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Messages - R. T. Fouts

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Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 03, 2013, 08:00:26 AM »
Paul's move into the temples is one thing -- Christianity never claimed to be a "new religion," and Judaism of his day (still pre-Temple destruction in 70 AD) was for all intents and purposes a different religion entirely than it is today where the entire sacrificial system has been reinterpreted.   

Though, what do we make of Paul engaging folks in the market place, where it was common practice for the "popular pseudo-prophets" of the day to stand up, and proclaim their messages (often for a fee).  Should we deem it wrong that Paul went to the same place where these events occurred and spoke among them?  He knew his message was vested with the power of the Holy Spirit on account of Christ, so had no fear that his message would merely "blend" in to the pantheon of various gods and philosophies churning around the Roman Empire.   Is meat sacrificed to idols anything, if their idols are false?  It is not a sin to eat it, but if it causes a weaker brother to stumble then it should be avoided. (In the 21st Century where mass-media makes it more difficult to discern where offense is going to occur, this become even more difficult).   Prayers to false gods, or readings from false texts, are not a threat to the real Word of God...  sometimes we seem, out of fear, to lend more credence to the ability of error to destroy, than we lend to the efficacy of the Word of God to create and sustain faith.  That becomes not a matter of purity, but a matter of faith.   Like Paul, we cannot just keep the Word behind our closed doors for fear that someone might mix it up with something else.  The Word is the Word of God... our theology is not for speculation, it is for proclamation.   

When one speaks of "impressions" of unity -- we have to ask, does the common person have the impression that we all actually agree?  Have we not made it abundantly clear that that we don't?  Or, are the only ones gleaning such an "impression" from such participation in these events... our own pastors, who have our own reasons (rightfully so, to some extent, due to our heritage) be on guard against syncretism?  I get that our culture would like to exhort us all on a pluralistic road, etc., and if gathering together with other religions on a regular basis were our practice, it would be a clear case of syncretism.   When, however, after having maintained our differences and unequivocally maintained and proclaimed our message that Christ is the only way to salvation... if an event comes up due to a community tragedy, and we are all a part of that community, how can we not be there in the marketplace where the Word can be heard, and offer the only hope in contrast to all the false hopes being offered there? 

All those comments made -- the real heart of the issue is whether or not these events that seem to be a rather modern post-tragedy phenomena are better deemed "worshiping together" or if they are more akin to having a voice in the modern "marketplace" where we have the opportunity to proclaim hope to a people in bondage to false gods.   I think FrPeters is correct in that these things don't constitute the "mass" as we understand it, so aren't "worship" in the plain sense.   What we perceive as happening may or may not be what the world sees... the impressions we "think" they are getting from our participation in such things, may not be the impressions they are actually getting... and what impression would declining to participate give?  Would that be a greater, or lesser offense?   

I don't know.  At the end of the day, I've never been faced with having to minister to people who are facing a tragedy in their communities like Sandy Hook, or 9-11.   Is such a case where either participating or declining to participate puts you in the case between choosing sin, or sin?  Perhaps in ministering in such situations we do our best, "sin boldly," and strive to proclaim a clear and certain hope.  That said, "sinning boldly" is still sin, and we can only do so with a posture of repentance.   Thus, I won't join the chorus of those who think this issue is so "black and white."   I have learned in the last 7 years in ministry that ministry is rarely "black and white," and I cannot imagine how I would balance the tension if I were in such a situation.   I would have to do so with some fear and trembling, for sure.    So, these discussions are worth having.  We need to have a more open and honest assessment of how we do engage community, particularly in exceptional times of tragedy, while remaining faithful on the one hand, but not becoming separatists on the other and isolating our voice.   I've been somewhat encouraged by those who offer critical thought to this event, but have also praised Pastor Morris for how he has ministered to the community through this tragedy.  It is not an easy line to walk -- and until I've really been "on the ground" in such a tragedy where ministry must happen, but it must happen with fidelity, I will not throw stones.   

