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golter's musings

Stick to the Text: No Free Will

April 12th, 2018

It’s so hard, so hard to stick to only what God says.

This is most certainly true when it comes to the topic of free will.

Is a person able to choose to believe in Jesus? In all my years of pastoral care, this issue remains a challenge for so many.

We believe that as we choose to which Whitey’s we travel to get an ice cream cone, so we have the free will to choose Jesus. The Bible does not support this belief; the text does not say this.

What does the Holy Spirit say? Coming to Jesus is His work, not a person’s will. Christ says:

“The natural person (unbeliever) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned,”

(1 Corinthians 2:14).

“Natural” may be translated as “unspiritual.” To say that the “unspiritual” person cannot “receive” or “accept” teaches the impossibility to choose Jesus. The Spirit describes the state of the will before conversion as hostility, “enemies” (Rom. 5:10); the human will in spiritual matters is “dead” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead people can’t resurrect themselves. God must do it; that’s the biblical teaching.

Jesus preaches in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” John uses “draw” later in his Gospel describing Peter’s pulling or “drawing” the full net of fish to the shore—153 of them. The fish did nothing to be drawn; their weight actually resisted Peter’s pulling. The will before conversion actively pushes against the Spirit’s work of conversion.

Is there a free will in spiritual matters? No.

Does the person’s will help God convert them? No. The will is dead.

This is why Lutherans do not have altar calls or ask people to come forward to make a decision for Jesus. The new Small Catechism states:

“This is why Lutherans do not speak in terms like ‘making a decision to accept Jesus,’ instead emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s work of calling us and bringing us to faith through the Gospel. When Jesus says, ‘Follow Me,’ His Word, by the Holy Spirit, has the power to turn us from our sin and to move us to trust Him and follow after Him. See Matthew 9:9; John 10:27-28),” (p. 197).

The assumption that people are able to accept Jesus by their choosing is wrong biblically; the Holy Spirit teaches differently according to the text. Coming to Jesus is all God work, for which we gladly give Him thanks and praise. “I believe in Jesus, because He converted me.”

What about the role of the will in a believer, once the Holy Spirit has converted them? Wait till next week for that discussion.

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Do You Know a Mrs. Dean?

April 6th, 2018

Likely not, at least the one to which I point out in the title. Everyone in my Freshman English class feared Mrs. Dean. She required a spelling test every Friday. If you weren’t prepared, well your heart pounded out of your chest. Do you know a Mrs. Dean in your past?

Mrs. Dean's raised the bar, required hard, difficult and necessary work. I credit Mrs. Dean for my spelling skills to this day.

Do children need a Mrs. Dean today? Yes. So do you. Laziness, selfishness, lack of discipline, and a me-centered culture all lead to a collapsing country and unhappy children.

(Please note the pinwheels on Trinity’s church lawn. Thank you, seventh- and eighth-graders from the school and Dr. Barb Harre! They highlight National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As they say, “All children deserve great childhoods…”)

The Holy Spirit has something to say about the practice of life. Through the Apostle Peter, He writes: “For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (2 Peter 1:5).

“Virtue” may be translated “excellence.” Christians are to show forth excellent living, that is, moral living. The power is the faith given in Holy Baptism and the ongoing reception of God’s Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. The power of the Gospel compels believers to live resurrected lives.

Moral living is patterned after the One who visibly walked it, Jesus. Compassion, other-centered, forgiving, praying, and working. This one Savior saves and is also the example.

Moral living does not add to faith, as if it brings additional help to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Rather, it displays the generosity of our generous Benefactor, who supplies all that we need.

William Bennett, in his 1993 “The Book of Virtues,” writes about practicing virtue. He refers to Aristotle as one who emphasized that “habits make all the difference. We learn to order our souls the same way we learn to do math problems or play baseball — through practice,” (p. 22).

My folks had this habit: Every weekend we went to church, without fail, except for two weekends a year: opening duck and pheasant hunting season. When I went off to college, guess what I did on Sunday mornings, even if I stayed up to 3:00 in the morning? You guessed it.

