Lutheran Spokesman

"…the Scriptures cannot be broken." John 10:35

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Restarting of School— a Wonderful Opportunity!

“For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.” 2 Peter 1:12-15

One of the most difficult and challenging things with the restarting of school every fall is what has been called the “summer slide.” During the school year students receive regular reminders combined with the introduction of new material. This helps to keep the material fresh in their memories.

But then comes summertime when those daily reminders are inclined to turn into a three-month moratorium. And it is going to happen that many things have been forgotten.

So it is that during those first days back at school much time is spent reviewing what was taught at the end of the previous school year.

And “what is forgotten” is not limited to the 3 R’s, to history dates, or to scientific formulas. Nor is it only the ‘summer slide’ which is the problem.

As the Apostle Peter wrote his second epistle, he knew that his readers were already well “established in the present truth” (1:12). Those believers to whom he was writing had been well instructed in “these things” (1:12)—namely, the truths concerning salvation. They had “obtained like precious faith…by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1). They had come to know “God and Jesus our Lord” (1:2) and had been given His “exceeding great and precious promises” (1:4).

Each one of us can think of a point in life when Satan tempted us to think that we knew all there was to know—or at least all WE needed to know concerning the truths of Scripture. 

But Peter knew how easy it would be to forget what they had learned. And so he took it upon himself to “remind [them] always of these things” (1:12). It didn’t satisfy him how well they already knew the truth or how well they had been established in that truth! Knowing that the time of his death was soon to come, Peter was going to be “careful to ensure that [they] always have a reminder of these things” (1:15).

Each one of us can think of a point in life when Satan tempted us to think that we knew all there was to know—or at least all WE needed to know concerning the truths of Scripture. And how often don’t we find that confirmands appear to view their confirmation as a graduation from the Bible? Or how often haven’t we found new converts wavering from their regular involvement in Sunday worship and Bible classes?

So it is that we all need what Peter committed himself to leaving behind: a “reminder of these things after my decease” (1:15).

Yes, with the beginning of a new school year, our thoughts turn to the Christian education of our children. It is a great opportunity to take to heart the reminder from Peter that no matter how much is already known, we do well to “abide in [Jesus’] word” (John 8:31).

Parents and grandparents, take every opportunity to set God’s Word before the eyes of the next generation! Whenever possible, make use of and get involved with the Bible education program offered by your church so that the next generation grows up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

And all this is for us too—for those who are beyond the years of learning in the classroom. Yes, we may be “established in the present truth” (1:12) of God’s Word, but let us also take to heart the admonition of our fellow forgetter–Peter—and be reminded regularly so that we may be “stirred up” (1:13) in our faith and Christian life.

Let us together thank the Lord for Christian education, for every opportunity for instruction in His Word–that Word through which “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ”
(1:11)!

Convention Rain Showers

Pastor Gullerud was asked to share with our readers some “Convention musings.” In this article he nicely captures the thrust of the 31st Convention of the CLC (June 2014). This issue also contains one of the Chaplain’s devotions as well as an abbreviated version of the second Convention essay.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-8

During Convention week (June 16-19, 2014) at Immanuel Lutheran College, Eau Claire, Wis., among the usual concerns of the delegates are the weather conditions, since this part of the Midwest can be known for being hot and humid in the summertime.

With the Lord in complete control of both the climate and the weather, the week was blessed with favorable conditions. While there were some rain showers, they were not enough to hamper the Convention.

Not only did the God of heaven and earth cause rain to descend outdoors, but He also blessed convention-goers with rain showers indoors. No, there weren’t any leaky roofs! The rain showers were of a spiritual nature, coming in the form of the proclamation of the precious Word of God.

In keeping with the Lord’s illustration, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11), there was the thundering of the law of God which convicts us of our sinful and lost condition, and there was the pleasing sound of the gospel of Christ which soothes and comforts our troubled souls.

The chaplain, Pastor Mark Bernthal (Peace Thru Christ, Middleton, Wis.), watered the hearers’ hearts and souls on the basis of the powerful resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15. His messages bolstered, uplifted, and renewed the human spirit, reminding the audience that the fundamental Christian teaching of Christ’s bodily resurrection means that we are justified before God, that sin, death, and hell have been defeated, and that we have an endless hope of a glorious bodily resurrection with our Lord unto life everlasting. May God help us to hold fast to the resurrection truths and daily rejoice in them!

The two essays carried out the convention theme that “God our Savior Desires All Men to be Saved!” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) Pastor Paul Krause (Faith Lutheran, Markesan, Wis.) showered the convention assembly with the message of Jesus being the One Mediator of that saving Truth. Jesus is the only One through whom we sinners can be at peace with God, have access to the throne of God in prayer, and gain entrance into heaven, because He alone is our Savior and our Advocate.

