Trinity Lutheran starts in Norcross!

On April 14, 2019, Trinity Lutheran Church begins Word and Sacrament ministry in Norcross, Georgia!

Trinity’s new location will be at Norcross Elementary School (150 Hunt St. Norcross 30071).  Both worship and Bible study will be in the cafeteria.

Trinity Lutheran Norcross logo with schedule

Get the word out so that people looking for a good church in Norcross can start to gather!  Worship and Bible Study begins at Norcross Elementary School on April 14.  Plan on attending and supporting the ministry as it reaches out to all people in the area with God’s eternal Word and gracious Gifts!

More information on Trinity Lutheran can be found at http://www.TrinityLutheran.net.

 

Rev. Rojas on the Giver of Life

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:13-14


Meditation: The Author and Giver of Life

God is the Author and Giver of Life, and life begins at conception. When God created this world, He blessed Adam and Eve with the command to procreate: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). This wasn’t a command to “be productive” or to “work hard.” This was a command to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28) with people. Soon after giving this command, God reveals to Adam and Eve exactly how they will “be fruitful” and “fill the earth”—”A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It’s a common misconception that “one flesh” refers to some spiritual union between husband and wife (think of the language of ‘soul-mates’ and ‘destiny’). But this is not what Scripture says. When Scripture says, “they shall become one flesh,” it means they will have a baby. An infant is the flesh of only the father and the mother combined. Every human being who has ever lived (except for Adam and Eve, and Christ Himself) are the combined flesh of their two parents: father and mother.

God didn’t keep the joy of creation for Himself—He gave it to us. (Christians should ban the term “reproduction” from their vocabulary; instead, use “procreation.” “Reproduction” is an industrial and business term that refers to inanimate objects. People started to use this word to refer to “making babies.” It’s crass. We “procreate.” This language affirms that there is a Creator—God—who “brings forth” His creation through His creatures. It’s a beautiful image.) God shares a glimpse of His joy of creation with us! The unspeakable joy that a father and mother have in seeing their child’s face at birth and then showering that child with undeserved gifts for the rest of his life is a splinter of the joy God has in creating and sustaining us.

God creates life through a man and a woman. If you ever want to know the definition of marriage and family, just consider where every human being came from—The sexual union between one man and one woman. When God chooses to make another human, when God chose to make you, He chose to first bring together your father and your mother. In doing this, He joined them together in the most profound and blessed union on the face of this planet. And, in God’s time and according to His Will, He caused you to be made in conception. He formed your inward parts. He knitted you together in your mother’s womb—He threaded your veins and arteries from your heart to your limbs, He formed your bones and jointed them together, He placed every hair follicle precisely where He determined it to be. And for all of this, it is our duty to thank and praise Him, serve and obey Him. Every human being is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Lamentably, there are many who deny this. There are many who claim that there is no Creator, that life doesn’t begin at conception, and that some people are not fearfully or wonderfully made. Some people advocate and pay for the murder of infants in and out of the womb(even nominally Christian denominations!), simply because they reject the undeniable and demonstrable truth that life begins at conception. Others are driven to despair and end their life because they hate their bodies, their life, and their entire being. They reject the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by their dear Father in heaven who loves them. Birth defects and physical troubles don’t negate God’s love. These things prove that original sin and its consequence of death is real—This should move us not to deny this life, but to seek eternal life in Christ all the more!

There have been 61 million abortions and counting in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade (There have been 1.5 billion worldwide). This is a holocaust. This all comes from the denial of God as Creator, the Father, the Source, the Author and Giver of Life. When we deny that God gave us life, we will soon deny the life God gave to others. To murder infants—for whatever reason—is an abomination. This is an indescribable horror, one too ghastly to think about. Yet it happens every day.

The world denies God and the life He so graciously gave them. But it shouldn’t be this way with you. Don’t despise God or the life He gave you or the body He so fearfully and wonderfully knit together in your mother’s womb. Learn to accept your life as a gift of God and the life of others as gifts from God as well. Don’t fall into the “pragmatism” of the day that prevents children from being born through birth control or “Plan-B pills.” Learn to confess that children are a gift from God Himself and that we should never prevent God’s Will from being done. Husbands should never deny children to their wives, and wives should never deny children to their husbands (1 Corinthians 7:4). There’s never a good reason to prevent or end the life of a child. However, if you’ve fallen into such vice in the past before, repent. Repent and remember that God, the Author and Giver of Life, willingly gave Himself into death for your sake to forgive all of your sins. Remember that God loved your life and body and existence more than you ever could. He not only loved you into existence, but He loved you into His kingdom as He gave life and limb, flesh and blood for your salvation. The God who formed you in your mother’s womb made Himself to be in the womb of the Virgin Mary to redeem you, to live the perfect life in your place since His conception. He created you. He redeemed you. And now He sanctifies you with His Word.