Trinity ChurchSchool is God’s place to deliver His unexpected gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit; it’s also a training ground for developing a Christian habit of life, displaying godly virtues.

Who’s your Mrs. Dean?

Better, be a Mrs. Dean to the children, with discipline and holy habits. They’re not going to learn it from this American culture.

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Extra Nos

March 29th, 2018

A Latin phrase, it means "outside of self."

Elizabeth and I saw "Paul, the Apostle of Christ" last Friday. I was expecting a historical narrative of Paul's preaching and teaching, going from town to town, as the Book of Acts shows.

Rather, this movie is of Paul's imprisonment in Rome and the absolute frailty of the small Christian church in Rome.

The Christians were constantly under attach, terrified of Nero's accusation of the burning of Rome. Nero's soldiers were out to identify and arrest them.

Division arises within the Christian group: some say, "Let's take up arms and rebel, let's kill the soldiers and Nero; others, let's fight with love, as our Lord did." Some of the young men did choose the sword but were killed. Others did not choose the sword and were killed.

What was Paul's advice? He often says in the movie, "Christ says...." It was impressive. I like it. I often say, "Well the Bible says this...." I think for American ears, the Bible is a suspicious source. Whenever you and I say the Bible, ears shut down.

Why not try, "Jesus says...." or "God says...." or "Jesus Christ says..." when engaging with others? Let's see their response. Of course, we can then lead them to the Holy Scriptures.

Jesus speaks two ways: "Thus it is written..." (Luke 24:46), and as God Himself, "But I say to you..." (Matt. 5:22, 28, 32). There are many more examples.

Whether we say "Jesus says..." or "The Holy Bible says..." both point to something outside of us, they point to God Himself and His writing.

Luther did the same thing when arguing with Ulrich Zwingli (October 1-4, 1529), as to whether Christ's real and true Body and Blood is present in, with and under the consecrated bread and wine.

Zwingli taught that the Supper was just a memorial feast, thinking that it was not rationale to believe otherwise.

Luther, however, after writing "This is My body" in Latin which he had written with chalk on the table, says, "This is our Scripture passage...'This is My body.' I cannot pass over the text of my Lord Jesus Christ, but I must confess and believe that the body of Christ is there." (Herman Sasse, This is My Body, p. 207).

The Scripture says, Jesus says, this is our highest comfort on this Maundy Thursday.

By faith, we look, watch and give thanks to the One who has saved us from our sins, apart and outside of our contributions or efforts.

By the way, go see the Paul movie.

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Why Don't We Sacrifice Animals Any More?

March 22nd, 2018

It's a good question, is it not?

Why do we have a "blood-less" Divine Service?

Well, actually we don't have a "blood-less" Divine Service, because Jesus' blood - and body - are present in the Holy Meal (Mt 26:26 f., Mk 14:22 f., Lk 22:14 f., John 6:53 f.; 1 Cor. 10:16, 11:23 f.).

Oh, yes, the Divine Service lacks animals' blood, but not God's blood!

This helps calculate biblically not only no more dietary restrictions, as you find in the OT (Lev. 11:47), as well as no more tithing as a law, as you find in the OT (Numbers 18:21,24; Deut. 14:22, 27, etc.).

The New Testament does not reinstate dietary restrictions or the tithe. Jesus and Paul had ample opportunity to reinstate both but do not.

Paul teaches freedom, and to push back against those who want to push dietary or any other kind of restriction. "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ," (Colossians 2:16-17, emphasis mine).

The Hebrews teacher uses "shadow" also: "For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near," (Hebrews 10:1). See also, "They serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things," (Hebrews 8:5).

The contrast is between the shadow of a person and the real person. The "shadow" is cast by the body beneath the sun light. The shadow is not the real body! The OT restrictions were the "shadow," the coming of Christ is the real thing. The shadows find their completion and end in the coming of Jesus, the Sabbath rest, the blood sacrifice, and all giving. All the demands find fulfillment in Him!

