Thursday, May 5, 2016

Motherhood


Motherhood is a wonderful vocation, created by God when He made the woman from the man and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The very name Eve means “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).

Motherhood is a necessary vocation, as children need a mother to feed, nurture, teach, encourage, love, forgive, and care for them. Saint Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for raising him in the one true faith (2 Timothy 1:5) and elsewhere compares the virtue of gentleness to “a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

Sadly, motherhood is a despised vocation by many in our society. A recent example of this followed an article in Vogue featuring the singer Adele. Adele told the interviewer about how her life had been completely transformed by becoming a mom. Her son, she says, “makes me very proud of myself. When I became a parent, I felt like I was truly living. I had a purpose, where before I didn’t.” Later she adds: “My main thing is Mum, then it’s me, then it’s work.” Many feminists were outraged by this. How dare Adele place her son above herself and her career.

As Christians, we believe, teach, and confess that motherhood is a wonderful and necessary vocation that demands our honor, respect, and support. Such a confession does not suggest that every woman has to or will become a mother. It simply confesses what we know to be true from God’s Word, as well as human experience.

What’s more, motherhood involves long hours, sleepless nights, wiping away tears, bandaging boo-boos, and lots of time, attention, concern, and prayer. Mothers who invest their faith, love, and time into their children receive an immeasurable amount of love, joy, and contentment in return.

Concerning the noble vocation of motherhood, God commands us: “Honor … your mother” (Exodus 20:12). This honor takes on multiple facets, as the book of Proverbs makes clear. “Forsake not your mother’s teaching” (1:8; 6:20). “Let your … mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice” (23:25). In contrast, the child is foolish who “is a sorrow to his mother” (10:1), who “despises his mother” (15:20), who “chases away his mother” (19:26), who “curses … his mother” (20:20), who “robs … his mother” (28:24), who “do not bless” (30:11) or “scorns” (30:17) his mother. As Luther’s Small Catechism rightly explains, God’s commands us to “honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”

The final chapter of Proverbs contains the words of King Lemuel concerning, among other things, the vocations of wife and motherhood. Where did the king get this God-given wisdom? It was “an oracle that his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). The king’s mother taught him that an excellent wife is far more precious than jewels. She works with willing hands, is diligent and industrious. She provides for her household. She dresses herself with strength; strength and dignity are her clothing. She is generous to the poor and needy. She is wise and kind. She looks after the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. No wonder her children rise up and called her blessed and her husband praises her. She deserves nothing less than the fruit of her hands and praise for her works.

I pray that you had a mother who brought you to Jesus Christ, taught you His Word, brought you to God’s house regularly, spoke with you about the faith, prayed with you and for you, encouraged you to receive the Lord’s Supper often, and was an example to you of how the Christian faith is lived on a daily basis. If you are a mother, give this precious gift to your children (and your grandchildren). You will not do this perfectly. That’s fine. Your children need to see you live by the grace of God so that they too can learn to live by that same grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Not everyone conceived and born into this world gets a mother who loves them. That is a sad reality in this sinful and broken world. Whether you did or not, know this: You have a spiritual mother who loves you unconditionally in Jesus Christ. She is the Jerusalem above. The Church. The bride of Christ. “She is our mother” (Galatians 4:26), writes Saint Paul. Luther adds, “The Spirit has His own congregation in the world, which is the mother that conceives and bears every Christian through God’s Word” (Large Catechism II.42). As the bride of Christ and the mother of every Christian, the Church is here to feed, nurture, teach, encourage, love, forgive, and care for you.

As you have learned from Christ and His bride what it means to be loved, strive diligently to honor the mother God has given you. Serve and obey her. Love and cherish her. Pray for her. And, as she ages, care for her.

Thanks be to God for the wonderful, necessary, and noble vocation of motherhood. “A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
Blessed Father, be pleased to bless our mothers today and always. Help them recognize the holy office You have entrusted to them, and strengthen them to serve faithfully and well within it. Grant that their motherly service may not be burdensome, but rather joyful and glad. Bless all women who do not have children and those whose children are estranged from them, that their hope and confidence may ever remain in You in whom true joy is found. Give us loving hearts that freely give thanks for our mothers, that heartily forgive them where they have failed and fallen short, that willingly obey them, and that gladly honor them. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This article appears in Divine Shepherd’s May newsletter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

+ Fred Schinkowski +


On 20 March 2016, Frederick William Schinkowski fell asleep in Christ at the age of 64 and was received into the Church Triumphant.

