Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

     Ever since the memorial regarding Time of Grace was sent to the Synod Convention two years ago, I have looked at Time of Grace's Facebook page daily. There have been some extremely concerning posts on there. Here's one from September 16:
"Only the love of Christ heals wounds. Only YOU can decide to let Christ calm your spirit and speak gently about what's hurting you.- PMJ"
Here's another from the day before that:
"Today, focus on letting God work in your heart-and don't be so suspicious of his motives.-PMJ"
Yet another one from September 2:
"Guess what? God guides your daily walk. He cares enough about your life to help you deal with life's toughest questions. Do you feel surrounded by darkness and unsure of what to do? Let him speak to you.- PMJ"
Here's another post from August 13:
"God's there for us when we need him. When we trust in him, we give him the chance to make even an illness work for us and his glory.- PMJ"
And here's another post from August 5:
"When we choose to believe Jesus, we release his blessings into our lives and miracles happen all over again. -PJM"
Here is the most recent one, which is from December 10
"Something to focus on this Christmas season-are you one of the INN crowd or one of the STABLE few? Will you make room for Jesus?"
(The emphasis in the quotes above was added by me and the pictures are from Time of Grace's Facebook page, accessed by my iPod)





Notice something wrong with the underlined words? In every case, there is blatant decision theology. Decision theology is a doctrine that has been condemned by the Lutheran Confessions in the Augsburg Confession article XVIII. It says that "it (man's free will) has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness." The quotes from Time of Grace seem to say the exact opposite! Martin Luther also says in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed that "I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him." Since these statements are part of the Confessions with which one must "agree in doctrine and practice" in order to be a member of the WELS, and since Time of Grace's Rev. Mark Jeske is a member of the WELS, shouldn't Time of Grace publications indicate that decision theology is wrong, too?

     Another interesting post has been published on Time of Grace's Facebook page today. This is a link to the Time of Grace blog.  Pastor Jeske posted a list made by Thom Rainer about the top 10 things church members desire in a pastor. The article seems to insinuate that a pastor's success is measured by how well he is "meeting your needs."  The congregation needs to "know" that their pastor "loves" them, otherwise nothing else matters.  But what about preaching the Word of God in its truth and purity? The closest the article comes to expressing this truth is saying that members want their pastors to spend time in the Word, but only in the context of "effective preaching." If he teaches the Word truthfully, isn't that effective? What happened to Isaiah 55:11? God said through Isaiah that "so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  What if the purpose God desires through a pastor's preaching is to harden sinful hearts?  That probably won't seem very "loving."  Does that make the pastor ineffective?

This article pretty much says a pastor should be charismatic, an "effective" preacher, and love the church.  That's all well and good, but it's not what really matters.  A pastor can love his congregation even when he doesn't seem very "loving" to their sinful, fallen natures.  He can be an effective preacher even if he seems to drone on and on, or sticks to the historic Lectionary rather than following the "real, relevant, and relational" sermon series that are today's hits in American Christianity.  But this article would have us believe that "loving" the congregation and meeting what members feel are their "needs" are the primary goals of a pastor.  That is wrong! The pastor should preach the Word truthfully! It is effective by itself! That is the true and only way that a pastor can be a loving, effective preacher, meeting his congregation's TRUE needs.  In this context, I find it disturbing that Time of Grace would publish this article and find it to be "helpful, fair, and evangelical."

     Does anybody else find this scary?
  
    

          




11 comments:

  1. So according to the WELS this is heresy:

    "while God wants all men to be saved and certainly died for all people and made atonement or satisfaction for all sins with His holy blood, only those who believe in Jesus are justified before God." - Pr. Rydecki

    And this is heavenly doctrine as revealed in God's most holy Word: "When we choose to believe Jesus, we release his blessings into our lives and miracles happen all over again. -PJM"

    And: "Only YOU can decide to let Christ calm your spirit" - PMJ

    This, on top of Mr. Techlin's (http://vdma.wordpress.com/category/wels/st-peter-the-core/) case, reveals how the WELS leadership operates, what they think is pure doctrine and what they will defend and promote. I don't want to be so negative but it's really impossible with all these cases and many more that I've omitted for the sake of brevity. That's your glorious WELS folks. It just baffles me why anyone would remain quiet and/or take their side by staying WELS. I mean the evidence of malpractice and false doctrine is massive thanks to the internet.

    My opinion, of course, and not necessarily anyone else's. We must remember this :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks like Elizabeth (commenter on the Dec. 10th TOG post) comments are now deleted from the post on the TOG website and she most likely joins the un-offical group of TOG blocked commenters that are confessional Lutherans (some of which are WELS pastor's wives).