It was in Wyoming when we lived on a farm at our first congregation. The sun was sitting to the west over the mountain ridge. Walking eastward with our oldest son, Jacob, he suddenly cried out. "Daddy, I see your shadow!" Then he tried to step on it.

Then I realized the Holy Spirit's teaching of shadow and the Old and New Testament teaching. If Jacob followed my shadow, he'd find his daddy. Once he found his daddy, why would he ever go back to the shadow! Once Jesus is here, God made visible, why would we ever go back to the shadow of the Old Covenant!

The NT Divine Service is no shadow, but in the Lord's Supper the real, true Blood and Body of the one, final Sacrifice. This reality causes all kinds of freedom and exuberance, in living by faith, where the only restriction is love without measure.

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Our Father...

March 15th, 2018

Stunning it is how Jesus authors the "Our Father" by not stating "My Father."

A popular opinion is that religion is just between me and Jesus.

I don't need anyone else, and they don't need to know what I believe. Jesus does not agree.

He needs you to be part of His family; in fact, you are His family through baptismal splashing and simple faith in Him.

Christianity knows no "me and Jesus" mentality. Of course, one believes in Christ, but the motion does not stop there!

Christ is always gathering more like you, more broken, restless and bruised sinners who need His help. Christ's intention - and always has been - is the more the merrier! And, heaven rejoices (see Luke 15:10)!

The "Our" of the Lord's Prayer shows that this is not a solo practitioner religion! You are not drawn to the Divine Service gathering for self-improvement, and then leave without any word or relationship to those He has also gathered.

His "Come home" words means: "Come home to Me and My Father, and all the others who need me." He takes you on His back, the one which owned the stripes of your salvation.

Of course, one prays alone (see Jesus' teaching in Matt. 6:4-7), but the Father doesn't keep you there. The motion is always toward the group, the church, Jesus' brothers and sisters gathered before the Father! Again, the more the merrier!

Those who stay home or who come and remain alone are deprived of the joy and fellowship of the many. It's like the one child who remains in their room, not wanting any fellowship with the family.

No, we're in this thing together, with Jesus and Our Father. There's reason why Jesus penned the prayer "Our Father..."

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Let's Go

March 8th, 2018

See what happens when one prays?

What do you mean?

Consider Jesus' activity in Mark 1:35 and 38. "And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed....And He said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach thee also, for that is why I came out.'"

Jesus prayed...and then preached the Good News. There's a connection here. So much of American Christianity teaches prayer is something that we do by ourselves.

Prayer's success is then dependent upon a Christian's willpower and persistence and, finally, how well one performs and lives the Christian life. This teaching leaves Christians exhausted ("I'll never get it right!") or puffed up with pride ("I'm doing it!").

Rather, prayer is the action of faith whereby we by the Spirit's prompting acknowledge that we're completely dependent on God for everything. Dependence is the perfect posture of the heart and sets God apart from whom we receive everything.

Such dependence upon God alone causes abundant activity! Jesus could not but go but first He cashed in on all His Father's promises. Compelled by His Father's care He goes. He then led the disciples to go even to the small villages for one purpose: To herald the radical Good News.

Jesus continues to compel and even drag us along with Him, to His Father in prayer and into the villages to proclaim. Oh, by the way, this happens every Sunday; He brings us to the Father and then leads us out into the world.

"Let's go" started with prayer; nothing has changed.

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Death and the Divine Service

March 1st, 2018

So many believe death is natural.

A quick perusal of the internet with this question: Is death natural? finds one comment: "Death is as natural as birth."

It is true, one begins life with birth and ends life with death; it is a common happening. Death, however, is not natural. How should one consider and deal with death?

God created death as His punishment for rebelling against Him.

God tells Adam before the fall into sin this: "For in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die," (Genesis 2:17; see also 3:19).

God created Adam, and then Eve, in the state of absolute dependence upon Him, for everything physical and spiritual, nourishment for both the body and the soul.

