Do You Have a Troubled Conscience?
Do you have a troubled conscience? Are you haunted by your sins? Are you assailed by the accusation that you are not a Christian? Do you feel as if your relationship with God is broken? Do you yearn for the restoration of the joy of your salvation? Do you desire to live in God’s love and mercy toward others? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then the Word of Jesus administered to you privately and individually by your pastor is for you!
Jesus promises, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23). As Christians, the problems of life, Satan’s attacks, and the power of our own sinful flesh can cause us to stumble into “false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice” (Catechism Sixth Petition). As believers in Christ, we have God’s forgiveness because of what Christ has done for us, but we all too often doubt Christ’s forgiveness because of the ongoing battle with sin. A troubled conscience can paralyze us. Because of this, Christ gives us the absolution to be received into our ears privately and individually where we need it the most.
The absolution is not only Christ’s forgiveness that gives to us the full assurance that our sins are forgiven before God, but it is also the very power of God whereby the Holy Spirit strengthens faith in Jesus and brings forth the fruits of faith in our lives. Christians receive the strength to live the Christian life, to love God, to serve their neighbor, and to forgive others by receiving Christ’s forgiveness repeatedly for themselves.
It is one of the greatest joys and privileges as your pastor to speak Christ’s forgiving word to you personally. Come and receive as often as you yearn for peace, freedom, and strength from your Lord.
Darwinism’s Attack on Christian Theology
The following was part of the To Everyone an Answer lecture series, delivered Nov. 11, 2012 by Pastor Bender.
In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin proposed that diversity of species arose from natural selection, “evolving” from one species to another. By doing so, Darwin’s evolutionary theory broke with a Biblical, creationist’s worldview that a species reproduces “according to its kind” (Gen 1:12) in unique orders of creation. Darwin wrote in the area of biology; yet, his ideas have been developed, elaborated, modified, and assumed among many branches of science outside of biology to explain the beginning of the natural world. “Darwinism” has become an atheistic theory regarding the origin of life itself. As such, Darwinism is not, strictly speaking, “science.” It is a religion or “faith-system” that promotes atheism, and as such, it is an attack on Christian theology.
As a faith system, Darwinism contradicts the Bible’s teaching on creation, but it matters, because creation, including the historic Adam, is foundational to the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for man’s salvation. While the Church has not approached the creation account of Gen 1–3 as if it were a science book (and when she has, she often embraces an embarrassing fusion of ideas to form error), the Church proclaims Gen 1–3 to be God’s true revelation of His Word. Darwinism, using scientific rationalism, assumes “nature” is all that exists. It denies a “creation” and therefore, denies its Creator. Further, in denying the Creator of the creation, substituting for Him nature itself, Darwinism undermines the authority of Scripture.
In undermining the Creator, Darwinism undermines all that the Creator purposefully intended for His creation, a purpose and intention revealed in the creation account of scripture, including Man. In this revelation, God spoke. To Man, made in the image of God, male and female, God said, “Have dominion” over the creation, and “Be fruitful and multiply.” If, however, God’s Word is not true and the source of life, but it is replaced with the belief that species evolve one to another, distinctions between Man and the whole of creation is obliterated. Productivity becomes chance; progeny become aborted fetuses; gender differences become accidents of genetics to be negated.
When evolutionary dogma is allowed to stand, or when is accepted in the Church, it is not a peripheral matter. Darwinism devalues life, including human life, and that affects everything human life touches (i.e., culture). In school curricula, in television, movies and in museums, people are inundated with a story that impacts all facets of life—marriage, family, and sexuality—from partial-birth abortions and abortifacients, to euthanasia and same-sex marriages. It affects the entire theology of Christ, of man, and of man’s salvation in Jesus. The only way Darwinism can be aligned with the Church is if she sacrifices her confession of faith in the Triune God, in the incarnation of the Son of God, and the creation of man in the image of God.
Denying that Man is made in the image of God—the Triune God—denies God’s love. For what God intended by His purposeful creation, foundational to “male and female,” “dominion” and “fruitfulness” is that Man would be a reflection of who God is and what God does, namely self-sacrificing love. If the Church allows Man to crawl out of the slime, then she has jettisoned Adam with his fall into sin as well as the entire, redemptive love-story of all mankind in Christ.
Observe that whether in the Creeds or in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, passages on creation move quickly from creation, to Man, to the fall of man into sin, to the redemption of Man in Christ. In the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” is followed by “And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” In the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible” is followed by “and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.” In Gen 3:14–19, the creation of man, the fall into sin, and God’s promise of salvation is concentrated in just five verses. Similarly, in the New Testament, Christ, the Word of life (1 John 1:1), is the creator of Man and by that Word, man lives and is redeemed (John 1:1–14).
