Eve when they were still innocent, we, who are already corrupted by sin, are much more likely to fall for this temptation and see ourselves as our own god. Wherever this is true, we see the true God as a rival and we take offense at Him in His person, and in His word and works.


Mary heard the word of God
and she believed.

In reality, the coming of God into our world as Jesus Christ was the least offensive thing ever to happen in the entire history of everything. At first it was known only to Mary when she heard and believed the words of the angel, Gabriel. Then Mary went to visit her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, who was the recipient of a slightly lesser miracle, but one which was just like the gift of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 21. Elizabeth (and her unborn child) rejoiced the moment she heard Mary greet her (see Luke 1:44).

After three months, when Mary went back to Nazareth and told Joseph the news, he did not rejoice. He was rather offended. He had been faithful and chaste and knew that he had not fathered any child, so when Mary shows up pregnant, he assumed that she had been unfaithful. This was a logical (though wrong) assumption. Ever since the creation of Adam and Eve, all people have been conceived the same way. No virgin, before or since, had ever become a mother. Matthew 1:19 tells us that Joseph had made up his mind to divorce Mary quietly, so as not to put her to shame, but I am sure that in their conversations that day there was more than a few tears shed by both Mary and Joseph. Such was the supposed offense.

That evening and angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” To Joseph’s credit he believed the word of God from the angel, even though it was essentially the same thing that Mary had told him earlier which he did not believe. The offense that he had presumed from Mary was so great that he couldn’t bring himself to believe her, at first, because she had every reason to lie if she was, in fact, unfaithful. Yet, when Joseph heard God’s word from the angel, he repented of his disbelief and kept Mary as his wife and continued to refrain from intimate relations with her until an appropriate time after Jesus was born.

The actual birth of Jesus was also most inoffensive. Joseph and Mary had to travel South to Bethlehem to comply with a decree from Caesar Augustus about registering in a census. Even though the Davidic dynasty of kings had ended several hundred years before the days of Joseph and Mary, there were likely many, many Jews of that day who could trace their ancestry back to King David. Remember that David’s youngest son and heir, Solomon, alone had 300 wives and 700 concubines, and surely also fathered more than his fair share of children, though the Scriptures don’t tell us how many children came from these arrangements. Even acknowledging that over the years some of David’s descendants may have lost track of their ancestral line, there surely was quite a crowd that was coming to Bethlehem to register for Caesar’s census. Yet, the birth of the Son of God didn’t put anyone out the night He was born. Instead, Mary and Joseph apparently stayed in a barn (or its equivalent), and placed the newborn baby Jesus in a manger as his first crib. This humble birth was the very opposite of offensive.


Joseph protected his family
by taking them to Egypt
until the death of Herod

That same night after Jesus was born, angels from God appeared to shepherds near Bethlehem and told them the good news about the birth of God’s Son, and they weren’t offended at all and came and worshiped Him. Likewise, when the Magi saw the star, and interpreted it to mean that a king was born to the Jews, they came to worship Him. However, they logically assumed that the new king was born in Jerusalem and first went there to find the royal baby. King Herod was not a descendant of David, nor a Jew, nor a Levite, nor even a descendant of Israel. When Herod heard about the birth of the King of the Jews, he took offense. Herod didn’t want a Jewish king. He wanted one of his sons (one whom he hadn’t yet killed) to succeed him as king, not a descendant of Judah born in Bethlehem. After the Magi left town without even saying goodbye and identifying the newborn King of the Jews, Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the baby boys younger than two years.


The murderous insanity of Herod shows the tragic foolishness of taking offense at the birth of Jesus. Yet it also reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised when people take offense at this wonderful event.


The birth of Christ is such an important event in human history that when the Roman empire became a Christian empire after Constantine legalized Christianity, they eventually made an effort to count the years from the birth of Jesus. They likely weren’t perfect in this, and we now believe Jesus was born around 3-4 B.C. as we count the years. The description of the years as B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini – year of our Lord) also offends people who don’t recognize Christ as Lord and they would rather describe the years as B.C.E. (before the Christian era, or before the “common” era) and C.E.