God's threat of death therefore is upon both body and soul. Death is both a temporal and eternal death, a killing of the body and placing of the soul that is destined for eternal separation from God, that is, hell.

Death therefore is God's judgment, and must not be sanitized or minimized.

As the "Judge" of all (Hebrews 12:23), God "will judge" those who sin, for He is able to judge by His Word even the "thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Hebrews 4:12).

He retains His judgeship no matter how hard people resist; resistance won't matter. Solomon writes, "And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it," (Eccl. 12:7). God keeps His vocation of being God and Judge, in giving and the taking of life.

The best way to deal with death.

Consider the church's center aisle as the road from Jericho up to Jerusalem! One joins the parade of fellow pilgrims heading to meet the Savior. "Did you hear, the Messiah has come!"

One approaches the Lord's place, where His Word is preached and read, and where His Body and Blood are given. No fig leaves will do but only honest cries for help, "Lord, have mercy!" And the Crucified One does surprise, forgiving abundantly, covering all by His blood. The pilgrims leave then in peace.

Every Divine Service is a rehearsal for death and the Last Day. How comforting!

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Leading with Your Gospel Shoulder!

February 22nd, 2018

I know this is a football analogy. I played quite a bit of football a while ago.

The coach would instruct, "When you tackle lead with your shoulder!"

Pastor, you didn't play football! Well, let me show you pictures of all my touchdown runs!! They look photo-shopped to me! Oh, sorry, I have to go read the Bible! Sure you do.

Yes, it's a bit corny to apply this to spiritual matters, but bear with me.

Leading with your gospel shoulder means this:

Lead with the Gospel in your relationship to others!

Remember the Lord constantly and daily shows you His mercy; it's His practice! How odd and strange it would be if you don't do likewise with others! It is your baptismal nature. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy," (Matt. 5:7). These words describe Jesus first, and then each of you "in Him," as you are by faith. The Gospel is your lens to view the other.

Resist fixing the other person!

Almost always fixing is the habit. But, who has perfect follow through? Only Jesus. One can't help but to be the judge, jury and executioner! Your fellow believer struggles-as you do-under the pressing Law; all fight to live by faith in Jesus. Arrogance and hypocrisy is not allowed! See Jesus' preaching in in Matthew 7:3-5, where our logs seem like specks and others' specks seem like logs. Yes, hypocritical judging is sin! God does require judging, of course, of teaching by others (Acts 17:1-11; 1 John 4:1), one's works (1 Cor. 3:13), others who have been overtaken by sin (Gal. 6:1-2), and one's attitude before participating in the Lord's Meal (1 Cor. 11:28).

Relationship to the other is most important!

Paul teaches this priority in Ephesians 4:3, "Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The English Standard Version says "maintain;" a better translation is "treasure!" Unity in Christ is of highest importance, and is given by Him through the Word! So be "eager to treasure" this God-given unity! Attitude along with effort is a must.

Do you want to see those football pictures?

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Another Mass Shooting - Making Sense from Solomon?

February 15th, 2018

Another mass shooting, now in Florida. Oh, my, how extremely sad. It's the third of 10 of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, happening in the last five months.

How does one make any sense of this, at least a sense that helps to steer a path forward, even daily?

I turned to Solomon, his Ecclesiastes, since I've been teaching this since last September. The wisest man in the world - except for the God/man, Jesus Christ, of course. Consider his insights:

Be Realistically Optimistic!

Remember, this is a fallen world! This is not God's intention, evil and its outbreak of destruction, pain and sorrow.

Evil erupts like the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Don't be surprised or fall into despair. The "wicked" - often times - get rewarded, while the "righteous" suffer, (see Eccl. 3:16-22; 8:14-15).

There's only One in whom there is abiding hope: Jesus Christ. Remember, He wept too at Lazarus' tomb (John 11:35). Your God is not detached from evil, sin and its consequences. Jesus remains the Father's Chief Scheduler and Time-keeper (Eccl. 3:1-8).