The second essay delivered by Pastor Michael Gurath (Holy Cross Lutheran, Phoenix, Ariz.)  set forth the Bible truth of Christians being appointed to proclaim that saving Truth. We have been called to serve as the “rain clouds” of the gospel. We should never be discouraged as Christ’s messengers no matter what the obstacles may be. Neither should we feel ill-equipped for this mission of sharing God’s truths because by His grace we have been given His saving truths and the spirit of love for our neighbor.

The gospel rain clouds moved over to Messiah Lutheran Church of Eau Claire where Pastor Neal Radichel (Luther Memorial Church, Fond du Lac, Wis.) proclaimed God’s Word at the Convention communion service. The message focused on fairness. People of the world don’t think God is fair when they don’t receive what they want—such as when they don’t receive rain during drought conditions or receive too much rain, causing flooding conditions. We might deduce that God isn’t fair when He doesn’t punish us according to what we deserve. Rather He punished His Son Jesus in our stead in order to bless us with His forgiveness and salvation. In regard to fairness or justice we should note that when God offered up His Son on the altar of the cross to take away the sins of the world, He was carrying out and satisfying the divine justice of His holy Law.

On the final day of the Convention, Professor John Reim of Immanuel Lutheran College spoke in loving memory of called servants of the Word who went to their eternal reward in the past biennium after having faithfully served in the preaching and/or teaching ministry. Among those who had planted the seed of the Word and watered precious souls with the gospel were Christian Day School teachers Mrs. Adelgunde Schaller and Helen Friedrichs, Pastor/Professor Roland A.  Gurgel, Pastor Paul Larsen, Professor James Pelzl, and Pastor/Professor Patrick Udo of the Nigerian Church of the Lutheran Confession. “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:13).

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7)

The Resurrection Difference

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

In Christ Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed: 

Are you living for a “hopeless end” or for an “endless hope”? The difference is staggering. Some of the believers in Corinth were influenced by the Greek philosophers and teachers of their day and were doubting or at least questioning the bodily resurrection of the dead and therefore also the resurrection of Jesus. In this section of chapter fifteen of First Corinthians Paul reveals: The Resurrection Difference 1. Without Christ’s resurrection, we face a hopeless end! 2. With Christ’s resurrection, we have an endless hope! A denial of a general resurrection also denies that Christ rose. If no flesh rises from the dead, then Easter didn’t happen either. Those members in Corinth who said they believed in Jesus’ resurrection but did not believe in the resurrection of the dead can’t be right. Faith in the resurrection of Christ actually includes faith in the bodily resurrection of all the dead. The two must go hand in hand. In our text Paul is stating his thesis: If Christ is risen, then we cannot deny the possibility and the reality of the resurrection of the dead. Also in our text Paul draws some logical conclusions to show how absurd and eternally damaging it is to reject the reality of a physical resurrection. Paul is appealing to the Greek’s logical mind. He says that the consequence of denying a resurrection of the dead is that Christ then has not been raised. Therefore, everything that we teach—the whole gospel message—would be useless, vain, empty. Denying the doctrine of man’s resurrection logically leads to denying the fundamental doctrine of Christ’s resurrection. When that doctrine is lost, the entire message of salvation is lost.

Pastor Mark Bernthal (Middleton, Wis.), with his sons Pastor Luke Bernthal (Valentine, Nebr.) and Christian Day School teacher Neil Bernthal (Winter Haven, Fla.)

Pastor Mark Bernthal (Middleton, Wis.), with his sons Pastor Luke Bernthal (Valentine, Nebr.) and Christian Day School teacher Neil Bernthal (Winter Haven, Fla.)