Rejoice in the life God gave you now, and the eternal life He has promised to you through faith in His only begotten Son. Love and protect the life that He gave to your neighbor, even your neighbors you haven’t met yet still in the womb.

+ Rev. Roberto Rojas Jr.

Epiphany of our Lord

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’” ~ Matthew 2:1-3

HE STILL SEEKS WISE MEN.  This is not the phrase you see this time of year.  In fact, nobody would buy it or understand it.  Instead, we see the bumperstick “Wise men still seek Him.”  We would all agree that it would be very wise to seek Jesus!  But, alas!  We are not wise!  Even the fall into sin could be understood in light of Romans 1:22, “claiming to be wise, they became fools.”  The Gospel is foolishness to those who are wise (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).  In Matthew 2, it is the Lord Who is seeking the magi!  The best translation of the Greek word magi is . . . you guessed it . . . magi!  If we call them “wise men,” it is only because they were wise in their dark arts.  They were definitely pagans.  As Chaldeans rulers, they may have had some lingering memory of what the faithful Hebrews told them in Babylonian exile, but they were still wandering and wondering souls.  They were lost.

We must gladly remember this.  This is consistently Biblical from the beginning to the end.  We don’t end up believing in God because we find Him.  Or seek Him.  Or make a decision for Him (read Ephesians 1:3-14 sometime!).  Or even “accept” Him.  Uh. . . . you can’t do that either.  Only the Holy Spirit can create the new life that we call saving faith (1 Corinthian 12:3).  God was not lost in Genesis 3 or any chapter after that.  God is the One Who has been seeking and finding as a Good Shepherd looks for His Sheep.  He is the One Who drew the wise man out of their spiritual darkness to the place where they could interact with the King of kings.  The Light of the world was shining forth through this toddler (Jesus was living in a home in Bethlehem by the time the magi arrived) that themagi would eventually “find.”  One tiny, lasting word from one of Yahweh’s dear people in exile was enough to prepare the wise men to travel to see the true King when the star drew them forth.  And . . . coming to the place where Jesus was, they fell down before Him and worshipped Him.  They opened up to Him their gifts, which were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The first two were kingly gifts indeed, but the last one, myrrh, which was used in the burial process, was already revealing that this tiny eternal Messiah would be the Savior of the world.  He was born to die and born to save the lost.

God finds us.  He sent Jesus to find both Jews and Gentiles.  He sent Him to save both the low-born and the high-class.  He came to save the notoriously sinful, but also those who still think that they are wise in their own eyes.  Yes, He still seeks wise men!  He still seeks those flirting with all kinds of false spirituality and the deep darkness of self- worship.  He is seeking all those trapped in the new age movement and worshipping idols in temples.  Christ came to liberate us from the our bondage to sin through His liberating life and salvation through His atoning death and glorious resurrection.  He puts down a name through Word with water in Baptism to find, to save, to keep.  This very Lord, Who once was so tiny and helpless, is now at the right hand of the Father with all things under His feet.  He is the very merciful and conquering Lord Who stoops down to strengthen with His Body and Blood in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  Jesus is a King Who stays for us with the forgiveness of sins until the closing of the age (Matthew 28:20).

As recorded in George Malech’s Book, “History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-Apostolic Church of the East,” there is a group of Christians who claim that their origins go back to the mission work of the converted Magi who told of the newborn King.  They also have a record of the names of the 12 ruling magi who came to see Jesus.  Do we know this for a fact?  No, because it is not recorded in the Holy Scriptures.  But . . . what we do know from Word of God is that Jesus is our Savior.  He has come for both Jew and Gentile.  He has delivered us from our spiritual blindness.  He has given us His Words.  These are the very words that we gladly get to tell to those who around us in a lost and hurting world.  Arise, and shine, your Light has come!

Blessed Epiphany!

Rev. Tim Droegemueller

 

The Voice

As Rev. Scott Keith with the 1517 Legacy Project does presentations all around the country on the need for clear distinction between Law and Gospel, he is asked one question more than any others.  The question is “where can I get this stuff on a regular basis?”  And . . . 99% of people who ask this question is already attending a church.  To serve the necessity of growing in our understanding of this eternally crucial need, here is some instruction from Martin Luther about the “The voice of one crying in the wildnerness (Isaiah 40:3).”