Best to keep the Faith of a Child!

You can't figure out the timing or destination of the outbreaks of evil. Even when the devil has his successes, he remains God's fool. You are totally helpless, yet remain strong in the One who was crucified in weakness and raised in power by the Father. It's best - in fact, it's your vocation - to remain His child, while He works everything out!

Have Compassion

It's what God does, and so do you, as the baptized into Christ. Life is hard, very hard, also for your neighbor, and your Florida neighbors!

As God knew the suffering of the Israelites (Exodus 2:25), Jesus groaned deep down inside when He saw the helpless crowds (Matt. 9:36). That's why Solomon simplifies life: "Fear God and keep His commandments," (Eccl. 12:13).

Trusting in the One who is deeply involved with His creation is the only way. Remember, He even feeds the "birds of the air," (Matt. 6:26). Every person is much more valuable than His birds!

This final thought by Solomon may seem so out of place in this evil world, but he repeats it often: Enjoy life (see Eccl. 5:18-19; 9:7).

With God running the show, there's freedom in having compassion, making other's burdens your own, while enjoying a lunch with your neighbor. The devil desires to snuff out your care-free trust and living beneath the Lord's mercy! The burden is all on Jesus to figure this life out! Don't take His vocation away!

Gladly serving Him and the neighbor along with you,

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

The Purpose Driven Life?

February 8, 2018

Are you tempted to do more, pray more, and study more? Me, too. I want to look for practical guides to help me be a better Christian! I want to be better.

Give me a formula or plan that I can follow. I know, let's plan this year's New Year's resolutions!

Let's listen to Jesus, His two-word sermon to Matthew, "Follow Me" (Matt. 9:9). This ought to be easy, following Jesus! I'll be like Jesus, imitate Jesus, and I'll be just fine!

Hold on for a moment. Jesus does not say to imitate Him, but to follow Me!

Of course, Jesus' call involved Matthew's moving of his feet, rising up and following Jesus. But Jesus is calling Matthew to faith - yea, an invitation-to believe! First the heart, and then the feet, is the great Physician's way.

Christianity is not primarily a following of rules, a religious set of principles, but a person, the Person, God's Son, along with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Faith grabs onto Jesus!

Matthew's following followed Christ's call to believe. Following Christ is the consequence of believing in the crucified and resurrected One. This faith in Jesus is sufficient for all of life, too!

Many times, believers are tempted to start with the Gospel but look elsewhere for continued life and sanctification. Many look to a greater purpose or cause or discipline.

Please listen up: It's not the purpose-driven life that works, but the Gospel-given life! The believer lives a Christ-given life. Real life is driven DAILY not by the goal but the ongoing Source, Jesus Christ! Attending the Divine Service one time won't do, as breathing in air one time is not sufficient for the blood cells to live!

Sticks or stones don't drive you, but the Person of Jesus Christ. Baptismally speaking, to what Paul is want to refer often, you're "in Christ," (see Gal. 2:16; Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:30).

Stunningly, imitation of Jesus for Paul is to be crucified, buried and raised with Him (Rom. 6:1 f). It's a daily dying to sin by repentance and by faith trusting in the One whose body and blood is given in the Holy Meal.

Some years ago, a woman visited a church I was serving. She was desperate, for her marriage was nearly broken. Her pastor had been preaching a series of sermons on how to improve your marriage.

Initially, it sounded so good, practical advice, she said. It was an 8-week series. But then she vocalized, "What I really need is forgiveness!" Don't we all?

Faith is only sustained by oxygen of the forgiveness of sins, the Gospel!

What followed in her life was quite stunning! Her life changed (see 1 Peter 3:3-5). Her husband was moved to repent of his sins, too!

Repentance is starting from the bottom every day, as a beggar, and His love uplifts. Loved much you love much.

That's the way it is, life in Christ.

Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

Let's be Liberal Lutherans!

February 1, 2018

"Come on, Pastor Golter, I thought you were so staunch about right Biblical doctrine! What's going on?"

