All About Me: The Alpha and Omega of Society’s Downfall

God to Adam and Eve: “It’s all about Me!”

Devil to Adam and Eve: “He lies! It’s all about you!”

Adam and Eve: “Yes! It’s all about us!”

Adam to Eve: “Actually, it’s all about me!”

Eve to Adam: “Actually, it’s all about me!”

Cain to Abel: “Actually, it’s all about me!”

Etc, etc, etc.

And so it began, that long dark journey down a road paved with the bricks of bodies and the mortar of blood of those who stand in the way. “It’s all about me!” is the title of the drama. Over the generations it has had its ups and downs. The ups happened when God’s assertion that it is all about Him was taken a little more seriously and people saw past the ends of their noses to a God who loved them and to a people whom God loves. The downs happened whenever God became irrelevant, more of less, in the eyes of the beholder and the right to that irrelevancy for others was seen as the highest good. Both have had their various permutations in the course of the story. And so society ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, rises and falls. And this according to the extent that we accept, or reject, the One who originally said: “It’s all about Me”.

Today we are seeing the low side of that drama playing out. And frankly, it is more than a little disconcerting. The “it’s all about me” of our hearts has given us the very things that destroy societies, and is purposefully taking away the very things that build up societies. I could make a listing of the issues, but even with brief commentary on each the current context would make it prohibitively long.

In the long run, freedom has lost its meaning. Freedom to love God has been used as freedom from God. Freedom to love your neighbor has been used as freedom to use your neighbor for your own gain. To be sure, there is a remnant who have not bowed down and kissed their own feet, who have not turned their backs on the very things that uphold society. Unfortunately, even if it happens that the remnant is the majority, the majority has fallen silent. Whether out of fear of reprisal or simply being tired of the struggle.

What this means is clear enough. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Society is dying, our society. The cure is either death, and the replacement of what once was in a societal resurrection, or a radical treatment that calls us to repentance and listening to the One who alone has the right to say: “It’s all about Me.” The great thing about Him, He is all about forgiveness.

The “Crux” of the Matter

The False Hope of Facebook Memes vrs The Only Hope in Christ

“It sounds wonderful! It is so full of promise and hope!”

And you do everything you are told to do. You “like” it. You “Share it.” You relax. You did what you were told to do. Now great things will happen and your life will be at ease, just like it promised!

And nothing happens.

What did you do wrong? You thought everything was going to be okay. But nothing changed. No special influx of cash. No special healing for disease. Maybe your faith is just not up to snuff. Maybe you should get your mind and faith right before you offer God your Facebook post and expect Him to honor it. Or maybe this whole “God thing” is fake. Or maybe God doesn’t exist. Or maybe He does, and He just doesn’t care.

Is that what Christ is all about? Prosperity? Complication free life? Have you reduced Him and His working in your life to a posting on Facebook?!?!

When the Word of God is not a part of your life, it becomes very easy to fall for the quick fix of the Facebook postings, or the prosperity teachings of the modern false prophets. “God wants you to be prosperous in all you do, just follow these steps and the good life is yours!” But God doesn’t respond.

“He was despised and rejected by men.” His life became more and more “complicated” with slow to learn disciples and official opposition until He was finally betrayed, abandoned, and denied. He was falsely accused, savagely beaten, humiliated, crucified, forsaken by God, and died in agony.

As with the Master… Following Pentecost, His apostles left behind everything of their old life. They proclaimed Jesus as Savior and Lord. They proclaimed resurrection and victory over sin and death and the devil in Jesus. Yet they were opposed, falsely accused, savagely beaten, publically humiliated, and put to death in horrific ways (except John). And so also many of His disciples in every age.

It was only after the cross that there was for Jesus the glory of the resurrection, the ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the promise of return in that glory. His apostles proclaimed His cross and the promise of His glory. His disciples continue to proclaim it in joy and hope, even as they walked the pilgrimage to that Promised Land through every cross and trial.

In this world we remain “aliens and strangers in a strange land”. The world hates us. The world continues to be a place of corruption, decay, and death. And we are reminded of that as you follow the pilgrimage of Jesus in this life, you follow it in its entirety. The life of this world is not good, and shall never be great. You suffer. You die. Yet it is in suffering and death that the life hidden in you, Christ’s life, is fully revealed. Then comes resurrection. Then comes the glory earned by Christ and given to you.

As disciples of Jesus you are called upon by Him to bear a cross in His name, yet you bear it in victory, not in prosperity. He promised you nothing in this life like that. He did say that the victory is His and the evil is defeated. The promise of the resurrection and new life that comes from Him to you comes through His cross (what He has done for you) and not through your cross (what you do for Him). The victory follows the cross and death and into the resurrection on the Last Day and forever.

Don’t look for cheap ways out of the evils of this life. Instead rely on His grace, which is sufficient for you in all things, and power of God at work in the weakness of your existence. That is when you will have true freedom, and true peace.

