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How Do I Know the Difference Between “Them”?

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Devotional THought of the Day:

19  My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20  let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (CSBBible)

20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT2)

To the church in the proper sense of the term belongs no wicked person, no hypocrite, no unregenerate, no heretic.
Scripture Proof
Thus writes St. Paul (Rom. 8:9): “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Whoever does not belong to Christ is not a member of the true church, which is His spiritual body.
So also writes John in 1 John 2:19 of the hypocrites who finally also left the fellowship of the church outwardly: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
Again our Lord says (John 15:6): “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.”

Walther groups together a bunch of passages, passages I have often heard used to ostracie people, to justy why the church gave up on “them.” Especially when “they” are on the other end of a spectrum in regard this this disagreement, or that one. They are the one’s that are not His, they are not with us, so we should cast them out…

And yet James calls us to retore our brothers and sisters who are straying, are these not the same people? Paul gives us the example of pleading with people to come back to God….

So how do I know who to write off, and who who to plead with? Who I should just shake the dust off my feet and walk away from, and who to invest time in prayer, and in working with them, so that they can see God’s mercy.

How do I know the difference? How do I make the choice?

How do I apply Walther’s Theological Treatise in a pastoral manner, and teach my people to do the same, as we together try to imitate Christ Jesus. How is my pastoral practice accurate theologically?

Or do I just make it simple and write everyone off, as is tempting some day!? (just kidding – what I meant was write everyone off but you, dear reader!)

I think that Walther’s point is not pragmatic for the moment. It is a general overarching comment that looks at things eternally, as God judges people on Judgement Day. Until that point, God is patient with them, not wanting even one of them to perish. We have to leave the doors open for them, we need to keep praying for God’s mercy for them, we need to be there, and to let them know we will be there, when they need, to point them back to Jesus.

It isn’t our call to determine who is part of the true church and who will never be. Our challenge is much simpler – to cry out to everyone, Be reconciled to God.

Remember you dwell in God’s peace as you are there for them… and they for you!

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 34.

Life’s Not Fair, Could That Be Ok?

Life’s not Fair
Could that Be OK?

Luke 16:1-9

 † I.H.S †

May God’s gifts of love and mercy so fill your life,  that you are assured you will live tomorrow and forever in His incredible, unsurpassable, unexplainable peace!

 Life’s Not Fair!

That gospel reading this morning was strange, wasn’t it!

So strange most pastors don’t ever want to preach on it, but in a world that doesn’t always make sense, heck this world rarely makes sense.  So this passage seems appropriate.

I mean I don’t understand why this guy is talked about positively in Scripture.

He doesn’t do his job.

When he does, he does it unethically, not doing what he’s given authority to accomplish, but what works in his favor.

Then, as he’s given notice to clean out his desk, what does he do?  He uses the authority he’s been given to create a bunch of favors people will owe him – favors he will cash in on so that he isn’t bankrupt!

And here is what is strange, according to scripture, his boss, the owner of the company admires him!  Other translations say he praises him – and the words are synonymous.

This just doesn’t make sense.  It isn’t fair, so how in the world could the Bible teach that the dishonest rascal was admired?

I mean it’s not far, how could it be okay?
Admiration and Praise?

I think we need to hear again why the rich man admired the rascal.  After being told to get his things in order, and that he was being terminated, the rascal said,

Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

Jesus would go on to say

And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

While neither praising the ethics or actions of the dishonest man, Jesus notes that he is thinking more than about the present moment.  That his concern is for the time when he is not able to care for himself, for a time after he is judged, and found to fail, to fail because of actions he took.

Most of us don’t plan for five years from now, never mind 25 years from now or eternity.  We don’t use our knowledge, what we’ve been entrusted with, what we’ve been given the future, never mind what is waiting for us eternally.  We don’t often think about this given our lives, and we need to consider it about our lives, and those of these children we have been blessed with!

If we did, how would we live?  What would change in our lives, in how we treat people?  What priorities would change in your life, if you were thinking of judgment and eternal life? What would we want for our children?

How do we live life, thinking of eternity?

It starts there – with using your possessions to benefit others, To invest your time and strength in making friends and caring for them.

Not unethically, but realizing people are more than possessions. That relationships matter more than accomplishments, more than personal wealth, more than a secure retirement.  T love and care for them, as you would want them to love and care for you!

And there is one relationship that demonstrates this, there is one where the relationships were so important, the future so important that one man died, to completely forgive the debts own to his Father.

Get that settled!

Jesus wasn’t just given notice, nor was he told that he was not doing His job well.  Still, He knew He was about to be terminated with prejudiced. And as He had planned, along with the Father, He used his legitimate authority to make himself friends.

He wasn’t unethical, He wasn’t using His authority to benefit himself, He simply loved others, and by His death turned those that didn’t love Him, who abandoned Him, who cried out for Him to be crucified.

He was thinking of eternity, of life after all is terminated.

Not His life,


And so He died on the cross, to make true these words,

15  I shall no longer call you servants because a servant does not know the master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.
John 15:15 (NJB)

This is why we are here – as a church, as a school, all the ministries that are Concordia. TO make the love of God know, to encourage you to search out the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of God’s love for you.

We find that out in our baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, as we take and eat His body and drink His blood.  As we hear, children sing of His love.

His love, for us.

As we know it, peace comes over us; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!



God and Man Sat Down!

The Last Supper, by Bouveret, 19th century.

The Last Supper, by Bouveret, 19th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God and Man Sat Down!

Luke 13:22-30

 Rejoice! God has desired to invite you to feast with Him!  This is what it means to have had the grace, that love and mercy and peace poured out on you by the Father, through Jesus Christ.

 † Jesus, Son and Savior †

A Great Example of Leadership


I would not dare to call him a friend, nor did I know him enough to consider him a mentor, but what he did one day has stuck with me for a long time.  It was my last day at Pepperdine, and as was the pattern there, there was a going away party, sort of a reception in the afternoon.

Friends from all over campus would drop in for a few moments here and there, a couple like my two bosses and my assistant manager stayed for most of the afternoon. The surprise was the man I mentioned a moment ago.  The President of the University, Dr. Davenport made it a point to come – and stayed a significant time.  He talked to me about the church I was going to pastor full-time.  He talked about his own time as a pastor.  He talked about the projects I had worked on for him, some really fun projects when I was the manager of the bookstore.

It was my last day, and there was nothing for him to gain from going to a going away party for a simple manager.  Yet he did.  He sat down and spent time with me.  He sat down with me… and we feasted together. There was a sense that I was valued, and even as I was leaving, I was still part of the family.  I was a valued part of the community, and worth a couple hours of a the man’s life.

There is something about sitting down with others… and sharing lives as we feast together…

As I read this passage, I thought of eating with David Davenport, and some other meals I’ve had with people, and if those can be some of the most special times in our lives, how much more will be when we feast in the Kingdom of God!

Would we find the Door closed?

When I get together pastors and deacons and other church leaders, one of the usual questions I get is, “how do you handle when people show up late to church?”  We raen’t talking about people that are 2-3 minutes late, some churches have people that can be 20-25 minutes late.  If they are a church where attendance is close to the capacity of the building, the answer is simple – if you show up late – you sit with the elders up front!

One Pastor I know has a 8:55 service – and then the service really starts at 9.  Occasionally a pastor or elder thinks of today’s gospel – and thinks about simply locking the doors at 30 seconds after church officially starts.

Jesus talks about a day like that, when the Kingdom of God’s door is closed.  However He’s not talking just about a church service.  He’s talking about eternity.

I remember back when I was the night manager at a fast-food restaurant.  We closed at midnight – and we always had people who drove in the drive through after the car we designated as “the last car”.  They would then have to wait in line with others in front of and behind them. Invariably this would lead to someone banging on the window and yelling at us to open up or they would call the corporate offices and complain.

imagine how they will be on judgment day!