Deny one doctrine of Scripture, and you will, if you follow it out, deny other doctrines as well, for THE SCRIPTURES CANNOT BE BROKEN. God’s Word is not just separate teachings that don’t affect one another, but it is a whole body of truth. Following Paul’s logical line of thinking means that when he proclaimed that Christ did rise from the dead, he must have been lying, for if nobody rises from the dead, then Christ didn’t rise either. Then the Easter story is only a fairy tale of enormous proportions that has deceived countless people around the world for almost 2,000 years; then too, Paul’s seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus was only a hallucination. In fact, Paul goes on to state that if Christ didn’t rise, then people who believe in Him have an empty, useless faith. Trusting in a Messiah who did not conquer sin, death and the devil would leave us no better off spiritually than those who do not believe in a hereafter or in a god. Paul had written to the Romans that Christ WAS RAISED FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION. If Christ was not raised, then we have not been justified. If we haven’t been declared righteous, our sins haven’t been forgiven, and we are still in our sins. That would be our hopeless end, our many sins still condemning us to eternal damnation and separation from God. Also for those who have fallen asleep in Christ, who died confidently believing in Jesus’ resurrection—such as longtime CLC members Roland Gurgel, Paul Larsen, James Pelzl, Ruth Reim, Adelgunde Schaller, Ruth Sydow, Myrtle Grams, Patrick Udo, Laurie Marzofka, and many, many more have perished eternally if Christ had not risen—theirs too would be a hopeless end without a resurrection to eternal life. Paul concludes the first part of his thesis with this final implication for our present life: IF IN THIS LIFE ONLY WE HAVE HOPE IN CHRIST, WE ARE OF ALL MEN THE MOST PITIABLE. If believing in Christ has value only for this present earthly life, then we Christians are fools who have made a very tragic mistake and should be pitied above all others. Without the resurrection, Christianity is pointless. Then all of our convention work this week is worthless, foolish, pointless. Then all who took vacation time to come and serve our Lord, who made sacrifices for His kingdom, who have been led to believe that the sufferings of this present life are not worth comparing to the bliss and glory of the hereafter—are really to be pitied and are hopeless. Then our words of faith that we proclaim at the close of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” are not true but are a bunch of lies. Our words from the Nicene Creed would then be nonsense, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” We would be looking and hoping for something that would never come to pass. The Christian life is not worth living if the hope and promise of the resurrection is not true. But Paul’s thesis consists of two points. The second point makes the big difference. We read: “BUT NOW CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD, AND HAS BECOME THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP.” In effect, Paul is saying, “Away with all doubt, unbelief and hopeless endings—Jesus Christ rose from the dead!” Easter is a fact that cannot be denied. The resurrection of Christ is a reality upon which we can rest our faith for an endless hope. Paul says that Christ is the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep in Him. In the Old Testament the firstfruits were the first sheaf of grain or the first basket of wheat or bushel of corn or grapes that were offered to the Lord as a thankoffering to show that all the harvest was His and from Him and would be dedicated to His glory. The firstfruits also were an indication that the harvest of the rest of the crop was just beginning. The rest of the grain, wheat, corn, and grapes would follow. What a perfect picture of our Savior’s resurrection! Because His tomb was empty, so shall ours be. Because He rose from the dead, so shall we rise. Because He entered into eternal glory, so shall we follow Him into eternal glory. Christ is the first in the harvest of those who have fallen asleep. That means that the bodies of all who have died in Christ will be resurrected to everlasting life and be reunited with their souls to live forever in endless joy. Theirs and ours is not a hopeless end, but an endless hope! In reality the whole New Testament era is the Easter season. It began with the resurrection of the Redeemer and it will end with the resurrection of all the redeemed. So we live between two Easters—Christ’s resurrection some 2,000 years ago and our own resurrection on the Last Day. What difference does the resurrection of Jesus make in your life and in mine? Without Christ’s resurrection, we face a hopeless end— but with Christ’s resurrection, we have an endless hope! Amen.

 

“We are Appointed to ”Proclaim that Truth!”

Written by

Theme of the 31st Convention of the CLC, June 16-19, 2014 “God Our Savior Desires All Men to be Saved!” [The first of two Convention essays appeared last month; it was titled  “Jesus is the One Mediator of that Truth.” This second essay is by Pastor Michael Gurath, Phoenix, Arizona, and is abbreviated by the editor.] “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-7)

“We are Appointed to Proclaim that Truth!”

I have always pictured Paul as a superhero kind of missionary. No shipwreck, snakebite, or near-death by stoning would deter him on his way. Imprisonments could not silence the message which he proclaimed. Who could hope to follow in those footsteps?

Messiah Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis., hosted the Convention communion service.

Messiah Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis., hosted the Convention communion service.

APPOINTED? ME?