Fred was born to parents Orville and Gladys on 6 December 1951 in Joliet. He was baptized into Christ by the Rev. John Petersen on 30 December 1951 at Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Matteson, confirmed by the Rev. Erwin Baumgartner on 22 March 1964 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Frankfort, and later graduated from Valparaiso University. Our gracious Lord blessed Fred with three children: Beth, Andrew, and Erin. He worked as a Mechanical Engineer for Excelon, restored a red corvette, loved to read and dance, and always wore a big smile.

Having been a member here at Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church since 1984, Fred regularly came to God’s house to hear God’s holy Word and receive Christ’s true body and blood for the forgiveness of his sins and the strengthening of his faith. Here he enjoyed the companionship of our church family and was viewed by all as a beloved brother in Christ. After a long battle against cancer, this past week the Triune God led Fred through the valley of the shadow of death to his eternal rest.

Fred is survived by his three children: Beth (Ryan) Lange, Andrew Schinkowski, and Erin (Michael) Pine; two grandchildren: Evie and Nora Pine; and one sister: Rita (late Terry) Larson. He was preceded in death by his parents Orville and Gladys (nee Seemann) Schinkowski.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. We give thanks to God our Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for our brother Fred.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Fragrant Offering

Lutheran Altar Guild Federation: Spring Conference
Saint Matthew 26:6-13

“The poor you always have with you.” The reason Jesus speaks these words is because the disciples in general, and Judas in particular, wanted to drive a wedge between acts of mercy to the neighbor and acts of love to the Lord. As if one is more important than the other. Nonsense. Acts of love to God and acts of mercy to the neighbor are both part and parcel of your calling as a child of God.

The setting for today’s Holy Gospel is the house of Simon the leper. There a dinner is being held for Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Martha is busy doing what she loves doing: serving. Lazarus and others are reclining at the table with Jesus. At some point Mary enters the room, carrying an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment made from pure nard. Nard is an aromatic oil made from the spikenard plant, native to northern India. So costly is this pure nard that the Roman pound of it that Mary is carrying (roughly 12 ounces as we measure it) is worth roughly 300 denarii (nearly a whole year’s wages).

Mary approaches Jesus, breaks the long neck of the flask, and pours it over Jesus’ head. The nard runs down Jesus’ neck and drenches His robe, as well as the couch on which He is reclining. But Mary is not yet done. Saint John tells us that she uses the nard to anoint Jesus’ feet and then wipes His feet with her hair. So strong and powerful is this nard that the entire house is filled with its fragrance.

Sadly, that’s when the nard hits the fan. Why this waste? Why such extravagance? Doesn’t Mary know this pure nard could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor?

In all honesty, what Mary did was neither practical nor necessary. She could have anointed Jesus with just a few drops of nard. But faith doesn’t keep a tally of its fruits. Faith simply acts. So it is that Mary’s faith in Jesus Christ and what He is about to do for her, for you and me, for the world, moves her to such extravagance. Clinging to Christ’s words and promises, Mary offers “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Ephesians 4:18).

Godly love does that. Godly love acts without counting the cost. Godly love gives the best it has. Godly love confesses and extols and worships the Lord and His atoning work above all else. In this case, Mary’s gift of love prepares the Anointed One for His suffering and death, for His burial, for His Sabbath rest in a borrowed grave.

If only the fragrance of Mary’s nard was enough to cover the stench of our sin. It isn’t. And it can’t. Something far more fragrant than pure nard is necessary, because the stench of our sin wreaks of death and decay.

Thankfully, we have a God who is extravagant with His love. His is a love that is pure. His is a love that doesn’t count the cost. His is a love that gives the best there is to give.

When God broke open the flask of His love, out came the Son of God, incarnate of the virgin Mary. He — the Anointed One — took on your flesh and blood that He might willingly shoulder your burden, suffer your punishment, and die your death. As Jesus was lifted up from the earth on Calvary, God the Father poured the cup of His wrath onto Christ’s head. That wrath ran down Jesus’ neck and drenched His stricken, smitten, and afflicted body, until at last atonement was made. Redemption won. Salvation finished.