Luther writes:

By this prophecy Isaiah promises a new kind of teaching beyond that which had been in vogue heretofore.  For in this way the evangelists begin.  The voice of one crying.  It is as if he were saying: “The preaching of the Law was a muttering, incomplete and unpleasant to all ears, and produced nothing but hypocrites.  But here comes a voice, a clear and complete and universal proclamation which purely and joyously and most loudly declares that the warfare is ended and that sins are forgiven.”  This is received from “a voice,” that is, through the public preaching of the Word.  It must be heard and recieved from a speaking voice.  Away with our schismatics, who spurn the Word while they sit in corners waiting for the Spirit’s revelation, but apart from the voice of the Word!  They say one must sit still in a corner and empty the mind of all speculations, and then the Holy Spirit will fill it.  The sophists also taught this.  In vain, however, do we rely on this, and that for two reasons.  In the first place, because we are not able to empty our souls of speculations.  The devil will provide you with many thoughts.  In the second place, because the flesh has not yet been killed in you.  When you have heard the Word, you earnestly kill the flesh and empty your soul.  It will happen in no other way.  No one becomes spiritual without this voice.  Away with all Enthusiasts (those who trust God will work apart from the Word and Sacraments).  Take note: The beginning of all spiritual knowledge is this voice of one crying, as also Paul says, Romans 10:14: “How are they to believe . . . without a preacher?”

The voice of one crying, that is, a new kind of teaching which should be proclaimed everywhere.  In the wilderness.  This voice is sent forth in the wilderness both by the preacher himself and by the hearers.  By contrast, wilderness is placed opposite the teaching of the Law.  For like a jail, a wall, and a city, the Law secures and fences us in.  The voice of the Gospel, however, is a free wilderness, open to all, public, and unrestrained like a wilderness.  There is indeed a limitation about the Law, but the teaching of the Gospel is most free and most unrestrained.  Hence all these words are as by contrast set against the teaching of the Law.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness.  This voice of the Gospel takes the place of the whispering murmur, which teaches the Law in specified localities.  This voice, however, has no definite place and teacher.  Moses whispers, but the Gospel shouts confidently and most vigorously.” 

~Luther’s Works vol. 40: 8.

The Shepherd is Not Lost

Look at this video the next time you are tempted to that anyone has “found” Jesus.  Thank you Rev. Adam Ellsworth of Grace Lutheran in Midtown for providing…

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1889714241323339&id=1481293402183632

 

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him (Jesus). 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Challenging Consumerism

Essay from John J. Bombaro

For the better part of four decades, pollster and prolific author George Barna has influenced the trajectory of North American evangelicalism. His 1984 founding of the Barna Research Group (now the Barna Group), more than fifty books, and now presidency of Metaformation (a faith development organization) has made him perhaps the most quoted person in Protestantism today. His genius has been to interpret evangelical churches, parachurches, and associations in marketing categories and to think of parishioners along with unchurched persons as consumers.

Barna understands our times. Barna understands the modern person as well. Consumerism shapes, even begets, our basic identity. Here Barna approaches an insight that requires more penetrating analysis; namely the idea that consumerism drives secularism, not the other way around. If this is in fact the case, then our understanding of the context into which we preach should be that we live in a consumeristic society in which secularism is a byproduct. Consumerism would then be more basic to our belief formation and the formation of our habits and rituals than secularism or nationalism or (and here is Barna’s point) Christianity. Christianity, at least as we find it throughout the US and Canada, has been enveloped by consumerist thinking and practice.

So, if evangelical churches are going to be “successful” in our present milieu, argues Barna in many of his publications, then it needs to reorient its thinking about what is foundational to our culture and identity: consumption. It is neither the holy faith, nor the constitution that binds together “we the people”. Instead, it is consumerism. This is an important insight. However, Barna took things into a direction that steered American evangelicalism deeper into the problem, rather than challenging consumeristic ideology in ways that Alan Noble and James K. A. Smith presently are doing.[1] Stated differently, Barna encouraged embracing consumerism as a paradigm; for the church and in the church. Furthermore, reflecting on the evidence of his polling data, Barna came to understand that if the church is not necessarily defined in the confessional categories of the local assembly gathered around the pure preaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments administered according to that Gospel (such as we find in the Augsburg Confession, VII.1 http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php#article7), but rather reconceived as a voluntary organization that provides resources for personal enrichment, spirituality, and felt needs, then the church attains the potential to compete in the marketplace of religious experiences.

Barna’s economic reconception of the church in light of market forces helped to legitimize the shift from the institutional church to “alternative faith communities.” In 2005 he wrote, “Whether you examine the changes in broadcasting, clothing, music, investing, or automobiles, producers of such consumables realize that Americans want control over their lives. The result has been the ‘niching’ of America—creating highly refined categories that serve smaller numbers of people but can command greater loyalty (and profits).”[2] Niche churches, vying for shelf space in the religious marketplace, have been the result.