Discouragement and defeat dominate us when our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. This Jesus whom we proclaim remains faithful despite our flaws and our faithlessness. Even colleagues and fellow Christians may fail us, but our Appointer never has and never will. The Appointer’s promises are as sure now as the day they were given. It’s easy to grow more cynical as we grow older. We find ourselves wringing our hands, wondering what this world is coming to, and joining in the long lines of those who murmur about the opposition to the truth. We have been warned, however. This comes as no surprise because our Lord who is already in the future has informed us that people will suppress the truth (see Romans 1:18-20). It’s popular and even stylish in our society to suppress the truth. Absolute truth is viewed as antiquated closed-mindedness. It is supposed that we are at the apex of all human history with more access than ever before to all kinds of information, and yet we cannot know anything to be certainly true. What else could this be but the sinfulness of man on display? This is the foolishness of iniquity that would keep many in the darkness of unbelief. At the heart of the issue is not suppression of a set of doctrines. It is not a rejection of moral practices. It is not an aversion to statements of faith. The root cause is rejection of a Person, Jesus the Christ. The Christ that we proclaim is One who comes in and rearranges a person’s heart, making it His own dwelling place, thereby bringing life where there was only death. This won’t happen, however, if we remain silent. Appointed to proclaim this truth? Me? “Surely someone else is better equipped. I’m not ready and I’m not able.” We are not immune to experiencing the inner turmoil that Isaiah relates by inspiration of the Spirit. “And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6:5) An angel took a coal from upon the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips, thereby forgiving him and making him clean. The results were immediate. God had a job for someone to go and proclaim His Word to a people that might never listen; nevertheless, this was His appointment. There was no more hesitation on Isaiah’s part. Now in the peace of forgiveness his spirit was steadfast and ready. “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).

TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

Apart from the question of how we are appointed is the matter of to whom shall we go and proclaim this truth. In His high priestly prayer (see John chapter 17), Jesus sends each of us just as He was sent. He has given us the two components necessary for our mission. We are given the truth and love for our neighbor. We are all appointed to proclaim this truth in settings that we’d never choose and to people with whom we have little or nothing in common. I recall a seminary professor in a candid moment explaining how he had never pictured himself serving a congregation in a heavily populated, urban setting. He had always had an affinity for the country and could relate to those who lived the rural lifestyle. Nonetheless, as he planned his future, it was the Lord who ordered his steps. The apostle Paul could identify with the reality of being sent to a people and place “out of his wheelhouse.” Proclaiming the truth among the Gentiles would be an uphill battle, one for which a superior Pharisee was not suited, at least not by human estimation. “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:14-16a, ESV). One of the concerns raised regarding our foreign mission work—especially in a place like Kenya where a reported eighty percent of the population professes the Christian faith—is that our time and effort would be better spent where there is little Christian presence. In many cases statistics don’t tell the entire story. In Kenya it doesn’t take long to discover that the Christ who is professed is not the Christ who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. We are appointed to proclaim God’s truth to the person who has never heard the name of Jesus as well as to the one who has been introduced to a fictional Jesus. This is a daunting task if we are preoccupied with our limitations and shortcomings. God is telling us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” not for the purpose of feeling exhausted but for the purpose of feeling exhilarated. He is the Partner in this mission for both missionary goers and missionary senders. Take heart, the Appointer is the One who has promised to be “with you always, even to the end of the age.”

THE GREATEST WORK ON EARTH

Jesus knew very well that He was sending the majority of His apostles to certain death. The fact that their Appointer remained with them was the reason they died so well. It was the reason why many wondered at them while they were being killed. It was the reason why they could sing to the very end of their lives and while we continue to proclaim this truth to the very end of ours. The one who holds all authority in heaven and on Earth is the Appointer who has forgiven, called, enabled, and strengthened us. Christ is the Truth that was wrongly put on trial. The Truth committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth, yet He was killed. In spite of all this, the Truth lives! The darkness could not comprehend Him and neither could it suppress Him. We no longer have reason to wring our hands in despair, because the Truth lives! “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). This truly is the greatest work on Earth for teacher, layman, and pastor alike. The Word of the Lord continues to increase and prevail mightily. “Two case studies are instructive. In 1900, Christians comprised 9 percent of the African population and were outnumbered by Muslims four to one. Today, Christians comprise 44 percent of the population, and in the 1960s passed Muslims in number. This explosive growth is now beginning in China. Christianity is not only growing among the peasantry, but also among the social and cultural establishment, including the Communist party. At the current rate of growth, within thirty years Christians will constitute 30 percent of the Chinese population of 1.5 billion” (Philip Jenkins, The Coming of Global Christianity, p. 56) Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he had recently become a Christian. He asked Luther, “What should I do now?”—as if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist or a monk. Luther asked him, “What is your work now?” “I’m a shoe maker.” Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.” Opportunity to proclaim God’s truth arises while we faithfully fulfill our vocations in a God-glorifying manner. It has been said that in seeking to proclaim God’s truth it “might mean that we go to the same Starbucks to form relationships, work out without an i-Pod to engage those around us, and play in the front yard rather than the back in order to be available for the neighbors.” Yes, in all circumstances we are appointed to proclaim that truth. Forgiven, called, equipped, and loved—even as the Son is loved by the Father—we proclaim this precious truth near and far.