Jesus was rejected in Nazareth

Besides the birth of Jesus, people took offense at Jesus many times during His ministry. Luke 4:16-30 records the first time Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth after He was baptized by John and had endured 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, He read an appointed reading from Isaiah and then said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The men who heard this took offense at His words and took him out and intended to throw Him off a cliff, but this was not His time to die, yet, so He somehow miraculously and gently didn’t let them do Him harm and “passing through their midst, he went away.”


John 5 tells of a time when Jesus healed a crippled man on a Sabbath day, and the Pharisees took offense at this. They ought to have rejoiced that Jesus had mercy on this poor man who had been crippled for 38 years. Instead, they were offended that Jesus broke their man-made laws about Sabbath work. They were also offended that such a great miracle would draw the people’s respect and admiration to Him instead of them. Jesus was not breaking God’s laws about the Sabbath because as He told those who were offended, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” They also took offense at this because He was calling God His Father, and showing Himself equal with God. Though they ought to have recognized the evidence that Jesus is God, they instead sought to kill Him.


The idolatrous Jewish priests
took offense at Jesus raising
Lazarus from the dead.

Some hard-hearted people even took offense at the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). John 12:9-11 tells us that the chief Priests intended not only to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus as well because on account of this wonderful miracle many Jews were going away from their false teaching and following Jesus. They saw Jesus as a threat to their authority among the people and so they were offended.

The bottom line of Christmas is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Sinners who resent being reminded of the truth are offended by this. On the other hand, sinners who recognize their desperate situation and see the hope and comfort in God coming to save us from our sin rejoice in the birth of Jesus along with His life and death and resurrection from the dead.

This past year (2017) was one of the most painful years that I have ever experienced. You know it is bad when a broken leg (and subsequent recovery and rehabilitation) was not the worst thing that happened. Yet, the blessings of Christ and His forgiveness and salvation were a comfort to me in sickness and in health, in pain and in pleasure, in sorrow and in joy.

May the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus won for you give you joy and peace and all blessings this Christmas season. May you never take offense at Christ or any of God’s work to redeem you and make you His beloved child. Merry Christmas.




Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

by Pastor Paul Wolff

Jesus resisted the temptations of the devil
out of love for us.


I recently (December 2017) read an article about how the Roman Catholic Pope, Francis, wants to change the wording of the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation” to something more like, “do not let us fall into temptation.” At first this sounds a little wacky, and the news companies telling the story make it seem more so. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago and has served the church well throughout that time but Pope Francis may have a valid point. Yet, while he may have a valid point regarding the Lord’s Prayer, his solution is still a bit of an an overreaction.

It was reported that Pope Francis thinks that the Sixth Petition sounds like God leads people into temptation, which he is correct in saying would be contrary to Scripture. James 1:13-15 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” No Christian who loves God and His word wants to give the impression that God is the source of temptation or sin. We are the source of our sin. Even the devil cannot make us sin against our will, but can only tempt us to do what is harmful to ourselves and others. Unfortunately, according to our sinful nature, we desire to sin and take pleasure in doing evil.

However, Pope Francis should have read Martin Luther’s explanation to the Sixth Petition in the Small Catechism. Luther writes, “God indeed tempts no one. But we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Though we are attacked by these things, we pray that still we may finally overcome them and gain the victory.” It has been nearly 500 years ago that Martin Luther acknowledged that the wording of the Sixth Petition may lead people to wonder if God tempts people to sin, yet he gave a proper explanation of the petition, and did not change the wording.


David prayed something like,
“Lead me not into shame”

Lutherans have known about this “problem” for about 500 years, but because of Lutheran Doctrine which properly explains the Scriptures, we trust that God does not lead us into temptation, but leads us to find forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. Yet we still pray the prayer as all other Christians have done since Jesus taught the prayer to His disciples.