If you think the beautiful fragrance of nard filling Simon the leper’s house was a pleasing scent, the fragrance of Christ’s offering on Calvary far exceeded it. Saint Paul writes, “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

Following His resurrection on the Third Day and His ascension to the Father’s right hand forty days later, Jesus is now pleased to pour the fruits of His fragrant offering onto dirty, rotten, stinking sinners in the waters of Holy Baptism. At the font, He poured His grace and mercy onto your head. And He poured abundantly. Extravagantly. Without counting the cost of what your sin cost Him. He poured His fragrant offering over you to prepare you for your burial. Both your daily burial to sin and that final burial, where your earthly remains will rest until He transforms your lowly body to be like His glorious body.

Now, in the meantime, Christ bids you to come to this house of Simon the leper regularly and receive the Supper that has been prepared for you Lazaruses, for every sinner who has died and been raised to new life at the baptismal font.

You and I cannot show our love for Jesus in the same way Mary did. We can, however, wash our Lord’s feet through acts of mercy to our neighbor, to the poor who are always with us. What’s more, we can also be extravagantly generous when it comes to adorning our sanctuaries, chancels, and naves to reflect the beauty and reverence of being in God’s house, and to remind us of His presence with us in Word and Sacrament.

Concerning Mary’s extravagant act of love, Jesus exclaimed, “She has done a beautiful thing to Me.” Our sacrificial acts to God and neighbor, washed clean and sanctified in the blood of Christ, are just as beautiful.

This morning the flask of Word and Sacrament has again been opened and poured out, and God’s house is once again filled with the sweet smell of forgiveness. With the wonderful aroma of new life. With the pleasing fragrance of eternal salvation. How could it be otherwise? Where there is Jesus Christ and His gracious gifts, there are the fruits of the “fragrant offering” that makes you pleasing to your Father in heaven.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Is It I, Lord?


As Jesus reclined at table with the twelve, He told them that one of them would betray Him. They were very sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22).

Only one of the twelve betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver that night. But all of them — and all of us — betray Him in one way or another each and every day. “Is it I, Lord?” Yes, it is. I am there in Judas’ betrayal, in Peter’s denial, in the crowd’s bitter cries, in Pilate’s cowardice and expediency, in the guards’ cruelty, in the thief’s mockery. For I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin. “Is it I, Lord?” Yes, it is. I am a sinner. I am the reason You are hanging there in shame and agony, covered with blood. I am the one who betrays You each and every time I break Your Father’s commandments.

Do not be too proud to confess your sin regularly, lest your heart get puffed up with self-righteousness, lest your mind become clouded with smugness, lest your bones ache within you, lest your faith grow cold and your heart turn to stone. “Is it I, Lord?” Confess that it is. And then leave it there with Jesus. Whatever your failures and shortcomings, whatever your idols and sins, whatever lust and greed and hatred and covetousness resides in your heart, whatever past regrets haunt you, whatever you’ve done wrong or left undone or unsaid, whatever shame you know, leave it all there at the cross with your Lord. He wants your sin. He willingly bears it and is forsaken by His Father and dies for you.

The cross is where the “great exchange” takes place. Jesus swaps places with you. You ask, “Is it I, Lord?” He responds, “No. It is I. I have become what you are—a sinner—that you might become what I am—righteous. I carried your sin and guilt to Golgotha and there I endured the thorns, lashes, and spikes that you would go free. I allowed My body to be broken and My blood to be shed that you would be holy and sinless. Do not try and add to My sacrifice. You can’t. In Me and Me alone your sin is gone. Welcome home. In Me, the kingdom yours remaineth.”

Though you are not worthy of Jesus’ love, He loves you anyway. Though you deserve the cup of God’s wrath, He fills you with Himself and overflows your cup with goodness and mercy. Though you come to Him a sinner, He sends you on your way a saint. Though you come to Him broken and contrite, He sends you away forgiven and renewed.

So fear not. In Holy Baptism, all that Jesus did for you was given to you as a free gift. In that water connected with God’s Word, you were joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now, your calling as a child of God is to live your baptism. To that end, use the remainder of this Lenten season, Holy Week, and our upcoming Easter celebration to confess your wretchedness, to hear Christ’s words of absolution, to take to heart the Gospel of Christ crucified, and to partake of Christ’s holy body and precious blood in His Supper. These are the means by which your Savior heals your sin-sick soul, binds up your broken heart, nourishes your faith, and equips you to love and serve your neighbor.

“Is it I, Lord?” Joined to You in Holy Baptism, am I really a beloved child of the Father with whom He is well pleased? Yes! For “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

This article appears in Divine Shepherd’s March newsletter.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Let Jesus Be Jesus


The latest fad blanketing social media is creating a stick figure meme with a few lines using your first name and something you do or like. The meme ends with the words, “Be like [first name].” I suppose it was inevitable that someone would come up with one of these that ends with the words, “Be like Jesus.”

A Christian should know better. Your calling as a sinner is not to be like Jesus. Your calling is to repent and believe the Gospel. To confess your sin and be absolved. To hear God’s Word, hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it. To receive our Lord’s true body and blood.

There is one Jesus. One Savior. One Lord. He alone is the Father’s only-begotten Son. He alone is the Word through whom everything was created. He alone is the virgin’s Son. He alone is the world’s Redeemer. He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He alone rose from the dead on the Third Day, never to die again. He alone is head of His body, the Church.

At best, “be like Jesus” is another law that reveals just as sinful you are. At worst, it creates modern day Pharisees who think they can please God with their best efforts.

Let Jesus be Jesus. If you want to imitate someone, be like Abraham. Be like David. Be like John the Baptist. Be like Paul. Be like countless other sinners who lived in repentance and faith. Like them, your calling is to live by faith in Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Problem with “50 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink”


I know several people who have recently posted/shared an article titled 50 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink on social media. I am friends with them. They are good, honest, faithful people whom I admire. I believe they are well-intentioned. I love them and mean no ill toward them in what I’m about to write. However, since the author of this article invokes Christianity and consistently draws a number of false theological conclusions, and therein may very well lead fellow Christians to a false understanding of the Gospel freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ, I feel the need to respond.

Alcohol is one of the many good gifts—First Article gifts as we Lutherans like to call them—that God has given to humanity. God’s Word is not silent on the consumption of alcohol. Below is a sampling of what God teaches us in His Word:

  • Melchizedek—a type of Jesus Christ—brings out bread and wine for Abraham (Genesis 14:18).
  • Part of Isaac’s blessing to Jacob is that God would give him “plenty of grain and wine” (Genesis 27:28).
  • The psalmist confesses that God is the One who causes the earth to sprout and grow, that man may bring forth “wine to gladden the heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).
  • Solomon writes, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do” (Ecclesiastes 9:7).
  • Isaiah’s picture of paradise includes “a feast of well-aged wine, … of aged wine well refined” (Isaiah 25:6).
  • Through Joel, God promises to send His people “grain, wine, and oil” to satisfy them (Joel 2:19).
  • Jesus’ very first miracle was turning water into an abundance of wine at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11).
  • Wine is essential to the Sacrament of the Altar instituted by Jesus Christ and given to His Church to do until He comes again in glory (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:25-28).
  • Paul writes, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink” (Colossians 2:16).
  • Paul commends “a little wine” for the sake of the stomach and other ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).

As every Christian knows, drunkenness is a sin. No Christian can credibly dispute this. But drunkenness isn’t the issue here. The issue is whether a Christian may responsibly enjoy alcohol as a good gift from God.

To that end, here are the 50 Reasons and my brief response to each (be warned that you will hear a common theme in my response to every single reason):

1. I can’t be sober-minded if I’m not sober.

This is an argument against drunkenness (and other things that cause a person not to be sober-minded), not responsible drinking. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

2. Alcohol has an assignment: destruction.

Alcohol is an inanimate object and has no assignment at all. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

3. Alcohol is a depressant. Anything that depresses should be avoided at all costs.

Then why does Holy Scripture commend the responsible use of alcohol? Would the author also avoid at all costs any prescription drug that is also classified as a depressant. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

4. I don’t want to make my brother or sister stumble in the name of exercising my “Christian liberties.” My choice to drink could lead to someone’s demise.

I may exercise my freedom not to drink in the presence of someone who has a problem with alcohol. But that does not exclude the responsible use of alcohol elsewhere. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

5. Alcohol skews my judgment.

No. Excessive alcohol does that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

6. Alcohol leaves me worse, not better.

No. Excessive alcohol does that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

7. What I do in moderation, my children will do in excess.

Says who? My parents always drank responsibly. Neither my siblings nor I drink excessively. I eat in moderation; my children do not eat in excess. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

8. Even the unsaved know I shouldn’t drink. Bible in one hand, beer in the other—any lost person could point this out as a confusing contradiction.