The Greek here is harsh – for people will present their logic, arguing that they belong in heave.  “We once ate and drank and listened to your teaching!”  As Jesus pictures them pounding on the doors of heaven.

Jesus simple response seems harsh, “I don’t know you, I don’t even know you exist!  Go away!”  No, it doesn’t just seem harsh – it is harsh.  So harsh that I think we avoid talking about it, because the idea of God not keeping the door open, means that there will be people who will not be in heaven.  Some of those people we know – and some of them we love…deeply.  Would God act this way towards them?  Really?

All that hell, fire, brimstone, gnashing of teeth and crying will really happen.

People will say God – we had it made with you.  We did stuff.  We listened to pastor sometimes.  We’ve sung the hymns, we sung the praise songs, and even chanted. We had Bibles in our home… we can’t remember where they are.. But we had some!

As one pastor once said, it’s not about just being in a church, for that doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in McDonald’s means you’re a French fry.

In the end, it’s not a joke.  We are either in a relationship with God – either Jesus knows we are His, or we are on the outside when it matters.

A Little – but well used door!!!

The beginning of this conversation started when a man asked him about whether there would be many saved – or only a few.  We’ll talk about that in Bible Study, for I think this was asked by someone who thought he would be standing outside, a Samaritan in one of the towns he was passing through.

The discussion centers on being saved.  I am not even sure the man who asked that knew what he was asking about, except that he knew the Messiah was supposed to save them.

Jesus talked to him in a way we might find a bit confusing – he talked about him trying his hardest to enter the narrow door – and we might hear that as we need to work to be saved.  The focus isn’t on the work, but the right door.

Not the easy ways, as in those that seem to allow you the greatest freedom, that allow you to bring your sin and false gods and such with you.  I think that’s where the “try your hardest”, or in Greek “agonize over” entering the narrow door.

In other words – go through Christ!  Stop trying to save yourself and rely on God, who has promised to do so.  It’s not about how many will be saved, or who deserves to be saved.  It’s about the struggle to trust God for what He has promised, to see the open door and realize that you belong with Him.

The door is narrow though, because Christ has to cleanse us from sins and idols and burdens that don’t belong in the presence of God.  You do… but all that junk… it does not.

Everything else will fail you. Everything else has, so stop focusing on those things, given them up – and look to the Jesus – who has already guaranteed your salvation!  Who has already guaranteed your place at the feast!

This is about knowing Christ, knowing His love and His work in our lives to know the value of the cross, to know the value of water and word in Baptism, to cherish His presence in our lives.  To know God’s love, and to adore Him for it, and realize that He is our life.

We come to the feast from all over!
That is why Jesus brings up the great gathering of the nations in this reading.  That people will come from every direction, from every place on earth, and will enter heaven through Him.  Why those who would rather try to live life their own way, without God will see them streaming by them like a river of humanity, entering into God the Father’s presence through Christ.

Coming to take a place at the feast! Coming to be welcomed in the Kingdom of God, coming from every continent – even as we have (save Australia and Antarctica)  Welcomed as we are welcome around this altar, where we will indeed feast with God.

Will only a few be saved?

That’s not the concern Jesus expresses to the man, nor the concern we have.  Will we be saved?  Will those we love find themselves in the Kingdom, reclining at table with Jesus?

Or will we and they be the ones banging on the door, trying to get into a place that was open for us?

We do not do altar calls here, the kind where you have to do something to become a Christian, where you have to prove your confession.

We do invite you, on God’s behalf, to this altar though, but for a different reason.  Not to be saved – but to take you place in His kingdom, at His feast. Trusting His promise, that He is saving you, that He has saved you, we will rise, praising Him, we’ll leave behind our burdens as we give them to Him in prayer, and rejoicing in His love, we will come and take our place with God at table, for He has set the table, and He welcomes you home.

His home – a kingdom of unbelievable peace, where our hearts and minds are safe – as Christ keeps us secure in His love.


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