There are similar statements in the Psalms. In Psalm 25 David writes, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” David trusts that God will not let him be shamed or defeated by his enemies, yet he specifically prays that God would not let these things happen.

Likewise in Psalm 27:9, David writes, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.” Again, David is trusting that God will not hide his face from him or turn away in anger and reject him, but he prays that God will not do each of these things.

David does not pray these things because he fears that God would turn against him, but because his worldly enemies want him to be shamed, forsaken and destroyed. Likewise, when Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” He doesn’t want us to think there is any chance that God might tempt us to sin, but rather because our enemy, the devil, wants us to fall into sin and follow that broad path that leads to our own destruction, we pray that our Father in heaven would rescue us from sin and temptation.


Jesus endured torment, shame, and death
to rescue you from the punishment for your sin.

The Lutheran reformation which began 500 years ago in 1517, was a conservative reformation. Luther worked very hard to conserve every good Scriptural teaching that remained in the Catholic church of his day, so he wouldn’t needlessly burden the people with unnecessary change or turn them against the truth of Christ so that they would reject their salvation. There is nothing wrong with the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. Jesus was using a figure of speech similar to what David used in the Psalms. 

Christians have been praying this prayer for nearly 2,000 years without thinking that God tempts us to sin, and we can continue to do so for another 2,000 years (or more) if Jesus decides to wait that long before He returns to bring our salvation to its complete fulfillment.

Jesus let Himself be put to shame, and scorned and rejected, even by God the Father, so that He could rescue us from the results of our falling into temptation and sin. Jesus died and was put in a grave so that He would be able to rescue us all from our graves, where we will all find ourselves because of our sin. Because of what Jesus endured for our sake, we trust that God will forgive all our sins and rescue us from all the evil consequences of sin and evil.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Prayer for the Church in Times of Persecution

by Pastor Paul Wolff

Background story: On November 5, 2017 a heavily armed man walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and killed 26 people and injured 20 more until a neighbor got his gun and came to the defense of the people of the church and drove away the murderer. Other neighbors pursued the gunman, who ultimately murdered himself last. This is by no means the first or last or worst persecution of Christians even in recent times, but it is the inspiration for this prayer. The prayer below can be used by and for all Christians in any place in times of persecution.



Let not your hearts be troubled
Jesus goes to prepare a place for you.

Dear Lord Jesus, You have told us “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:10 and 5:4) We pray that you would bless all Your people throughout the world who are persecuted, and give your comfort to those who mourn the suffering and death of Christians because they bear Your name. Lord, we know that it is the will of Your Father that You will lose none of us whom the Father has given to You, and will raise us up at the last day (John 6:39), but many are lost to us, and we are grieved by our loss. 


Lord Jesus, send us Your Holy Spirit to teach us Your Word, and remind us of all that You have done to save us (John 14:26). Comfort Your people with Your peace. Strengthen Your people in faith that we may love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), bless and not curse them (Romans 12:14), that we may not be overcome by evil, but that we may overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Open the eyes and the ears and the hearts of this wicked generation to hear and believe Your Word that they may repent and be healed (Isaiah 6:10)


The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid,
for I know that you are looking for
Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.

Lord Jesus, You have told us that as they persecuted You, they will also persecute us (John 15:20). Let this be a comfort to us that just as Your Father raised You from death and the grave, You will also come back and restore us to life and raise us to glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). Forgive us our sins where we have contributed to the evil in this world (Luke 11:4), but, as we also forgive our enemies, enable Your people to be a light to the world showing them Your love and forgiveness (Matthew 5:14). You, Jesus, are the light of the world (John 8:12) who forgives all our sins and gives us everlasting life (Psalm 103:2-5).