Holy Scripture allows the responsible use of alcohol. To say otherwise is to call God a liar. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

9. Alcohol doesn’t bring others closer to the Lord when they see me drinking, but further away.

This may be the case with an alcoholic. As stated earlier, I may exercise my freedom not to drink in the presence of someone who has a problem with alcohol. But that does not exclude the responsible use of alcohol elsewhere. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

10. Alcohol doesn’t bring me closer to the Lord when I drink, but further away.

The responsible use of alcohol does neither. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

11. I want to be fully awake and ready for the return of Christ, not drowsy, sluggish and fuzzy.

The responsible use of alcohol does not hinder this in any way. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

12. Show me a family for whom alcohol has made a positive difference in their lives. You won’t be able to.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

13. I have never heard anyone say, “Wow, that gin and tonic made me feel so Christlike!”

Neither does watching television with my wife, disciplining my children, reading a book, doing my taxes, mowing the lawn, etc. That doesn’t make it wrong. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

14. I want to avoid all appearances of evil.

Alcohol, in and of itself, is not evil. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

15. Alcohol makes it much harder for me to practice the fruit of self-control.

No. But the abuse of alcohol might very well do that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

16. Alcohol causes me to lose my filter.

No. But the abuse of alcohol might very well do that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

17. Alcohol is a legal mind-altering drug.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

18. Alcohol is addictive.

That is why one guards against its abuse. Food can also be addictive (coffee, chocolate, etc.). That doesn’t mean food needs to be avoided. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

19. Alcohol is a numbing agent for pain and sorrow only Jesus can heal.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Not everyone who enjoys an occasional drink does it to numb pair or sorrow. Those who do need help. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

20. Many regrets are associated with alcohol. (I can give you a whole bunch!)

Not the responsible use of alcohol. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

21. No one has ever said, “If only I had taken a drink, things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.”

Not the responsible use of alcohol. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

22. Alcohol causes me to act in ways I normally wouldn’t.

Not the responsible use of alcohol. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

23. Alcohol kills brain cells.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

24. Alcohol is a counterfeit and provides a false peace.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

25. The Bible says that no drunkards will enter the kingdom of God. Being drunk starts with one drink. I don’t want to see how far outside the lines I can color when eternity is at stake.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

26. Alcohol is a waster—money, gifts and talents, destinies and so on.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

27. Alcohol leads to really bad behavior. It is a factor in 50 percent of violent crimes.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol, used responsibly, is a good gift from God.

28. Alcohol distracts and derails you from living the victorious life for which Christ died.

No. Sin does that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

29. Wisdom is the principle thing that I need to pursue at all cost; alcohol makes me stupid.

I agree that godly wisdom is good, but w=here does Scripture say that “wisdom is the principle thing that I need to pursue at all cost”? Alcohol does not make anyone stupid. The stupidity is there before someone abuses it. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

30. Alcohol has ruined many, many marriages.

No, it hasn’t. But the abuse of alcohol can do that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

31. The only influence I should be “under” is God’s.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

32. The Bible tells me to be alert; alcohol delays my reaction time.

The Scripture’s call to be alert has nothing to do with reaction time; if it does, then all those who are severe physical or mental disabilities are sinning simply by having a condition. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

33. If I don’t start drinking, I’ll never have to stop.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

34. Alcohol severely tarnishes my testimony.

No. The abuse of alcohol does that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

35. Don’t want your teenagers to drink? Yep, same reasons apply to you.

I teach my children this: Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

36. God is holy; alcohol is not.

Using this logic, the author should stop living in a house, driving a car, eating food, and pretty much everything else outside of hearing God’s Word, receiving His sacraments, praying, etc. because all of these earthly things are common (not holy). Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

37. Alcohol and prayer don’t mix.

Good gifts from God can be enjoyed. Just because someone may not “mix” alcohol and prayer does not make them mutually exclusive. Sex and prayer don’t necessarily mix either. That doesn’t mean a husband and wife cannot enjoy this gift from God. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

38. Alcohol and Bible study don’t mix.

See #37. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

39. Alcohol lowers my resolve to resist temptation.

No. The abuse of alcohol does that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

40. Alcohol = Brokenness (broken lives, health, dreams and so on).

No. The abuse of alcohol does that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

41. When the world sees us drinking, it sends the message that Jesus isn’t enough.

I suppose the author thinks that people who eat also send the message that Jesus’ isn’t enough. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

42. Moderate drinking? How about moderate pornography or moderate heroin use or moderate lying or moderate adultery?

Unlike the sins lists, alcohol is not inherently sinful. It is abuse of alcohol that is. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

43. Christians are called to live a life of total surrender and separation from the world.

Our call to be in the world but not of the world does not mean that alcohol is sinful. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

44. Alcohol makes me forget. It can make me forget that I am married, that I am saved and so on.

No. The abuse of alcohol can do that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

45. “I don't get drunk. I only have one or two drinks.” If they didn’t affect you, you would drink soda.

This statement does not logically make sense. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

46. I should never look to the glass or bottle for joy, which can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The author is telling me that I cannot find any joy in my family, my wife, my children, my friends, my church, etc. because joy can “only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.” You don’t understand the First Article of the Creed. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

47. Alcohol fills my mind with impure thoughts.

Alcohol is incapable of putting any thoughts (good or bad) into your mind. The devil, the world,you’re your own sinful flesh do that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

48. If it could hinder my faith walk or love walk or dishonor the lordship of Jesus Christ, I need to forsake it.

Tell that to Jesus, who turned water into wine. My marriage could hinder those things, as could my parent, my children, and a whole host of other things. I don’t forsake them because they are capable of doing that. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

49. Alcohol doesn’t help me run the race that Jesus has marked before me to finish with more accuracy. It does the polar opposite.

The responsible use of alcohol neither helps nor hinders my faith. It is one of many good gifts that God has given us. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

50. For any argument that tries to justify Christian drinking, there are at least 50 other reasons not to. The writing is on the wall. It’s not God’s best for Christians to drink.

There is no such thing as “Christian drinking.” There is, however, freedom in Holy Scripture and the Gospel to enjoy this good gift from God responsibly. To say otherwise is to call God a liar. Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly.

Did you catch the common thread woven into every answer? Alcohol is a good gift from God; Christians are free to enjoy it responsibly. God’s Word says so. I hope the author will search the Scriptures on this issue. Speaking out against the abuse of alcohol and working to help those caught up in this sin would be much more beneficial than forbidding something that God allows. On that point I believe we can all agree.

The original article 50 Reasons is found here.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Good Book


A wise man once said: “It is not many books that make men learned ... but it is a good book frequently read.” That wise man was Martin Luther. When it comes to strengthening your faith, enlivening your hope, and increasing your joy and peace, there is one Good Book that tops them all: The Holy Scriptures. The question is: How frequently do you read this Good Book? Or hear it? Or study it? Do you even know where your Bible is? Is it collecting dust on a bookshelf somewhere or sitting in a location where you can readily pick it up and read it?

The Apostle Paul has some hope-filled words for us slackers: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Too often we overlook the obvious. We neglect the stories of God’s people of old as outdated or meaningless. But in-so-doing, we slap God in the face. Paul reminds us in the words above that we can learn from God’s people of old, if only we reread their stories, place ourselves in their shoes, and find our help and hope in Christ, just as they did.

Are people treating you unfairly? Does everything seem to go wrong for you? Read the story of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37, 39-50). Do you need a reminder that God can overcome any obstacle? Read the story of Gideon (Judges 6- 7). Are you wondering aimlessly, trying to find your purpose after losing a loved one to death? Read the story of Ruth (all four chapters). Do you wonder if God can forgive your sins of thought, word, and deed? Read the story of King David (2 Samuel 11-12). Are finances tight? Are the bills piling up? Does your future look bleak? Read the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17). These stories amount to only a few drops in an endless ocean of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and strength to His people.

Are we already filled with so much wisdom that we don’t need any more of God’s Word? Lest we forget why God gives us His Word, Paul writes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16- 17). King Solomon adds: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:9).

Friends, I pray this new year will be for you a year of hearing the Scriptures for the strengthening of your faith, a year of studying the Scriptures for your edification, and a year of taking to heart and living from these Scriptures. You will need this as you endure your crosses in the strength of the Lord, encourage your loved one with the words and promises of your Savior, and eagerly wait for your Lord’s second coming in glory to take you home. All of this is yours in Christ. And this Christ is yours in the Holy Scriptures. And these Holy Scriptures are yours as you hear and read and take to heart the Good Book. You’ve made the reception of Christ’s gracious gifts in the Divine Service a priority. That’s great! What about Bible study? What about family or personal devotions? Remember: “It is not many books that make men learned ... but it is a good book frequently read” ... and heard ... and studied ... and taken to heart!

What Luke said about the Christians in Berea, who eagerly listened to Paul, I pray will be true of each of us as well: “They received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). God grant this, for Jesus’ sake!

This article appears in Divine Shepherd’s January newsletter.