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.)

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

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.

Easter IS Coming. Despite Plagues, Persecutions, Pestilence, Darkness…etc.

Repent, and Believe the Gospel” – said Jesus Christ

A Special Coronavirus Message

During our Ash Wednesday service here at St. Peter’s, an ashen cross was placed on our forehead with these words recited: “Repent, and Believe the Gospel.” It is the theme of this time of the year, Lent, the forty days preceding Easter. We are called as believers to reflect, to pray, to fast, and to give alms. We look at our ourselves, our shortcomings, and we recognize them, repenting before God. We detach ourselves from the “loss” of this world, as St. Paul describes it. After pointing out all that he had as a Jew, as blameless under the righteousness of the Law, his zeal as a persecutor of the Church, he writes:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phillipians 3: 8-11

As the coronavirus wreaks havoc upon our lives, disrupting everything that we do, we should be encouraged to take this time and reflect. We read these words of St. Paul and ponder the surpassing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ above all things. We recognize as Christians that it is FAITH IN CHRIST and his eternal promises that strengthens us. He is the ultimate help, He is Righteousness, and He is hope and comfort; indeed, “a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
As we work through these troubling times currently upon us, reflect upon the important things in life. We listen to the authorities, God’s appointed for our good, and do what we must. But as we are doing so, nervous, uncertain, and perplexed at times, we hearken back to the Lenten message and focus on the second part; “Believe the Gospel.” Jesus died for our sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He “…will never leave us or forsake us.” Hebrews 13:5.
During this troubling time, and there will be more in our lives, indeed, call upon Jesus. Find TRUE comfort. Discover the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” Call upon the only salvation for the world.
St. Peter’s invites you to reach out to us. We share with you this Lenten message, and remind you that Easter is coming.

“Repent, and Believe the Gospel.”

God’s Blessings to all.

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).

“Contemporary Worship” The Original Virus

We as confessional Lutherans understand contemporary worship rightly. It is an infection. A flu bug foreign to our church body. The churches (yes even some weakened Lutheran churches) where this virus has infected are failing to understand the full ramifications of the danger this virus brings.

This seemingly harmless strain started in the worship halls of non-Lutherans who do not adhere to our confessions, theology, and doctrine. They do not believe as we confessional Lutherans do, and are blinded by their own sense of self-importance and a low esteem for the sacraments and the very God who instituted them. These new churches, adrift without theological or doctrinal anchors of truth became infatuated with church growth. And to spur growth, they gave the people what people love the most. Themselves.

Thus was born, a contemporary service where it all focuses on YOU! Your feelings. Your emotions. Your life. Your money. Your time. Your love. How much you love Jesus. How much you love each each other. You. You. You.

The contemporary service is not Christ-centered. The means of Grace are ignored completely or downplayed to an intermission for coffee and cookies from Starbookies.

Contemporary worship symptoms include; man attempting to serve God with popular music, swaying arms, and emotions just like a concert or a pep rally. The symptoms illicit strange responses like a walk down the aisle to show you’ve “made your decision” to follow Christ. A weeping of joy. A tingle down the spine. Everyone feels great, they are high on church! But yet, the infection grows.

The virus once released spreads into the masses like wildfire, consuming and catching souls until a super-church with high attendance appears. And the more entertainment the infected church provides, the more people become desensitized to it and demand even flashier shows to excite. The need to experience more, get more, and do more never ends. Service after service they hear the music, feel the sounds, watch a cool guy or gal deliver a motivational speech that’s all about them.

But the emotional high can only last so long. Enthusiasm that is created by man will fade. The people are left deflated, confused and empty. Wasn’t this the path to God? A church we created for us, by us? Filled with the music we like? A pastor/teacher/guru we employ for us, telling us what we want to hear? It was great… for a while. But I’m bored. Church isn’t for me, I’m over it. I’ll just do small groups now. Spiritual, not religious. That sounds cool. Wait! Maybe those Buddhists are on to something…. The virus has done its work. Another lost soul.

As Warsaw’s confessional Lutheran church we cannot accept nor approve of the practices of the contemporary worshipers who have a completely different theology and doctrinal belief than ours without harming our faith, confession, and the souls of our congregants.

Our Divine Service stands apart from the world, because it is not of this world. Just as we confessional Lutherans are called not to be a part of this world. Thus we remain immune from the contemporary worship virus.

And if your church (especially LC-MS Lutheran ones) are infected with this virus, there is a cure. Weekly doses of the traditional Lutheran Divine Service with full on liturgy.

If you are an individual sick with, or of, contemporary worship, the hospital of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw is open for new patients.

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)

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.

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

Close Communion – How Dare We?

The issue of the Lord’s Supper can be a very emotional one, especially as it involves the question of who can and who cannot attend at any particular altar. For those who prefer the emotional route to theology, there is nothing here that will settle your mind and heart. I would simply ask that you approach this post with the desire to learn the “why” of the “close communion”.

I want to look at this briefly from three points from the Holy Scriptures.

First, when our Lord Christ says to His disciples, “Take eat, this is my body… Take drink, this is my blood” He is not doing so metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically. He is speaking on the basis of the entire Old Testament that eating and drinking the sacrifices for sin and the establishment of covenant with God are necessary to gain the benefits of that sacrifice. Being the final sacrifice as the true Lamb of God (not metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically a sacrifice), the benefits of what the sacrifice accomplishes comes to us through the eating and drinking of the flesh of sacrifice. (I don’t make this stuff up! Go search the Scriptures!)

Second, St. Paul, knowing this truth that the body and blood of Jesus are present and distributed to those gathered to receive, reminds us all in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that to receive the elements of the Supper without recognition of the body and blood of Christ is guilty of sinning and brings harsh judgment on themselves. The pastor of a congregation is charged by the Lord to be stewards of the mysteries of Christ (and this would qualify as a mystery, I would think), As a result of this charge they are held accountable for the souls under their care as we see in Hebrews 13:17. A pastor knows his flock and so can vouch for them with confidence. A stranger he does not know, so for the protection of all, close communion.

Third, and related to the above, there is the obvious fact that there is division in the earthly church, and most all of the divisions relate back to Jesus and the cross. True unity of the church is possible in this world only through true unity of teaching. For example, how can one group say that Jesus was born of a clinical virgin, was fully God and fully man in one Christ, died as the Lamb of God on the cross to take away all sins, and physically rose from the dead after three days also claim to be in untiy of teaching with those groups who deny all of it? Two different teachings, two different Christs! As the communion is a demonstration of the oneness of faith and the avoidance of error (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 16:17) we are bound to make the confession and practice close communion for the very sake of the Gospel.

How dare we practice a close communion? A better question is: how dare we not?

Pastor Barnes