Blessed Lord Jesus, You have called us to gather together to hear Your Word and to receive Your gifts of forgiveness and salvation (Exodus 20:8-11). Strengthen Your people that even in places of great persecution we may not give up meeting together, but that we may be encouraged to trust in You even more as the Day of judgment approaches (Hebrews 10:25). Send Your angels to protect all Your people(John 17:11), that even in persecution, we may remain strong in faith, trusting in Your love and forgiveness and salvation. Amen.




Bible Verses




Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Back)



“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
(Back)



“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
(Back)



“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Back)



(The Lord) said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
(Back)



“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
(Back)



Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(Back)



“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
(Back)



“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
(Back)



“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
(Back)



Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name”
(Back)




Psalms 35, 69, and 109 are good prayers in times of persecution, but remember that Jesus endured the curses of our sin so that there is redemption in Christ even for the murderers who persecute Christ’s beloved people. You may pray that Christ’s enemies will be cursed temporally here on earth, but also pray that they may be led to repentance and trust in Jesus as their savior from sin, that they may become our brothers and sisters in Christ and receive the salvation that Jesus won for them, too, on the cross.





Please share your thoughts and prayers by adding a comment below. I would love to hear from Christians throughout the world, so that I may pray with you and for you.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How to Properly Celebrate the Reformation

by Pastor Paul Wolff

When the Church forgets about Christ
then it is in need of a Reformation.

The Reformation which began October 31, 1517 was all about Jesus Christ as the savior of the world, by God’s grace through faith. It wasn’t about an Augustinian Friar who exposed false teachings in the church (though he played a part in it). It wasn’t about political upheaval and revolution or even political reformation. It wasn’t about who holds the power in the church (though the Roman church had it wrong, and still has it wrong 500 years later). It certainly wasn’t about individual freedom, nor German nationalism, nor any of these kinds of things. If you want to get the Reformation right, get Jesus right.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)


“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness.” (Romans 3:19-25)


The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.(1 Timothy 1:15)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)


Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned - for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one mans trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one mans sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one mans trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one mans disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one mans obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:12-19)

500th Anniversary of the Reformation


by Pastor Paul Wolff


Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses on indulgences
Sculpture from the Creation Museum

October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 theses on Indulgences in Wittenberg, Germany. This event sparked the Lutheran Reformation. Luther did not intend to break away from the catholic church. In fact, Luther never broke away from the church, but instead, the Roman Catholic church broke away from its Scriptural foundations and wrongly declared Luther a heretic and excommunicated him.

The Augsburg Confession, and all the confessions in the Book of Concord (Concordia), are clear that the Lutheran doctrine is not only pure Biblical doctrine, but is also consistent with the true orthodox teachings of Christians throughout history. Just as in Biblical times, when the majority of the church decides to take a path away from God, the true believers must break away to keep the truth going. Or, as in the case of the Babylonian Captivity, God protects His faithful people, and takes the rest away, and destroys them.


The Word of God is life and salvation
for all who believe.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther was intending to have a discussion of the anti-Scriptural abuses in the practice of selling and offering indulgences. The Pope took this as an attack on the financial aspect of the church, and condemned Luther for reasons other than his doctrine. Pope Leo X was more interested in power and wealth than doctrine. The main problem with this is that neither power nor wealth saves people. The church ought to be about how Jesus saves us from our sins, by God’s grace through faith, not how rich and powerful the Church can be. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic church didn’t learn the right lesson, and nearly all the abuses that Martin Luther wrote against are still part of Catholic practice, including veneration of the saints (including the near deification of the blessed virgin mother of our Lord), false teachings on purgatory and good works, and indulgences. In the past 500 years the price of indulgences has been reduced, but the practice of offering indulgences is still practiced in the Roman Catholic church.

Those Lutherans who are still faithful to the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions (Concordia) maintain the same faith as Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, King David, Isaiah and all the prophets, the Twelve Apostles, Saint Paul, and all faithful believers of all time (including those who remain faithful believers in the Roman Catholic Church). We believe that Christ’s Church will continue to the end wherever there are believers, as Scripture promises.

“Now to him (God, the Father) who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)