The Church defends against Darwinism’s atheism with good theology. The Man whom God created, Adam, is assumed to be real by the writers of scripture; Adam is included in the genealogies (1 Chr 1:1; Luke 3:38), and it is on account of this historic “first Adam” that the “second Adam” Christ comes. What the first Adam failed to fulfill in “the image of God,” Christ fulfilled as the second Adam. He is the firstborn over all creation; He has dominion over the creation, holding all things together: He is intimately involved in it. That the Son of God became flesh and blood, that “He became man,” means that He is intimately involved with us.
According to the Bible’s story, all descended from the first Adam and all are redeemed in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. But the Bible’s story is not just a story. The apostle Paul assumes as a matter of fact the historicity of Adam and Christ Jesus, the second Adam, in Rom 5:12–18. Adam was real and his disobedience to become a sinner was real, just as the Eternal Word who became man to reconcile us, to give life by the historical act of obedience upon the cross, is real. Love is real.
The Church defends against Darwinism theologically, and Christians may work in the fields of biochemistry or geology, meeting the scientific claims of Darwinism with science. Yet, scientific evidence is of limited value in converting the heart. Apologetics, the defense of a religious system, does have its place to demonstrate that the arguments of science are lacking, but it is the Holy Spirit who produces faith. Christians, as Church, need to re-assert the narrative of scripture in all of its facets of Christ as a counter-cultural story. The preaching of Christ, crucified, is the historical narrative that flies in the face of the contemporary, nihilistic story of Darwinism. We, as Christians, need to hold vigorously and to plumb deeply our story, in our conversations, around the dinner table, about life, and about the world.
In conclusion, if our story should be false—which it is not—it is still a better story. In the words of Puddleglum, a character of C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, the story of God’s love in Christ licks the atheistic world hollow.
CD recordings and printed handouts for all the lectures are available through the church office.
Upcoming To Everyone an Answer Sunday lectures:
“Spiritual Affliction & Demonic Attacks” The devil is real and demons afflict Christians. This study will explore the ways in which Satan and his minions afflict Christians, the victory we have in Christ, and the weapons God gives us in spiritual warfare. Feb. 10, 5:00-6:30 p.m.
“Cyberspace and Christianity—the Blessings and the Curses” The internet affords many opportunities and dangers for Christians and the Church. This study will explore the blessings and curses associated with the cyberspace age in which we live. March 10, 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Response and Reaction: “I like it!”
An Interview with Randy Kirk
“It was a dark and stormy night . . . .” Well ok, the weather was not really a factor for Randy Kirk, who dared to venture out during a dark rain on Nov. 11, 2012 to attend the To Everyone an Answer’s second lecture, “Darwinism’s Attack on Christian Theology.” The Sunday evening meeting time, 5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., works well with his schedule. It’s “kind of a ‘Sunday evening club’ focused on theological study. I like it!” said Randy.
The Darwin study was the second lecture of the series focused on contemporary issues facing the Christian; the first lecture, held on Oct. 11, 2012, was related to Christians and the government, a topic timed with the upcoming November elections. “I’ve made both sessions. I really enjoy this kind of topical discussion. Both topics are subjects I think about often and find myself encountering in my daily life,” said Randy. For both topics, Pastor Bender provided a handout as a framework which outlined the discussion, but he also asked questions to establish the context for the topic among the group. Further, Pastor brought in material from other sources to underscore how popular culture views a topic. “I really enjoyed the form and structure of both presentations,” said Randy who works at Direct Supply, a supply chain company serving extended healthcare.
The format of the lectures provides great tools which allow Randy to continue the topic of conversation with his wife, Pam, who elected not to attend either topic. Through the lectures, Randy gains additional materials for numerous future discussions. As a husband, father of three, and employer, he encounters these subjects in his life regularly, and he is able to share what he has heard and learned.
Both theologically and physically, Randy left fed. “Having bread, some fruit, and some dessert items there [in Loehe hall] was a nice way to round out the soup,” said the self-professed vegan, who brought his own vegetarian soup to the chili supper.
Q & A: Designating Donations
Q: How do I know my donation will actually go where I want it to go?
A: The congregation’s leadership has a fiduciary responsibility to see that gifts are used as requested by the donor. To ensure that it happens, the leadership has designated the Deacon to oversee that gifts are properly accounted for and used for the purposes that they were given. But, the donor needs to be as specific as possible when giving. For example, if someone wants to make a gift to pay down the mortgage principal, mark “mortgage principal” on the envelope. If a donor just writes “mortgage” or puts the gift into a mortgage envelope, the gift will go into the General Fund to help pay the monthly mortgage payment. If a donor wants to make sure that his gift is going to a specific item, call the Deacon and let him know. He can ensure that the gift is accounted for properly.
Q: I got my year-end statement, and I think there was a mistake. Who do I contact to get it corrected?
A: Contact the Financial Secretary (currently, that is Randy Kirk) with any questions that you have about your statement.