Your Turn / Re: Name A Seminary Professor Who Influenced Your Ministry
« on: January 30, 2013, 10:43:39 PM »
Too many to name...

If I had to name one I would say Robert Kolb has influenced me the most.       

Close runners up would be Norman Nagel, Charles Arand, Kent Burreson, Jeff Gibbs.   

Your Turn / Re: Boy Scouts reconsidering policy against gay membership
« on: January 30, 2013, 11:37:43 AM »
As an Eagle Scout myself, I really don't see a problem with this.   There is no evidence that suggests a direct causative correlation between openness about being a "homosexual" and pedophilia.  Furthermore, there were always very strict protocol in place (at least in the troop I was a part of) that prevented adult leaders from being alone with scouts.  The fact that there have been problems with abuse only shows that they need to reinforce those protocols -- not single out homosexuals as a group as if they are to blame for the problem. In fact, I'd wager that the openly homosexual scout leaders might be the least likely offenders.  They would probably do whatever they could to avoid being in situations that would bring accusations of inappropriate behavior upon them.  Perverts of this dangerous sort are usually "closeted" about their perversions.  If the question is what sort of example scout leadership is setting for young boys -- then where should they draw the line?  How about fathers who have cheated on their wives?  How about alcoholic dads?  Why is being "homosexual" a threat to the scouts?   We aren't talking about them becoming pastors in a church -- it's a civil organization.   If churches start kicking out troops over this... it will be shameful.  Why should this sin be singled out?     

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 30, 2013, 08:42:35 AM »
I'm not condemning it, the condemnations are not wrong just counterproductive if that is the only (or primary) word people are hearing from us.  We, as in Christians in general who value life.

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 30, 2013, 07:29:04 AM »

...a lot of pastors out there condemn abortion...

Imagine that! 

What I hear you saying is that we should do more to help bring healing, and less to teach clearly that abortion is not just a "procedure," but kills babies. 

Or are you proposing that we strive for a better balance of teaching that abortion not only stops a beating heart, but breaks a mother's (and father's) heart?

That's part of it. I just think when we are telling women not to have abortions generally we should be making a case for the alternatives at the same time, and not just making an intellectual case for the alternatives, but a tangible one by showing how we are currently and will continue to embrace women and support them in those alternatives.  Pregnancies are expensive, for example. That becomes a quick excuse for many.  How about we remove that excuse and help with the medical bills when a woman commits to adoption instead?  Particularly if we have agencies already doing this sort of thing, we need to promote these things more effectively when speaking to the issue. 

Removing excuses through mercy often reveals the real heart of the issue, which affords opportunity to address the real heart issues behind why a woman may be choosing abortion. 

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 28, 2013, 01:24:02 PM »
I think you misunderstood my theses.  They were not a treatise against repentance.   I am not pointing any fingers that I'm not also pointing back at myself.   I'm simply suggesting that we all take pause, and reflect, how we have failed to cast light into darkness in this issue.    We should also reflect how some of our tactics may have had an adverse effect on life issues.  It doesn't matter how much I know, or don't know, about what certain agencies in the LCMS are doing.  The bottom line is that the prevailing message we've communicated to culture is condemnatory.    What these agencies are doing to promote life, support women, is commendable.   We just can't pretend that we've done our part by merely applauding them in their laudable tasks, while we all join in the chorus of condemnations that the rest of the world hears.    Again... a brief perusal of my facebook newsfeed makes it very clear that a lot of pastors out there condemn abortion, I haven't seen many posts out there that would lead women considering one to think that we in the church understand, and will embrace them through their struggles.     

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 28, 2013, 10:08:05 AM »
Ryan, who is ever doing enough?  All of us agree that whatever we are doing in the parish, in the neighborhood, in the inner city, in the school, and on the square... it is not enough.  But why do you seem so intent upon belittling what the Church and faithful Christians ARE doing?  As an example of one parish, my own, we highlight the cause of life in the most positive expression from the pulpit yet we do not shy away from the stark reality of what kind of culture discards life because it is inconvenient or "imperfect" or not in my plan... At the same time we are an anchor in the local soup kitchen, we staff the pregnancy center in town with its alternative to abortion and care for the mother and child, we feed the people who come through our door with a weeks worth of groceries, we advocate for all kinds of needs before government and social service agencies, we put up ramps for the disabled, we visit the sick and the elderly (generally weekly), we welcome and support those dealing with alzheimer's and other memory loss, we arrange working visits for the elderly who are alone, and all sorts of other things.  But the point is WE DO NOTHING UNIQUE!  This is what goes on in Lutheran parishes all over the US -- in quiet ways and yet profound service supporting the pro-life cause with more than mere words against abortion. 

Yet, you seem to be saying we should merely shut up and say nothing and do nothing but practice hospitality and affirmation.  "the more vocal we become about the evil of abortion, the more we shut down real opportunity to embrace women and save real lives."  So if we stopped speaking against abortion, we would be making more real headway?????

There are parishes doing this and it is commendable. I still maintain that too few churches are engaged in this way.  I am not speaking of the LCMS alone, but Christian churches across the spectrum.  We have a lot to repent of in the church as well.  I am saying that the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade ought to be an occasion for the church to lead in repentance, not by stomping our feet a little louder with the same tactics that have made very little progress over the last four decades.  We need to own the fact that some of the blood that has been spilled is on us.  We have so frequently been so fervent in our anti-abortion rhetoric that we have in many respects presented an image of the church that most of society knows only for what we oppose. 

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 28, 2013, 09:51:33 AM »
Ok.  It's the culture's fault.  Blame the culture, support organizations where other people do the work, and we are exonerated of any responsibility.  We clearly have nothing to repent of in the church for how we've addressed life issues, or how we've lost our voice in culture at all.   It's culture's fault.   Clearly, the church only thrives and grows in cultures that share their values.... or.... wait.... maybe the opposite is true.   Yes... in fact, the church has only grown and thrived in cultures where the prevailing worldviews were not only different, but often contrary, to their own... and the Church has thrived in those environments not by lobbing out condemnations at culture, but by embracing the rejected, the downtrodden, the poor. 

Frankly -- I don't think our culture in North America has ever been in a better place.   Young people have never been more open and willing to engage spiritual matters... but they've never been more skeptical of institutional movements or loyalties that allow members to "disconnect" from having any real personal investment in a cause.    Blaming culture for "abandoning" the church?   Well, keep doing that until your church no longer exists... and that will be God's righteous judgment against the Church.   It is not the culture's responsibility to conform to the Church... the Church as the Body of Christ has to enter into the world, into culture, and be the Body of Christ where she is planted.   That involves a lot more than marches and rallies... it certainly means more than "rallying" behind institutional organizations that can do the work for us.   These things are vestiges of a church from decades gone by that imagines we have some sort of authoritative voice in culture, demands it, but feels no burden to earn that voice.   

Or... maybe you're right... and we clearly have nothing to repent of.   Thank God that He didn't make me like all those other people in our communities who apparently hopelessly hate God and the Gospel.   

