God’s Pure Word Alone Brings Genuine Peace

In our day, many Lutherans wish to compromise the pure word of God.  They believe such compromise brings prosperity and peace with the world.  But such peace is only a temporal peace.  And the success such compromises bring is only a temporal success.  It does not last.

God’s word endures forever.  (1 Peter 1:25, Isaiah 40:8).  Therefore, God’s word alone brings genuine peace.  This is because genuine peace is a lasting peace.  It lasts forever.  Christ alone gives us this peace with God in His word of promise.

*

The excerpt below is from C.F.W. Walther’s “Fourth Evening Lecture” delivered October 3, 1884:


When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice.  That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime.  Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God.  They are regarded as men worthy of contempt.

clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word … in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church

But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace.

Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!

woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who … sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls

Try and picture to yourselves what would have happened if Athanasius had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the deity of Christ.  He could have made a compromise with the Arians and put his conscience at ease; for the Arians declared that they, too, believed Christ to be God, only not from eternity.  They said: … “there was a time when He did not exist,” meaning, He had become God.  But they added: “Nevertheless He is to be worshiped, for He is God.”  Even at that remote time, had Athanasius yielded, the Church would have been hurled from the one Rock on which it is founded, which is none other than Jesus Christ.

Again, imagine what would have happened if Augustine had made a slight concession in the doctrine of man’s free will, or rather of the utter incapacity of man for matters spiritual.  He, too, could have made a compromise with the Pelagians and put his conscience at at ease because the Pelagians declared: “Yes, indeed; without the aid of God’s grace no man can be saved.”  But by the grace of God they meant the divine gift which is imparted to every man.  Even at that time, had Augustine yielded, the Church would have lost the core of the Gospel.  There would have been nothing left of it but the empty, hollow shell.  Aye, the Church would have retained nothing but the name of the Gospel.  For the doctrine of the Gospel that man is made righteous in the sight of God and saved by nothing but the pure grace of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, is, as everybody knows, the most important doctrine, the marrow and substance of Christian teaching.  Wherever this doctrine is not proclaimed, there is no Christ, no Gospel, no salvation; there men perish, and for such people it has been in vain that the Son of God has come into the world.

bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men

Lastly, picture to yourselves what would have happened if Luther had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the Holy Supper.  At the time of the Marburg Colloquy he could have made a compromise with Zwingli and put his conscience at ease, because the Zwinglians said: “We, too, believe in a certain presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but not in the presence of Christ’s corporeal substance, because God does not set up such sublime, incomprehensible things for us to believe.”  By this claim Zwingli made Christianity in its entirety a questionable matter, and even Melanchthon, who was usually greatly inclined to make concessions, declared that Zwingli had relapsed into paganism.  Had Luther yielded, the Church would have become a prey to rationalism, which places man’s reason above the plain Word of God.

Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatening.  Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain.  Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect.  Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now, after 1500 years, or, in the last named case, after several centuries, the Church is reaping what they sowed.

Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine.  Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did.

— C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel,
Concordia Publishing House, 1929, 1986,
pages 28-30.


Jesus said:

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

— Revelation 2:9-10, ESV.

Pastor Lidtke’s Letters of Recognition

IMG_3941wbb

Recently after the divine service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Pastor Paul Lidtke received some letters of recognition.  In the picture above from left to right is Pastor Lidtke, State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Congressman Glenn Grothman, Camille Solberg, and the congregation president Greg Kargus.

IMG_3946wbb

Many of Pastor Lidtke’s accomplishments came as a surprise.  Apparently, in addition to preaching and visitation, he also does many other things such as help counsel offenders and victims of crime.

I have always been impressed by his good pastoral care and common sense.  He is an earthy preacher who proclaims the pure word of God without adding a bunch of nonsense; for example, he doesn’t preach about himself.

And that is why he was embarrassed by the letters of recognition he received.  (He did not know that he was going to get them until only a few days before the service).  Nonetheless, they were obtained for him out of love and appreciation.

IMG_3954wb

One of the challenges of photography at Bethlehem Lutheran Church is the amber stained glass windows.  They can make it difficult to get a clear color-balanced picture.  Nonetheless, I like how the pictures above and below brought out the beautiful color, grain, and texture of the wood in the sanctuary.

IMG_3962wbr

In the end, it is all about Christ.  His cross, his sacrifice, his sacraments, his grace and mercy are the beginning and end of all life.  (John 14:6).


Notes

For all the pictures in this post, I used Digital Photo Professional to do the white balance on RAW files.  DPP came bundled with my camera, and can be very useful when dealing with certain types of tricky indoor lighting.

Pastor Lidtke to Receive Letters of Recognition

WELS logoToday, I received a news release indicating that Pastor Paul Lidtke will be receiving letters of recognition for his work in advocating for victims and helping to rehabilitate offenders.  The letters will be presented on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 10 am after the 9 am divine service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church; 1206 Ontario Street; Oshkosh, WI 54901.

Oshkosh Pastor Receiving Eight Letters of Recognition

Reverend Paul J. Lidtke, a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) pastor, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oshkosh, WI will receive 8 Letters of Recognition from Wisconsin leaders and government officials on Sunday, April 19th at 10:00am for his work as a victim advocate and with offender rehabilitation.

Several victims along with other ministers and attorneys contacted Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s office to let him know how much Pastor Lidtke has done for them and what he has meant to them.  In his written Letter of Commendation, Governor Scott Walker thanked Pastor Lidtke for encouraging and assisting crime victims in the State of Wisconsin, particularly in advocating on their behalf to make sure they received the help and support they so desperately need.

Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also adds, “His work in the victim advocacy and offender rehabilitation fields is praiseworthy.”  Kleefisch further stated that Pastor Lidtke’s, “efforts and leadership over the past 25 years have helped make a lasting difference in countless lives.”

Pastor Lidtke’s commitment and dedication to victims goes well beyond his congregation.  As expressed by one victim, “It is with his leadership and crucial contributions to assist and empower victims, that he has given hope to many, even under the most difficult circumstances.”  Pastor Lidtke has gone above and beyond advocating for victims and, “his voice became their voice and that gave them strength” states Harry Sydney, former Green Bay Packer and founder of My Brother‘s Keeper.

In addition to victim advocacy, Sydney also states, “The impact of Reverend Lidtke’s relentless efforts can be felt from his work in prisons as he works with individuals preparing themselves for their next chapters in their lives.”  On at least one occasion, he spent four years encouraging and supporting a woman on parole so she wouldn’t reoffend again recalls Reverend Daniel Krause, a former Wisconsin Lutheran Institutional Ministries pastor and Winnebago County Sheriff’s chaplain.

Governor Scott Walker, in closing, praised Pastor Lidtke by saying that he “is a wonderful example that others would do well to emulate”.

Reverend Paul J. Lidtke Recognitions:

  • Letter of Commendation Given by:  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • Letter Given by:  Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch
  • Attending and speaking:  Wisconsin State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt
  • Attending and speaking:  U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06)
  • Letter Given by:  United States Senator Ron Johnson
    • Read by:  Camille Solberg – Regional Director/State Minority Outreach Coordinator for Ron Johnson
  • Letter Given by:  Burke Tower, Former Mayor of Oshkosh
  • Letter Given by:  Harry Sydney, Former Green Bay Packer and founder of My Brother’s Keeper
  • Letter Given by:  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) Northern Wisconsin District President Joel Zank

When this first started, it was supposed to be a surprise for Pastor Lidtke, but this simple expression of gratitude and appreciation quickly grew too large to keep it a secret from Pastor Lidtke.  So now the information is public.

For members of WELS churches who might be interested in attending the 9 am divine service, Bethlehem Lutheran Church receives the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day (every Sunday).

May the Lord bless Pastor Lidtke.

Meritless Lawsuits and Spiritual Abuse

WELS logo

A little over a year ago, Pastors Glende and Skorzewski and two of their staff members brought four meritless lawsuits against a former member of their congregation.  All four lawsuits were either dismissed or thrown out of court for having no merit.  Here are some links to articles about the issues:

However, unanswered questions remain.  This article asks just one of those questions:  Will Pastors Glende and Skorzewski ever express contrition for bringing these meritless lawsuits?  Or in other words, will there be any fruit of repentance?

Pastor Skorzewski made repeated unwanted sexual comments toward another man’s wife.  Pastor Glende also made a rude sexual comment.  Then when her husband complained at an “informational meeting” about the matter, they took him to court.

They asked the court to issue a restraining order because he had been complaining about them.  Put another way, they wanted a secular court to potentially throw a man in jail, because he had complained about them and their inappropriate sexual comments.

Jail.  Think about that for a moment.  When someone violates a restraining order, they often go to jail.  Jail.

So this was not a little thing.  This was not two pastors gossiping behind someone’s back.  They and their staff filed four (4) restraining order petitions.  Disobeying a court restraining order is called contempt of court, and a remedy for contempt of court is jail.

Glende took his case right to trial, however, his case was so weak the court threw his case out before the defense even presented any evidence.  For example, on the witness stand Glende complained that the layman had asked his family and friends on Facebook for prayers and support.

Think about that for a moment.  A WELS pastor complained to a secular court that a layman asked his family and friends for prayers and support.

Here is Pastor Glende’s testimony under oath:

A:   Okay, I received this.  I received it yesterday.  It was dated yesterday at 2:29.  I believe that would have been from Wednesday.

THE COURT:   What is it?

WITNESS [Glende]:   It’s a Facebook post that was made by [Jonathan] and then there are several comments that follow below.

BY ATTORNEY GILL:

Q:   Could you read them to the Court?

A:   The comment that was Jonathan’s posting was,

“If anyone would like to support Mara Rose and I Friday at 9:30 to noon at the Outagamie County courthouse, that would be amazing.  There’s currently four temporary restraining orders against me for alleged harassment by me from four petitioners.  They are the former pastor of The CORE church, his assistant, the senior pastor at St. Peter and his assistant.  They were filed after I attended the meeting on August 13.  I was allowed to speak at it, too.  I’m thankful to get my day in court.  Mind you, this is the same church where their leadership caused repeated sexual harassment against my wife, drinking on the job, and using an AK-47 as a church prop, ‘lapse in judgment.’  They are in the process of potentially reinstating one of the pastors that was ordered to resign.  I hope and pray that many others will too see the potential pitfalls they are creating with others and past and current decisions.  Thanks for your prayers and support, Jonathan and Mara.”

— Court transcript, pages 19-20.

Does that sound like harassment?  Does that sound like the sort of behavior that should potentially result in time spent in jail?

This is serious.  Would you like your pastor to treat you like this?  Why does the WELS tolerate this sort of behavior?

The danger here is not just that two litigious guys can bring spectacularly bad lawsuits against innocent people and threaten to have them thrown in jail, but that two pastors, with impunity, have wronged a layman.  This is not just secular abuse, it is spiritual abuse.

This is one of the ways that faith is destroyed:

Satan gets another Christian to sin against us in deed or word.  It pleases Satan if a person with spiritual significance or authority, such as a parent, pastor, spouse, or leader in the Church sins against us.  Their spiritual status, their office, magnifies their offense and intensifies the damage that it does.  This is a kind of ritual abuse, the misuse of holy things against us.

Grace Upon Grace, by John W. Kleinig, page 234.  Emphasis added.

Can we do better?  The WELS must do better, for the sake of the Lord’s name.

Pastor’s AK-47 Sermon Prop

WELS logoRecently, a WELS pastor used an assault rifle as a sermon prop, specifically an AK-47.

The original Kalashnikov AK-47 was developed by the Russians during the Cold War, and came to be associated with the enemies of America and the West.  During the Vietnam War, it was the primary infantry weapon used by the North Vietnamese Army and The Vietcong.  (Vietnam War.net).  Although often associated with the Cold War, the AK-47 is still in widespread use today.  (GunClassics.com).  Because it is easy to produce and operate it is a favored weapon of many guerrilla and resistance groups, and is currently in use by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Recently, the U.S. Army fought against an insurgency in Iraq.  When a soldier serves in an area of insurgency, he must be on constant guard because he could be shot at anytime, anywhere, by anyone, even people dressed as civilians.  Over prolonged periods of time this can be very stressful, and often has a profound negative psychological effect.  Even after returning home, when in public, many combat veterans still prefer to keep their backs to a wall as protection.

Therefore, under such circumstances, one can imagine how veterans of a recent insurgency war like Afghanistan or Iraq might feel when they see the preferred weapon of their enemy.  I can imagine that they would be made to feel at a minimum profoundly uncomfortable.  In fact, a veteran of the Iraq War complained about the sermon prop, and said the AK-47 made him uncomfortable and that it was an improper prop to use in a sermon.

The sermon took place at a WELS congregation that calls itself (among other things) “922 Church.”   922 refers to 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  According to their website

being “all things to all people” means the following:

•  offering a variety of worship opportunities each week all grounded on the truth of God’s Word but different in style—some using the traditional Lutheran Liturgy, others being modern traditional, and still others that are non-traditional.  We believe this variety is essential so that we can reach more people.  Different worship styles “speak” to people differently, so our members and guests are able to pick the form of worship that is most meaningful to them so that they’re motivated to live their lives for the Lord.

•  using technology and the visual arts in worship and beyond

What purpose does an AK-47 have in a sermon?  An assault rifle does not deliver the forgiveness of sins, nor does it render unto God a sacrifice of praise.  After the service, what were people talking about?  Jesus?  Sin?  Forgiveness?  Or the fact that the pastor had a gun in church?  And not just a gun, but a big gun?  And a notorious gun?  But that is just the point.  From the perspective of the church Growth Movement, getting people excited about “church” is what is important.  “Becoming all things to all people” is about giving the customers what they want, and bringing them back for more.  And if a big notorious gun will serve to get people excited and talking and coming, then it served its purpose.

However, a gun is not God’s word.  God has promised to come to us in word and sacrament.  Do we trust God’s promises and means?  Or do we trust in the “wisdom” of men?

It is not wrong to use a prop in a sermon.  But what is the wisdom supporting the prop?  Is it the hidden wisdom of God hidden in word and sacrament?  (1 Corinthians 2:7).  Or is it the wisdom of men that seeks attention and earthly glory?

Prayers for the WELS 2013 Convention

WELS logoThe Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod 2013 convention is being held this week in New Ulm, Minnesota.  Please pray for our brothers in the faith.

One of the major issues for the convention is the need of a new Bible translation.  Earlier this year, President Schroeder shared his thoughts on the translation issue in a paper entitled: “My Thoughts on the Translation Issue.”  President Schroeder’s thoughts are well worth reading.

May the Lord bless this convention with wisdom, truth, and brotherly love.

Almighty God and Lord, grant the delegates in New Ulm Your presence.  Enlighten and guide them by Your Word that in all matters of deliberation they may always consider the best interests of Your Church.  Let Your Holy Spirit rule and direct their hearts that, in the spirit of Christian love, they may present and discuss matters truthfully and be kindly disposed toward one another, to the end that all they say and do may please You; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

(The above indented prayer is a paraphrase of “To open a congregational meeting” from Lutheran Service Book, 307).

The Adventures of Lloyd Lutheran: WELS TOF 2

One day, Lloyd Lutheran wrote on his Facebook page:

“Should we continue in Christian fellowship with unrepentant plagiarists?  No.  Therefore, we must call the unrepentant plagiarists in the WELS to repentance.”

The next day, Lloyd’s pastor called him on the telephone:

Pastor:  Lloyd, based on your Facebook post, we terminated your fellowship with the WELS.

Lloyd Lutheran:  Why?

Pastor:  Because you clearly said you did not want to be in fellowship with unrepentant plagiarists.

Church Status

IMG_8807 csed

Saint Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Freedom, WI (WELS) was my life-long home congregation.  (St. Peter’s daughter congregation is The CORE in Appleton, WI).

In the Spring of 2011, the leadership of St. Peter Congregation terminated my fellowship with the WELS as a persistent errorist based on two letters that I wrote.  Those two letters are linked below:

They said in a certified letter that they removed me as a persistent errorist because in those letters I publicly disagreed with Pastor Glende and the Northern Wisconsin District Presidium on three doctrinal issues:

  1. I said that plagiarism was a sin, and that Pastor Glende was guilty of plagiarism.
  2. I said that God does not need our service: in other words, the means of grace are sufficient.
  3. I said that in the light of faith Christians cannot choose to believe God’s Word: in other words, from beginning to end, faith is 100% the gift of God.

Because I believed that these positions were not doctrinal error, I appealed.  However, the Northern Wisconsin District Appeal Board denied my appeal without explanation.  (Because the Appeal Board’s written decision contained no explanation, I believe their decision was based on politics, not principle).  Now, I have three choices:

  1. Sin against my conscience by renouncing the above true Christian doctrine, and then presumably rejoin St. Peter Congregation.
  2. Refuse to publicly recant the true Christian doctrine, and remain excluded from the WELS forever.  (The WELS Constitution §§ 8.30(c) and 8.50(e) would forbid my return).
  3. Disregard the District Appeal Board’s ruling and the WELS Constitution (§§ 8.30(c) and 8.50(e)), and continue indefinitely in triangular fellowship with other WELS congregations who agree with me in doctrine.  (Currently, this is where I am).

In summary, the leadership of St. Peter Congregation terminated my fellowship with the WELS because I questioned the methodology and doctrine of Pastors Glende and Skorzewski and the Northern Wisconsin District Presidium’s defense of their false doctrine and practice.

I did my best to resolve these issues in a brotherly way by spending years attempting to meet privately, and then after years of private effort, by ultimately bringing these concerns to the Church.  In return, the leadership of St. Peter Congregation terminated my fellowship with the WELS as a persistent errorist.

Lord, have mercy.

For further reading:

WELS Appeal Denied

As background to this post, please see the previous posts: “Terminated from WELS Fellowship” and “Receiving Holy Communion in the WELS.”

On April 11, 2011 St. Peter congregation terminated my fellowship with the WELS as a persistent errorist, and also removed my brother from membership in the congregation.  (Minutes from April 11, 2011 meeting).

Since my fellowship with the WELS was terminated wrongfully, I appealed.  On June 23, 2011, I received the following letter:

June 17, 2011

Dear Mr. Techlin,

We thank you for the material you provided to our Board of Appeals and for the time you spent with us.  After prayerfully considering the evidence in the matter of your appeal, we, the members of the Northern Wisconsin District Board of Appeals have determined that St. Peter Lutheran congregation had Scriptural reasons for removing you from membership and, in doing so, acted in the spirit of Christian love.  We are therefore, denying your appeal.

We commend you to the care of our gracious God, trusting that he will be at work in you “… to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

Sincerely,
Pastor David Wenzel
NWD Board of Appeals

It is hard to accept this because the Board of Appeals offered no reasons to support their decision.  Left unanswered are the following questions:

  • What are the “Scriptural reasons” for my termination of fellowship?
  • Of what false doctrine am I guilty?
  • Of what do I need to repent before I can commune?

In order to commune, am I supposed to say that God needs our service?  Am I supposed to say that Christians can choose to believe God’s Word?  Am I supposed to say that the deceit and false doctrine involved with plagiarizing false teachers is not a sin?

How can an ambush termination of fellowship be construed as acting “in the spirit of Christian love”?  Where am I supposed to receive the Lord’s Supper?  What denomination am I supposed to join?  Am I supposed to become an unaffiliated lone Lutheran Christian who never communes?  Or should I join a denomination that actually serves the Lord’s Supper more than twice a month, and just forget about agreeing with anyone on doctrine?

The Board of Appeals was supposed to determine “whether the process leading to the disciplinary action and the doctrinal basis of the disciplinary action were scriptural.”  (WELS Constitution, Section 8.50; Appeals by Laypersons.  Emphasis added).  However, the Board of Appeals told me they were not going to consider the doctrine.  They told me that the District Presidium was in charge of doctrine, not them.  So whatever the District President said the doctrine was, the Board of Appeals was going to agree with him.  Therefore, since my doctrinal disagreement was not only with Pastors Glende and Skorzewski, but also with District President Engelbrecht, by the rules of this appeal, I had no chance to win on the doctrine.

Furthermore, I have no idea how the Board of Appeals ruled against me on procedure.  I had no notice that St. Peter congregation was going to terminate my fellowship with the WELS.  I had no opportunity to speak on my own behalf and defend myself.  I had no opportunity to face my accusers and answer their charges directly.  They still have not told me of what false doctrine I am supposed to be guilty.  Procedurally, I was treated worse than our secular society treats accused criminals.

As part of the appeal, I was still not allowed to face my accusers, and no pastors were allowed to help me or speak on my behalf, even though I had numerous WELS pastors who were willing to help.

All the accusations made against me were made behind my back, and I was given no chance to understand the charges or to directly confront my accusers face to face.  This is not how a church should operate.

This fact remains:  I caught Pastor Glende red-handed in the sin of plagiarism: he was plagiarizing false teachers.  I documented the evidence, and followed every procedure that was required of me.  As a result, Pastor Glende received no discipline, and I had my fellowship in the WELS terminated as a persistent errorist (without an allegation of a specific error).  Again I ask: what is my doctrinal error?

For now, I belong to no earthly congregation.  Still, I am grateful to the WELS pastors who have told me that they will continue to commune me until District President Engelbrecht satisfactorily explains to them why I am guilty of false doctrine and why I should be excluded from their fellowship.

Shepherds are supposed to defend the sheep, not kill them.  (John 10:1-19).