During the past four decades local churches have seen the need to embrace niche strategies and market themselves as appeal-boutiques. Barna continues:

With the advent of the church’s design for every generation, some congregations offer divergent styles of worship music or emphasize ministries of interest to specialized populations and so forth. The church landscape now offers these boutique churches alongside the “something for everybody” megachurches. In the religious marketplace, the churches that have suffered most are those who have stuck with the one size fits all approach; typically proving that one size fits nobody. Furthermore, consumers are demanding practical faith experiences over doctrine. They seek novelty and creativity rather than predictability in religious experiences, and the need for time shifting rather than inflexibility in the scheduling of religious events.[3]

In other words, traditional faith that is committed to traditionary ecclesiology and manifest through traditional liturgy to form and inform heirs of the Gospel tradition calls for far too much costly discipleship, inconvenient conformity, and unity (if not uniformity) in an age of self-expression, personal preferences, and individualism. Stated plainly, the old way of doing church will not sell. There is no market for it, so do not preach to that end, advises Barna. Western culture, through the marketing medium of pop-culture, engenders auditors (both inside and outside the church) who believe they deserve this and that, that they, “could have it [their] way.” The value is the consumer is always right and, indeed, the customer is king. Hence, Barna’s advice for contemporary Christianity:

It is… critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign. If our advertising is going to stop people in the midst of hectic schedules and cause them to think about what we’re saying, our message has to be adapted to the needs of the audience. When we produce advertising that is based on the take-it-or-leave-it proposition, rather than on a sensitivity and response to people’s needs, people will invariably reject our message.[4]

The questions for the preacher who subscribes to Barna’s credentialed, researched, and substantiated theses then are these: What is my sovereign’s bidding? What do they want to hear and how will they like it? Or, put differently, how do I market a niche with the branding and content with which target consumers are familiar and comfortable and would keep them coming back for more?

But while George Barna was convincingly opining about the need for new methods in these new times due to new market forces, Tenth Presbyterian Church’s Senior Pastor, James Montgomery Boice (esteemed voice of the “Bible Study Hour” and master expositor), cautioned that whatever you use to get them into the church is what you have to use to keep them in it. If it was preaching as the church of “what’s-happening-now” that was your curb appeal, then the expectation will be a givenness to what is trending. The problem is, warns Boice, that is not the commissioned message or means for making and sanctifying disciples.

Boice was making an appeal to integrity: don’t bait and switch. That would be deceptive advertising and akin to bearing false testimony. Instead, Boice admonishes staying true to our pastoral mandate to proclaim the full counsel of God in His two words: Law and Gospel. Boice was concerned to say that preaching and gospel evangelism is not about techniques. It is about faithfulness and a reliance upon the Holy Spirit to convict and convert. Preach the Law of God and the Gospel of Christ. After all, the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, not the marketeer or salesman. It is, “Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). We preach a message already stipulated, already defined, already packaged… in weakness. And preaching faithfully the King’s message, his two words of Law and Gospel albeit ever so weak and feeble in the ears of the world, requires courage and integrity from the outset.

Yet, there is a more basic issue at play. If the customer or, better, the consumer receives allegiance as king, then Christ Jesus does not. If the audience’s sovereignty marks the starting point for preaching, then the message, the means, and the results are all going to be aberrations. Nothing is real. It is an alternative, bastardized kingdom, and that is where Barna failed evangelicalism. He capitulated to an economic Zeitgeist rather than calling for preachers to plow up the soil of consumerism in order to plant the Word deeply. Plow, then plant. That is how the King said it would be in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13). The two always go together: plowing the earth as you find it (consumerist) in order to plant the kind of seed that brings forth the fruit the Sower intends.

Preachers are called to proclaim Christ as King over-and-against the sovereignty of the consumer (or even the sovereign voter). And just like a naval ship in which there cannot be two captains, so too for the Christian there cannot be but one Sovereign Lord, and that Lord is Jesus. Jesus came to inaugurate His kingdom, not to sell a product. He came to save sinners and make them coheirs of His kingdom, not to satisfy consumers with happiness because they deserve it. That will take preaching that breaks up the comfortable and expectant soil of consumers. That will take some consistent and persistent explaining from the pulpit. That will take no small amount of courage and faithfulness.

——————————————————————————

[1] See Noble, Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2018) and Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009).

[2] Barna, Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 62-63.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Barna, Marketing the Church: What They Never Taught You About Church Growth (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988), 145.