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 28, 2013, 07:23:40 AM »
Buckeye you still miss the point.  What those organizations are doing at many levels is great.  I'm saying it still isn't enough.  Perception is reality. When women won't come to us in the church for support in their decisions because they don't feel like it is a safe place where they will be embraced regardless, but fear being ostracized and called "murderer" then in some respects the blood of babies is on our hands too.  We can insist all day that it isn't our fault, that we do embrace these women, but by and large women are far more likely to turn to planned parenthood or an MD than to our churches for support.  The same thing is true of people struggling with homosexuality by the way.  The churches have too frequently stood with a heavy hand of judgment while hiding their hand of mercy behind their backs.   I am not standing on any sort of moral high ground condemning people, I am standing as one in the church who says it is about time we own up to our own failures on these issues and stop pretending these events have made us innocent heroes.   Simply browsing the slew of posts on social media on the matter that I see Christians make on this matter make it pretty clear that they may be fighting a social cause, but if they are connected to any young women who are struggling with the decision to keep or abort their child, their demeanor on the matter makes it pretty clear that they are the last whom these women will approach for support.  Again, perception is reality.  The more vocal we become about the evil of abortion, the more we shut down real opportunity to embrace women and save real lives.  We won't find a savior on capital hill.

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 27, 2013, 11:32:18 PM »
If as a pastor I find resources lacking to help couples adopt children, to help support young women who would carry their children to term, I doubt that the women who find themselves facing such a choice will find those resources.  I am simply saying there is an imbalance in our approach.   Soapbox?  No I am speaking as someone fully committed to life willing to deal with the plank in my eye on this issue.  I speak as someone who has seen young women get abortions and never turned to the church for support because they had seen others ostracized by the church when their pregnancies became public.   Understanding that we have two kingdoms doesn't mean the world sees that we are operating with distinctions.  The stories of the early church could teach us much. When babies were being left on the hill exposed to die the Christians took them in. The world took notice.  Lamenting the evils of a government that allowed people to get away with this word never have produced such fruit.  Until we have made it clear what we are actually for, and have shown as a people that we are deeply and personally vested in alternatives to abortion, protesting the evil of it isn't going to be particularly persuasive.   Are there efforts being done in the realm of adoption, caring for the poor, unwed mothers with child?  Yes. But not nearly enough.  The churches have largely abandoned the places of pain in our society, we have left the cities and taken refuge in the suburbs, yet still imagine that we can pronounce judgments from our comfortable suburban communities into a world we otherwise wouldn't touch.   No... We aren't vested enough in the loves of real people struggling with these issues of life.  At most, we set up organizations and support them with money giving us a sense of belonging to a cause, but it is an incredibly sterile involvement (sort of like these grand marches and protests) that makes us feel better for standing on principle and rallying behind organizations, but few of us are actually building relationships with the people who are struggling with these decisions and helping them through it. I do not owe you my credentials on this or need to prove some degree of righteousness for this to be true.  I could do more too. We all could.  By all means, march and rally... Just don't fool yourself into thinking that by doing so you have contributed in any meaningful way to life.  Even changing government policies will have little affect if we aren't investing heavily into the hearts and minds of our society. What changes minds and hearts isn't someone who protests the loudest, but those who contrary to everyone else in the world, is willing to actually invest their lives into the lives of real people.  If the culture doesn't want these babies, we should be begging to claim them and raise them as our own. Only then will people take real notice.

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 27, 2013, 06:55:20 PM »
Perhaps it is a generational thing... but for some reason a message seems to lose its authority as soon as it is written on a picket sign.   These grand gestures seem to evoke, in my generation, rolled eyes more than anything else.   The rhetoric of a protest, it seems, does more to entrench either side of an issue in their own ditches, while few are ever really convinced.   

Of course, abortion is an abomination.  But in 40 years what has picketing, protesting, and blasting pictures of aborted babies on billboards really accomplished?  The protest and picketer is increasingly finding that their message falls on deaf ears. 

We tend, as Americans, to think that we've done our duty if we've articulated our allegiance to organizations that, in turn, condemn other organizations.  The reality of issues like this is that they are far more ingrained in the psyche, and personal lives, of individuals.  Until we begin to take up the issue of life at a personal level, rather than imagining we are heralds of new crusade due to our mere affiliations with organizations (and our corresponding opposition to others) the pro-life movement will continue to be marginalized.   It does no good to complain about how the "liberals" are conducting their campaigns and lament that their criticisms are unfair.  We must always be aware that we speak to issues as people with plenty of logs (or picket signs) that need to be cleared from our eyes.  A healthy movement ought always be willing to be critical of itself, and to reevaluate its approach when the methods of the past are deemed ineffective.   

This entire matter takes on a whole different character when as a pastor you are in the office with a young lady who, but a sophomore in High School, finds that she is pregnant.  I should not be shocked that she is considering abortion -- people all around her who she sees as "good" people who contribute to her life may be encouraging it.  It does nothing to tell her that her concerns for how her life will soon change are of less importance than the life of the baby.  Condemning abortion as an "unthinkable" option, may likely guarantee that she'll get one.   When I say we should have some skin in the game -- we should embrace these young ladies with compassion and throw every resource we can imagine her way to show that we not only believe she SHOULD carry her child to term, but so that she believes she is not doing so alone... that we are there to support her every step of the way.   Of course, she should be gently exhorted to repent of her sexual sins, but these young ladies need to feel like it is safe to approach the church and know that we'll have their back rather than ostracize them.   Why?  Precisely because we are pro-life.   When all she has heard from us is that "abortion is murder" she may feel like the church is the last place she should turn.  If, however, she has seen that the church has committed to embracing young women in situations as she is in... she will know that we are bearers of grace, that we actually value life, and don't diminish her fears for her future.   

Your Turn / Re: 2013 March/walk/rally for life
« on: January 27, 2013, 11:04:57 AM »
Amen.  I think over the last 40 years we've done an excellent job getting the "anti-Abortion" message across, but I'm not so sure that the world is particularly convinced that the church really is pro-Life.   There is a difference.   That's one reason why in spite of these marches and protests, which are certainly coming from the right motives, our voice on the issue is becoming increasingly maginalized. 

I don't just mean being "pro-Life" by opposing death of various people groups, unborn babies, the elderly, etc... but actually proactively advocating for life, working to education and encourage adoption in Christian homes.  Investing in caring for widows, the poor, the elderly.   We can lament the evils of our society all day, and speak condemnations... and while those condemnations may be just, they fall on deaf ears if we don't have skin in the game and actually work toward life, supporting women who would carry children to the term, cherishing the elderly and the poor...  These protest events get a lot of press... but sometimes I think we have some pretty large logs in our eyes in the church in how we've failed to really proactively embrace life.   I would be curious how much effort and money goes into putting on a "good show" every Sunday morning, compared to how much time and money Christians are investing in proactive life embracing issues.   

Your Turn / Re: Who Should Be Nominated For LCMS Synodical President?
« on: January 23, 2013, 01:42:15 PM »
Do you really think things in Synod have shifted so far in but a few years that we would be carried from a stanstill with but a few percentage points determining our differences to such a majoirity?   Why is it that the vast number of firings that have went on in the realm of world missions is less publicized than the firing of one radio show host was a few years back? 

Your Turn / Re: Repentance
« on: January 23, 2013, 12:03:41 PM »
We must keep in mind that repentance is not a good work, but also a gift given in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.   There is a "Gospel" side to repentance as well. 

"God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
(Acts 5:31 ESV)

Yes, faith is a gift from God and faith is part of repentance.  Therefore, repentance is a gift from God.


Thus, calling one another to repentance is an act of love for the brother or sister who sins.   Walther has a great statement, I don't remember the page and don't feel like running down two flights of stairs to look it up... but in Law and Gospel.. he says that the Christian should never be offended when called to repentance.  If the accuser is correct, he should be thankful that he has such a brother who would be on guard for his salvation.  If the accuser is wrong, he can still give thanks that he has a brother who cares that much, even if his accusation is misplaced, and continue in faithfulness. 

Your Turn / Re: Repentance
« on: January 23, 2013, 11:44:07 AM »
We must keep in mind that repentance is not a good work, but also a gift given in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.   There is a "Gospel" side to repentance as well. 

"God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
(Acts 5:31 ESV)

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