Pastor Barnes

(Crux Sola est Nostra Theologia; the Cross Alone is Our Theology)

Augsburg Confession XVI: Civil Government (Concordia p.39-40; 1-7)

On this 4th of July Holiday we thought it beneficial to post the Lutheran view of Civil Government as found in the Lutheran confessional writings. If you would like further elaboration, please ask your questions and we will respond in good order.

[1] Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God.

[2] They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, to judge matters by imperial laws and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take oaths when required by the magistrates, for a man to || marry a wife, or a woman to be given in marriage [Romans 13].

[3] Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these political offices to Christians.

[4] They also condemn those who do not locate evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but place it in forsaking political offices.

[6] Therefore, it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws.
[5] For the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart (Romans 10:10). At the same time, it does not require the destruction of the civil state or the family. The Gospel very much requires that they be preserved as God’s ordinances and that love be practiced in such ordinances.

[7] The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

This We Believe, Teach and Confess

Here at St. Peter’s, we are a confessional Lutheran congregation, meaning we accept the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God and subscribe to The Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are drawn from the Word of God and when rightly taught, are a pure exposition of the Word of God.

In this post we will look at two articles in the Augsburg Confession that clearly explain the one and only way a person can be justified before God…

Augsburg Confession Article IV: Of Justification.

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Augsburg Confession Article XX Of Good Works.
9) First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2:5, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. 10] Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6.

In Summary
We believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord, and that only through faith in Him we receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. In no way can our works reconcile us to God or merit forgiveness of sins. Faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning death for our sins on the cross is the only way to heaven, and all who die without faith in Him are eternally damned.

If you want to learn more about this faith in Jesus Christ, justification, and salvation please contact Pastor Barnes. And please consider joining one of our instruction classes where we explore these wonderful subjects further in depth from the Scriptures.

Why Do You Go to Church?

Are You Here to Be Entertained?
When you walk into a church what are you expecting to happen? Are you expecting to be entertained with music that comes from, and speaks to, your heart? Are you looking for a venue in which your emotional wellbeing can be reset to something near normal? Are you wanting the high that comes from the adrenalin rush of a really powerful praise band?

How sad if you are!
How sad indeed, because all these things find their origins in … you. What I like! What (in my opinion) speaks to my heart (makes me feel good). Worship that originates from the heart of humanity has its roots in sinful flesh. It feeds on it as the roots dig deeper and deeper into that soil. And it sadly becomes what it consumes. It ultimately fails because all it does is provide you with a physiological and emotional response to a worldly form that must create its own theology in order to justify itself. And people are finding out that this is not what they are really needing from a church.

What does the soul really need?
The soul needs that which originates from God. It needs the Word of God. And traditional worship does that! Traditional Lutheran worship is properly called “Divine Service”. The emphasis in this is not our service to God, but rather God’s service to us. When you experience Divine Service in a Lutheran setting you hear one thing, and one thing only … what God has done and is doing for you! In that context we respond to Him with our praise of Him. And what is true praise of God? It’s not love songs that proclaim your love for Jesus. The highest praise of God is repeating back to Him the wonderful things that He has done in our salvation! This you have opportunity to do in traditional Lutheran worship.
We have nothing to offer God! Not even our hearts! God rather reaches down to us and gives us what we need, faith in Christ alone, and salvation that comes from Him alone. This you find in traditional Lutheran Divine Services.

Come and See!
Do you want an enriching service from God? Do you want candy and desert to sustain you through the week, or do you want meat and potatoes? Come and see! God has so much to give you in His Word.

Peace be yours!
Pastor Barnes

What about those Resolutions?

The New Year Resolution… often times made, but never kept for long! Each New Year, one hears talk about resolutions. To lose weight. To exercise more. To spend more time with the family. Maybe it is more spiritual; read our Bibles more, attend church more faithfully or stop doing a particular sin. But soon, all those resolutions to do a good work for ourselves or others turn into failure, disappointment and shame.

But don’t be discouraged. Although we are weak and unfaithful to ourselves, others and towards God, there is one who is faithful and true in everything He does, says and promises… the Lord Jesus Christ. And he remains faithful for us, even when we are not. God is forever faithful. He will not leave his promises unfulfilled or his work unfinished (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; Romans 8:28-30)

2 Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

So this New Year, don’t put faith in yourself or make promises you have no lasting power to keep. Rather, rely on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to finish the good work he started in you and you will never be disappointed.

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

by, Timo Matero – Guest blogger

St. Bartholomew: What Can We Learn from an Obscure Apostle?

Recently I have come to know a new term in my working vocabulary, bloggify. Used in a sentence: “Pastor, you should bloggify that sermon!” Sigh. Here goes… with some major additions and deletions .
“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” (Lutheran Rite of Confirmation)
For many centuries the church has included this question in the Rite of Confirmation. During times of peace the question is seen as antiquated or even a bit harsh. After all, is there really any persecution like this anymore? Unfortunately events in recent years have escalated and the very group that has persecuted and martyred men, women, and children for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ, have made bold statements about coming to our shores. Indeed, they have even stated that they are already here.
Thus the question we pose to our dear catechumens at the end of their formal studies becomes a bit more meaningful, and gives us reason to pause and recall that vow which we ourselves have made. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”
Sunday we remembered one who is a part of the great cloud of witnesses who kept the faith even in the face of death. He was a missionary and an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ: Bartholomew. He died in a horrific way for having dared to proclaim Gospel. We hear his story and it horrifies us. And yet his is not alone. From the time of the beginning those who have trusted in God and have proclaimed his Word in teaching and in life, have faced opposition, even death. Yet they were not alone. Bartholomew was not alone. We are not alone.
There is One who has walked that path of opposition and persecution before us. There is One who has faced the abandonment of others. There is one who went through cruel torture and death on a merciless cross. Jesus walked the same path that we face as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But death was not the end of the journey. Having accomplished our salvation by His suffering and death, He rose physically from the dead and has given us the victory and vindication that He has earned.
Jesus walks the well familiar path with us, with all who suffer because of Him, and He keeps us firm in the faith and strong in the face of all who would oppose Him. He is your rock and your fortress who gives to you the life that can never be taken away.
Pastor Michael Barnes
Festival of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
Martyred for the Sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Skinned alive and crucified upside down in Armenia by the pagan brother of the King of Armenia. (The king came to faith through the proclamation of the Gospel by Bartholomew.)

New Beginnings Every Day

New Beginnings Every Day
by Rev. M.Barnes, Pastor

Far too often I see people who are oppressed in the present concerning sins from the past. And this is a great evil.

In Philippians 3 Paul begins with a beautiful declaration that our actions, all the good we think we do in reality count as nothing toward our peace of mind, let alone our relationship with God. But it was not always so with Paul.
In spite of what Paul believed about how good his life was, how well structured, and with his impeccable credentials, the real truth was revealed to him on the road to Damascus. Paul came to the realization that in spite of all that he had going for God, he was a sinner like everyone else. He also discovered that in his zeal for the will of God he was actually fighting against it.

Yet the Lord Jesus, in appearing to Paul on the Damascus Road, did not come to punish him. Rather, the encounter was to change his heart and his life. All the things Paul trusted were now set aside, put in the past. All those areas of his sinful life where he had failed, even his sinful persecution of the church of Jesus, were lifted from him. Jesus gave Paul an absolution of all his past, and consecrated him into the service of the Lord. Now there remains only that which lies ahead, the promise of God in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body to eternal life. The Lord revealed to Paul the cross of Jesus Christ, where true freedom, comfort, and salvation is revealed.

Paul did not let the past, with all its misplaced confidences and outright rebellion against God, define him. Instead, he focused his attention on the cross of Jesus and what that means for himself, and for all people.
He encourages you to do the same. How often have you let the past, particularly the guilt and weight of your personal sins, control who you are in the present? How often have you lived in the past of regrets and guilt, and allowed these things to define you in the present and to shape your future? How often have you let others (the devil, the world, a legalistic church) beat you down with the Law, with no reprieve? If you have, you are not alone. But there is freedom for you. The chains of your past are broken in Jesus Christ and Him nailed to the cross, and risen from the dead to life!

As the Baptized your life is not shaped by your past, it is created and defined by the One who holds eternity in His hands. Every day is new in Jesus with His forgiveness and salvation. Every day is a new start to your life because you have been forgiven. The burden of life, the sin and guilt that shackles you and weighs you down is nailed to the cross of Jesus, and you are now free to be the children of God.

Do you want to learn more about this forgiveness in Jesus and the freedom it offers? Contact me today!

Rev. M. Barnes, Pastor
Rev. M. Barnes, Pastor

Back to School

A post from our guest blogger, Timo Matero.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Summer is almost over and soon the kids will be back in school. That means early mornings, homework, sports practice, and all the flurries of activities that comes with a busy school schedule.

With so many time demands, it is imperative that we continue to keep God central in our lives and in the lives our children. This means committing to a family time of bible study, prayer, and instruction. Besides the bible, this could include the use of a devotional, a prepared bible study series, and Luther’s Small Catechism.

Even way back in Martin Luther’s day, families were busy and schedules were hectic. Martin Luther developed the Small Catechism so that parents could easily teach their children the

Luther's Small Catechism circa 1600's
Luther’s Small Catechism circa 1600’s
precepts and doctrines important to Godly living. In fact, Martin Luther in his Small Catechism, introduced the first chapters with: “The Ten Commandments, as the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”

Today, we have all the tools and methods available to study with and teach our children about God. This is a duty all parents have, and it must not be ignored. Bringing the kids to church and Sunday school once a week simply isn’t enough. A daily, concerted effort to keep God in the family schedule is needed.

How about your family? What are your plans for keeping God in the family schedule this fall?