Well, of course, the Lord does not give His permission to tamper with His Word. The Holy Spirit through St. Paul's pen says as much!

"We tamper with God's word..." (2 Cor. 4:2). Paul's opponents accused Paul of fraud (2 Cor. 12:16, 19), attempting to undermine his mission work. Paul, however, works with integrity (1:12-14, 24). The Lord demands integrity, first and foremost, in not corrupting or diluting the Spirit-given word, and integrity by His workers (2 Tim. 3:14-16)! Preachers are merely God's workers, not those who call the shots (1 Cor. 4:1-2). They must and want to operate with integrity!

How then are you a liberal Lutheran?

Liberal in giving, loving, serving, and forgiving, taking after the Lord Himself. Look at what happened to Zacchaeus, who at one time stole from others. He was the "chief tax collector." This is the only time this word is used in the bible. Zacchaeus was rich, likely very rich, but poor of soul. He no doubt kept his eye on the Jerusalem Stock Exchange every day! Greed consumed him.

Oh, how that changed! See his marvelous confession in Luke 19:8, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." Take note of the activity he describes; it's already happening! The Holy Spirit does not delay in His production of good works! A new Lord reigns in Zacchaeus' life!

That's how it is when one hangs around Jesus in the Divine Service, too! Jesus' generosity of forgiving sinners generates liberal Christians! The Temple choir's oft refrain was, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love," words retrieved from God's self-description (Exodus 34:6-7).

The Divine Service is your Zacchaeus event!

One sees liberal activity in the Good Samaritan story, where the Good Samaritan represents Jesus Himself, and then you, as you are baptized into Him. Jesus' telling of this parable is His definition of what is means to be "neighbor" (Luke 15: 36) to others: one does not count the cost! The Good Samaritan said to the Motel 6 owner, "Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back," (15:35).

Whatever! You need forgiveness, I forgive you. You need help with your house, I am here. You need an ear, let's have lunch. Your heart is troubled; you have my full attention and, let me tell you about Jesus.

Let's be liberal Lutherans....whatever!

I Don't Know

January 25th, 2018

Lutheranism’s great strength—at least one—is the freedom to say, “I don’t know!” Actually, it’s Christianity’s great strength. There’s freedom in not being the Lord! “OK, I don’t know. The LORD in His bible did not tell us.”

Since God is the only one who converts people to His Son, Jesus, by the Spirit’s power (see 1 Cor. 12:3; John 6:65; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 2:14). And people are totally spiritually incapacitated by their inherited sin (Eph. 2:1; John 1:5; Gen. 8:21, etc), then why do not ALL PEOPLE believe? If people can’t believe of themselves, and God desires ALL PEOPLE to believe (Ezek. 33:11; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4) and, only He alone converts, why do not all people believe? I don’t know! God has that figured out; you’re not responsible to tell God what to do in matters where He has not shown His mind to you. In the end, when one resides in heaven, all credit goes to Jesus who has elected them (Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 8:28 ff.; Matt. 22:2-14); if one spends eternity in hell, it’s their own fault (2 Peter 2:10, 20; Luke 11:24; H-26; Heb. 10:26-27; Eph. 4:30).

So, Jesus says to take eat of His Body and drink of His Blood (Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:23-24; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23). How can that really be! It looks, feels, and tastes like bread and wine. And, really, how can one eat and drink of Christ’s Body and Blood, that which hung on the Cross and rose the Third Day? Surely, Jesus meant to say “symbolize.” Dangerous, this is very, very dangerous. Don’t put words in Jesus’ mouth. He says what He says, just leave it. Best to say, I don’t know! My Lord said so!

Asking why is not a sin, unless it’s done in arrogance and doubt. Consider the Virgin Mary, who wondered with all modesty how she could be pregnant without a man (Luke 1:34). She heard the angel’s preaching, and by her silence (not rebuking or contesting God’s angel), she spoke her faith by her words (“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word, Luke 1:38), and her actions. She ran to her cousin Elizabeth, believing she was pregnant, even though she was not nauseated or had a bulging tummy or the Baby Jesus kicking! She went by God’s preaching!

Then there’s Zechariah, who questioned the Lord with doubt. “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in year,” (Luke 1:18). “Ah, Zechariah, you don’t doubt God’s Word and messenger, Gabriel. You should have taken that bible study class on the Book of Daniel when it was offered! Gabriel also preached to Daniel some 700 years earlier! Daniel doubted and could not speak (Daniel 10:7-11, 16-17, cf. 8:16; 9:21). By the way, Zechariah, you’ll be struck with silence right now, “until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words!” (Luke 1:20; 64-65).

I don’t know does not lessen the need to study the Word, pray and ask for help from His Spirit. If you don’t understand, it’s not God’s fault. The Bible’s Author writes with absolute clarity! Best way to hear is to clear out the clutter, the garbage of sin lying on your conscience that’s getting in the way of hearing by faith. That’s why the Confession of Sin and the Absolution begin the Divine Service; best way to hear God’s Word rightly is to repent and believe the Good News!

I don’t know.

What freedom!

This is Not My First Rodeo!

January 18th, 2018

The Lord has caused me to serve in various ways, for which I'm deeply thankful.

One - it is hoped - gains a heart of wisdom, through interaction with His Word and the world. I've been around a while, for which I rejoice! This is not my first rodeo!

Over the years, people (not always the young, retirees for financial reasons do the same) believe it's best to live together before or outside of the marriage bed.

Well, the One who certainly has been through many rodeos is God Himself; He is marriage's architect some four to ten thousand years ago! He is Wisdom (Proverbs 8:12 f; 1 Cor. 1:30).

Some reason: let's try it out first; let's see if we love each other.

Well, love is not a feeling but a commitment. Commitment - as evidenced by God Himself in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world..." reveals love's definition.

God didn't check you out to see whether you're compatible. God first and continually commits and continually gives of Himself to you.

This is sustainable love. Such is marriage God's way. It's a daily grind with the Spirit's help to fight to put self last and the other one first, is it not?

Sexual experimentation before or outside of marriage is absolute destruction to your faith in Jesus!

As St. Paul says, "For if you live according to the flesh (fleshly desires), you will die..." (Romans 8:13). That is, you undermine and may even lose your faith in Jesus! It's a spiritual poison!

"Pastor, what is the one thing that would increase the chance of me having a divorce?" "Glad you asked; it's cohabitation." Don't live together before your public commitment! God the architect writes in Hebrews 13:4, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed by undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." Your heavenly Father knows best; violation of the marriage bed has destructive consequences!

America disparages the marriage bed, by cohabitation, open and multiple marriages! This is a dishonoring of the marriage bed and, according to God, it's not "acceptable worship," (Heb. 12:28).

Secular studies affirm the fact of the destructive consequences of cohabitation!

Glenn T. Stanton writes that "cohabitation increases the possibility of divorce by as much as 50 percent."

He continues: "In both situations (premarital and cohabitation) intimate emotional, physical and even spiritual bonds are being made-without being backed up by the kind of commitment they demand.

It is like walking on a tightrope without a net below."[1] And, he states (in citing another author), that "cohabitation (is) one of the most 'robust predictors of marital dissolution'- making living together first one of the worst things you can do for your marriage. Wow, it is the worst thing to do!

What is one to do? Have your conscience - and body - cleansed by Jesus' blood in church!

Repent and believe the Good News! And, don't let the world keep seducing you into unholy ways. God's word and counsel is always best. It's not His first rodeo!

Pastor Golter is Trinity Lutheran's Senior Pastor

[1][1] The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage," Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011, pp. 62-63, emphasis added.

Sometimes, I don't Feel like Going to Church!

January 11th, 2018

"Surely, you're joking, Pastor Golter!" Whenever have you known me to enjoy humor!:)

I'm not, however, joking here.

Over the years of preaching and caring for God's flock, it happens.

Reasons vary, of course; laziness, tiredness, grumpiness, letting problems seem bigger than they are, or forgetting my desperate need for meeting Jesus in "real time," where He surprises and forgives me of my sin, giving me of His Body and Blood.

Not going to church is similar to saying: I don't need to receive oxygen to live!

But, then, once there with Jesus, singing hymns with the saints to and along with Jesus to the Father, hearing the Scriptures read, hearing the preaching - even when I'm preaching - He changes my heart. Have you been there? Of course. Why does this happen?

The Word of God is powerful; it cuts to the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13). Why such power? Three fundamental reasons:

  • The Word of God - written and spoken - receives its authority and power from the One who wrote it, God! Even though He had men craft His thoughts into written form, they are very words of God Himself. They are God's verbal expressions, the very utterances of Him (see Matt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). The reason for the effective working of His Word circles back to its Author!
  • The Word of God - written and spoken - draws its power from the centering focus of its content, Jesus Christ. Its power - drawing the heart and mind to Himself - is the message of the Crucified One. "But, we preach Christ crucified," (1 Cor. 1:23). As the manger held the Christ, so the Holy Scriptures hold the same God. (Of course, this has much to say as to the necessary content of every sermon! Please, please critique your pastors' sermons in this manner!)
  • The Word of God - written and spoken - is powerful because God the Holy Spirit works through the Word to bring to you Christ (see 1 Cor. 2:4). He is the undercover Person of the Holy Trinity, Who preaches the Law to accuse and condemn you, and the Gospel to console and comfort you with Christ!
  • Therefore, when Trinity pastors and lay callers visit you in the hospital, they don't read to you from the Quad City Times!

    The QCT does not own the three criteria above. And, God's Word is not an opinion or simply a recording of events; it rather works in you life! (See Ps. 119:93, 107).

    So, when you don't feel like meeting Jesus where He locates Himself in the Divine Service, don't let that nagging conscience or apathy or pride or old habits or whatever have its way with you.

    Let me tell you: you need help. And, remember, this pastor can struggle also. OK, I admitted it!

    See you in church! [1]

    Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

    [1] The basic thoughts of this blog comes from "Robert Preus: Essays on Scripture, Doctrine is Life," Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, pp. 112-113. I think you can get it from CPH for around $5!

    Who's Your Teacher?

    January 4th, 2018

    Yes, this is the first of my weekly blog for your reflection, to strengthen your faith in Jesus and your resolve to live for others, and to bring others to this marvelous life of faith.

    Our grandson came home, asking a simple question of our son: "Daddy, why don't we celebrate Hanukkah? We're doing this at school." My son responded, "Well, they don't believe that Jesus is true, and that He died on the cross for our sins."

    This simple but very common story teaches this truth: if you aren't teaching your children the way of Jesus as the Father's only way of having sin forgiven, someone else is doing it!

    Martin Luther - in 1524 - writes to the German people about the necessity to establish Christian schools (See Luther's Works, Vo. 45:340 f.). He writes how the devil "induces carnal and worldly hearts thus to neglect the children and young people.... How can he (the devil) possibly be pleased to see the gospel destroy his nests (places where false teaching is taught) which he corrupts above all the young folks...?" (p. 349).

    If you aren't teaching children, the devil has his own University system where he is teaching unbelief and/or distrust in the true God. Either the wicked teach you and your children or the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob teach you.

    Don't be foolish and say, "I'll let my children decide." Do you really believe they have the maturity to know and decide?

    Luther further argues: "Indeed, for what purpose do we older folks exist, other than to care for, instruct, and bring up the young? It is utterly impossible for these foolish young people to instruct and protect themselves," (p. 353).

    God has given to Trinity the University system of faith! It's the ChurchSchool, the one ministry (take note of the one word), whereby Jesus comes in the Divine Service and chapel services to wash big and little children's consciences clean by His spilt blood (see Hebrews 10:19-22).

    Jesus Himself destroys the devil's works through the Gospel.

    Who's your teacher?

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