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Do you feel surrounded by darkness and unsure of what to do? Let him speak to you.- PMJ"

    A Lutheran audience should know that God "speaks" to us in his WORD. TOG is reaching out to a mixed crowd of "Christian" and perhaps un-Christian people. I often see Christian people faced with a decision in life or for their New Year's Resolution write on Facebook something like "I need to really listen to God more." The problem is that they are not looking for an answer in God's Word or content that God will bless them and provide for them with whatever decision they make. They are looking for a feeling or a sign that will tell them which path to take.

    One of the most popular devotions books is "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. The book is written as if Jesus is talking. Sarah Young in an interview states:"My journey began with a devotional book (God Calling) written in the 1930's by two women who practiced waiting in God's Presence, writing the messages they received as they "listened." About a year after I started reading this book, I began to wonder if I too could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but this was one-way communication: "monologue." I knew that God communicates through the Bible (and I treasure His Word), but I wondered what He might say to me personally on a given day. So I decided to "listen" to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I sensed He was saying. Of course, I wasn't listening for an audible voice; I was seeking the "still, small voice" of God in my mind/heart...It felt a little awkward the first time I tried it, but I did receive a short message." read more of the interview.. at http://www.cbn.com/entertainment/books/jesuscallingqa.aspx

    WELS affiliated Christian Life Resources sold the book in their spring 2012 catalog Clearly Caring http://www.clearlycaring.com/pdf/2012040506.pdf


    ReplyDelete
  4. "Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments."(http://bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#part3.8.10)

    What troubles me is that "let him speak to you" means that we have to discern for ourselves what God wants for us. 1) He never says to look at Scripture to see what God says. 2) He seems to imply that we need to figure it out on our own. We need to look within ourselves to figure out what he wants. What again separates him from Joel Osteen? What separates him from the heresy of enthusiasm? 3) Considering that he implies we need to figure it out on our own, it shows that he doesn't realize his position. He is supposed to be Called to discern the Word -- Law and Gospel. But now since "everyone is a minister" you can figure it out on your own.

    Again people, this is WELS' vision. Do you agree? They certainly don't agree, and have shown they don't by the suspension of Pr. Rydecki, that sinners are only justified and considered righteous to God by the gift of faith.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings. I'm new to this blog-just found it today. I am an active WELS member who spent 3 years at Martin Luther College before deciding on a different path than the public ministry.
      I am not, however, one to "remain quiet" and take a side. The world is populated entirely of sinful human beings, including WELS pastors. You are spending a great deal of energy condemning WELS theology by the words of one man.
      Is he wrong? Yes definitely. Will I bring this to the attention of someone with authority make a change? Of course.
      And remembering that this is "My opinion, of course, and not necessarily anyone else's," it seems that those who would, perhaps, be described as anti-WELS find any and every opportunity to apply the mistakes one to all.
      I am WELS. I know what I believe and why. I question those in authority when something smells a little fishy. Do not lump us together into one sheepish, robotic, and nominal faith. Please.

      Delete
    2. Just for the record- no relation.

      Delete
    3. Mr. Jeske,

      Thank you for reading and offering your thoughts. I am an active member of a parish affiliated with the WELS as well. While I didn't attend MLC, I entertained the notion, and did spend 14 years in the WELS education system. As it so happens, some of the other authors on this blog have attended MLC. I bring this up to demonstrate that this blog certainly doesn't paint every person affiliated with the WELS with the same brush.

      The reality is, as I've tried to point out to some of my more zealous colleagues in the past, that the WELS is nothing more than a man-made institution. By its own Constitution, the WELS exists as a voluntary fellowship of those pastors and parishes claiming the Confessions of the Lutheran Church as a true exposition of Scripture, fully accepting them in terms of doctrine and practice. However, the current administration and teachers of the WELS do not share this vision. They have made that clear by their refusal to deal with the false teachings exposed by this blog post, as well as by their excommunication of faithful pastors and laymen (who did nothing more than teach the controversial doctrine of justification by faith alone). That smells more than a little fishy to me; it smells of decomposing flesh.

      I cannot sit idly by while the stench of rotting flesh surrounds me. I know there are good people in the WELS. I know that at its heart the WELS is supposed to be nothing more than a fellowship of Confessional Lutherans. But the people running it (and perhaps even the majority of the people constituting it) are not faithful to this end. So it's our job to raise the alarm on the walls of Zion, because the watchmen are apparently asleep, too afraid to talk, thrown off the wall, or in bed with the invading army.

      I hope that made a bit of sense. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

      Delete
  5. To paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:19, [If nothing else matters than the pastor loves his congregation], "we are of all people most to be pitied."

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It could mean any number of things. Perhaps Time of Grace repented of its errors and took the errant material down. In that case, we should expect a public apology and recantation to be forthcoming. That would be the best construction.

      If that is the case, it would seem that they missed one: http://www.facebook.com/timeofgrace/posts/10150634203523006

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete