Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sermon for Reformation Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
John 8:31-36
Free Indeed
Reformation Sunday, 26 October 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We'll stand against the devil's lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is "Love!"
Reaching out to those in darkness.

If ever there was a time for the Church to arise and put on the armor of Christ, it is now. The Church does two things at once. We defend the faith once delivered to the saints and confess the Truth of Holy Scripture, God’s Word, especially the law of God that convicts us of our sin and the Gospel of God in Christ that gives peace to the conscience, reconciliation with God, and the promise of eternal life.
O Church, Arise! This hymn was written by non-Lutherans to honor the tradition of Lutheran hymnody in the life of the Christian church. It encourages me to speak up for truth and defend God’s word against all enemies, foreign and domestic, secular and supposedly “sacred.” God’s truth sets free. Most dangerous are those who lie in God’s name.
There are days we are on defense because the Church and Christians are under attack. There are days we are primarily on offense. That is when we make ourselves known primarily for what we are FOR rather than AGAINST. That is when the Church is known for making disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching God’s Word.
These two things that the Church does are not at war with one another. That would be silly. We are faithful and care about mission. We wish to preserve pure teaching and preserve human life. We oppose abortion, euthanasia, suicide, and murder, yet see a purpose in Romans 13 for just war, self-defense and even capital punishment. The Church can walk and chew gum at the same time. We are the baptized people of God, given to care about Gospel Outreach and Human Care. As President Harrison and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod emphasizes, the work of the Church is Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.  

The Church does these things because of Who God is and What He has done for us in Christ Jesus. We are forgiven that we may forgive. We are blessed so that we may be a blessing. As we abide in God’s Word, He abides in us. Hear again a portion of John 8:
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Free indeed. We are free indeed in Christ. Even when mischaracterized or lied about, persecuted or praised, vilified or seen as a partner by communities or governments, in Christ you are free indeed.
It may not always feel that way when a Houston mayor and City Council cross the line on common sense, free speech, the free exercise of religion, and threaten the liberties of pastors under the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by sending subpoenas for their sermons and communications with members. We may well yearn for the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6 when Christian ministers in Idaho in a for-profit marriage chapel are ordered to conduct same-sex so-called weddings. Granted, their business is not a church, but the religious liberty of wedding photographers and cake bakeries is similarlythreatened.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev'ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.

Hold on to the Word of Christ this Reformation Sunday and always. The Reformation was never really about Luther or Germany or only protesting ecclesiastical authority. It was and is all about Jesus, a return to Scripture, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and reforming human traditions on the basis of Scripture and the Gospel: Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, all to God’s glory alone!

Consider again how you felt when you first heard that Wyoming’s ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was overturned by one Federal judge in Casper. I have great pity, concern, and compassion for anyone struggling with their gender identity or any sexual temptation. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did not come that any of us would remain trapped by any sin, whether it is habitual gossip and slander or fornication and adultery. The simple practical reality that some sins have less consequences than others does not mean that such sins are harmless. If one keeps the whole law, as James writes, but fails at one point, he has become accountable for breaking all of the Commandments of God.
As a pastor I will continue to do premarital counseling for the kind of couple God has promised in Scripture to bless, one man and one woman. Whether Synod and legal counsel will advise us to visit a Justice of the Peace for the actual legal ceremony remains to be seen. Some fear that a pastor’s name on a wedding license may open him and his congregation up to lawsuits if he and his congregation will not also perform Christian ceremonies for same-sex couples contrary to Scripture. In Luther’s Germany, the pattern was to get a civil marriage and then have a Church ceremony. In Luther’s case, his church wedding was two weeks after the civil ceremony, the equivalent of our “marriage license” from the county court house.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do on occasion speak from the pulpit about political matters. I speak up when religious liberty is at stake, when a governing authority threatens your and my right under heaven and the Constitution of the United States to freely assemble, speak, and exercise our religious freedom in accordance with the Holy Bible. Are such concerns political? Yes. Are they coming from a partisan perspective? No. My Call as your pastor is to preach and teach the Word of God. And my Bible still includes Romans 1 and Genesis 18-19, just to mention two relevant passages.
In Acts 5:29, Peter reminds us that “We must obey God rather than men.” Do not be surprised if a government gives citizens the legal freedom under the authority of the state to do something condemned by the Lord in His Word, something prohibited by the Ten Commandments, something clearly identified as sin. Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” We could also say, “What God has not joined together, let not man dare join together.”
Anyone caught in any sin should not be given permission to keep on sinning. Sin separates a person from God. Christ Jesus, by atoning for sin, is the mediator between God and man, the bridge to the Father, the Reconciler, our Savior. Out of true love, the love taught in God’s Word, sin is to be pointed out. Sinners are confronted with their affront to God and His will. This is done so that sinners would be brought to repentance. And that the Holy Spirit, by the preaching of the Gospel and the Spirit working as He wills, to bring that sinner to faith and the status of “saint” because of Jesus’ atoning death and victorious resurrection for that person, that dear child of God.

Come, see the cross where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
And as the stone is rolled away,
And Christ emerges from the grave,
This vict'ry march continues till the day
Ev'ry eye and heart shall see Him.

That is why we abide in God’s Word. That is why we are not surprised at the threats of Al Qaeda, ISIS, or other Islamic terrorists. 
Did you know that militant Islamists have been at war with America since the Jefferson administration? Today we hear the name “ISIS” or “Islamic State” in the news. Back then they heard “Barbary Pirates.” They are the reason why “the shores of Tripoli” are mentioned in the Marine hymn. American marines fought in Libya back then. And some Marines tell me that the reason why Marines today are called “leathernecks” is because of the wide strips of leather worn around the neck at that time. A leather collar like that would help keep your head up straight. It would also make it harder for Muslim foes to behead you.
In Luther’s day, Muslim Turks had besieged the city of Vienna in what we call Austria today. That is why the original text of his hymn, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word,” went like this in its first English translation:  LORD, keep us in Thy Word and work,       Restrain the murderous Pope and Turk,             Who fain would tear from off Thy throne Christ Jesus, Thy beloved Son. (ELHB)
If someone opposes the clear teachings of Scripture by removing portions offensive to them, adding human ideas and declaring them equal to or superior to Scripture, or lives or encourages others to live contrary to God’s Word, we must speak up. We dare not remain silent. Too much is at stake spiritually. As Lutheran Christians, our concern for religious liberty is a real and practical part of our Christian heritage. Defending the faith and speaking up for Bible Truth is necessary for every generation of Christians. It has been said that God does not have grandchildren—only children. Spiritually, it doesn’t matter whose genetic offspring you are. You don’t get faith or eternal life or salvation merely because your ancestors were faithful practicing Christians. By God the Holy Spirit you have been called to faith in Christ and reconciled to the Father. Thanks be to God!

So Spirit, come, put strength in ev'ry stride,
Give grace for ev'ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” O Church, Arise.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sermon for 28 September 2014, Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 6:24-34
Enough to Worry About
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 28 September 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It was a difficult spot to be in to say the least. Tom had two full-time jobs and had an impossible schedule each day. He had more than enough to worry about. From early in the morning to early afternoon, he worked at the lumberyard. Then, he had the late shift at the railroad yard. He barely had time to eat and sleep. He wasn’t married. If he were, he’d never see his wife and children. We’d probably all agree that this was no way to live. Something had to give. And finally, Tom had to make a choice. He was promoted at the railroad and was offered the day shift. There simply was no good reason to try to work two jobs. Even the money wasn’t worth what it was doing to him. Tom learned by experience what Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. For some, it becomes the god in which they put their trust. Providing for the family becomes a convenient excuse to work more and more and accumulate more money in the bank account or more stuff in the house or garage.
Even our young people sometimes fall into the trap. Money from a part-time job often goes to what are really luxuries: cars, music, electronics, video game systems, or name-brand clothing. While none of us would likely give up being a Christian for a billion dollars, many simply do it for minimum wage. I’m thankful to see you for Church today.
God knows we need our daily bread, everything that supports our bodies and lives. We pray for daily bread daily. By faith we see that everything we have is a gift from Him. We receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. But we still worry. We worry about important things. We worry about silly things. We worry about what other people will think. We worry about how we’ll pay the bills. We worry about how much we worry.
And Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God provides you with everything you truly need. That’s the sermon in one sentence. God gives you daily bread and spiritual bread, forgiveness in Christ. You have enough to worry about in regularly receiving the Lord’s gifts and offering back to him your sacrifice of thanksgiving, offerings, praise, and doing good works in service to your neighbors.
Seek the kingdom first. The spiritual gifts endure forever. They are the only ones you can take with you once you die. God knows you need physical blessings. He gives food to all, even the evil. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Worry means that what you’re concerned about rolls around in your head, fills your heart, and consumes your time, yet without much positive result. You may well be powerless.
In prayer, we take any thought captive to Christ, exercise God-given faith in our heart, and make better use of our time by presenting our needs before the Lord who can do something about them.
I’m not going to rehash a list of the things that may concern you. That would be a waste of my time and yours. Instead, think about those things before the Lord in prayer and pray in faith that the Lord can and will resolve them! Worry uses up so much valuable prayer time. Many times you cannot change what is happening. You just have to sit there and watch it happen. You can change how you react to situations. You can act out of faith instead of acting out of fear.
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things—including money. All too often we have a different kind of fear—the being afraid kind—and it can be paralyzing.
One dark pitch-black night a man was walking down an unfamiliar road. On either side was a steep ravine. [Why he’s walking down the road and why it’s at night we’re never told.] Suddenly he stepped into space and began to fall. Thinking he was falling to certain death, he began flailing his arms and clutching for anything he could get his hands on. He was able to grasp a bush along the side, and he held on for dear life. It was agony. His body became numb. At last in weakness and despair, he let go and dropped—six inches to the bottom of the ditch. Think of the endless agony he went through because he didn’t let go sooner. Think of the needless agony you go through in the midst of your worries because you don’t let go of our worries and appeal to Christ in prayer.
You have enough to worry about. And worry is often an excuse to doubt God’s love and care of us. We lean on Him and our families and Christian family in time of need. And sometimes we actually pay enough attention to notice that the Lord has provided enough. We just haven’t been spiritually awake enough to see all that He has provided. God will provide for your needs. He may have a difference of opinion with you regarding something you want versus something you truly need. Worry is not something you need. Prayer is.
 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Isn’t that the truth! God gives daily bread daily. Trouble comes daily. And God gives us what we need to make it through each day. We aren’t told exactly what each day will bring. God has called us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. We pray that the Lord will give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that His hand is leading us and His love supporting us through Christ, our Lord.
The famous musician was depressed. His right side was paralyzed. All his money was gone. He was so deeply in debt that he was threatened with being thrown into jail. Nevertheless, he worked on composing the musical masterpiece for which he is still remembered. He worked so fast and hard, he seldom stopped for meals. When his servant brought him food, the servant often found his master weeping. In twenty-four days, from August 22 through September 14, 1741, George Frederic Handel finished his oratorio Messiah.
We don’t know how much this grandson of a German Lutheran pastor prayed while he was composing such great music amid such great anxieties, [yet] He is said to have commented, “I think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” Handel’s music shows us how needless are our worries, even in the face of what appears desperate, because the Almighty accomplishes great things!
We celebrate some of those great things today. We remember our baptism into Christ in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins. We thank God for the opportunity to hear His Word. We are blessed to be able to freely assemble in His name in this country thanks to the sacrifice of others. We will leave this place with His blessing. And we give thanks for the good we are able to both receive and give this day and this coming week. This Wednesday and next Sunday, we will receive the Lord’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
God provides you with everything you truly need. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In Christ, You have nothing to truly worry about! Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon for 21 September 2014, St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity)

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Ephesians 4:1-16
St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, 21 September 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

To the saints who are… faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1b-2) Amen.
20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
This morning, we begin with an Amen. Yes, yes, it shall be so, he means. Today is a day we thank the Lord for St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. My sermon text is the Epistle for that occasion. In Ephesians 4, St. Paul builds on the foundation of all that has gone on before in his letter to the church in Ephesus.
1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
The Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified you, and keeps you and the whole Church with Jesus Christ in the true faith. You are the baptized. God’s gracious working in you has consequences.
Living in habitual sins is not walking in a manner worthy of God’s call. Insisting on our own way is the opposite of bearing with one another in love. Asserting human thinking or human traditions, or political correctness over God’s Word is not how one maintains the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
What peace is there when people disagree on the fundamentals of Christianity? Is Jesus primarily an example, or first and foremost the Savior from sin, death, and hell? Is Jesus the illegitimate son of a Roman solider, or truly begotten of the Father from eternity, the Virgin-born Son of God? Was it all faked—the biggest cover-up of human history, or was the tomb truly empty because of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead?
Faith knows the difference between the devil’s seductive lie and true Biblical history. Scripture is on our side. Secular historical evidence is on our side. Archaeology is on our side. Leave it to the modern and post-modern world to throw the faith in the trash.
Unity means something significant in common. Tolerating false teaching alongside truth does not foster unity. Two is not the same as One. How can the mainline denominations survive while there are both Christians proclaiming the Biblical message, and also those who insist on positions exactly opposite of what the Bible says: accepting and promoting homosexual behavior, ordinations, and so-called “marriages”, demanding the ordination of women as pastors, ignoring cohabitation, and replacing historic worship with entertainment, spectacle, and psychobabble. St. Paul would shout, “No!”
1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
The unity our congregation enjoys, the unity the Wyoming District defends, and the unity the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod largely has, is a gift from God. Sadly, it is a gift some in the LCMS don’t see as a gift.
9(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints [ , ] for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
The One message the Lord has given to the Church in Christ, in the Word is proclaimed in these diverse ways. We should heed the advice of our late Synod President Barry: “Keep the message straight…Get the message out…”

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints [ , ] for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
St. Paul calls for Christian maturity. We are to avoid “every wind of doctrine.” A Lutheran radio host calls this the “Fad-Driven Church.” Pastor Todd Wilken writes: The dictionary defines a fad as "a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal." This could just as well be a description of congregational life of many Christian churches today. There is a new book, a new program or a new emphasis every year or so. It’s all anyone can talk about; it's all the preacher preaches about - for a while. Then, as quickly as it came, it's gone. As eagerly as it was received, it's abandoned and forgotten. Welcome to the Fad-Driven church.
At first this might not sound like a problem.  Some Christians can remember when the Church didn't jump from bandwagon to bandwagon every year or two. But for others, this is all they have ever known. For them, it is hard to imagine what the Church would be like without the constant ebb and flow of church fads. For them, the long list of church fads represents their personal history as a Christian: Spiritual Gift inventories, Spiritual Warfare, Promise Keepers, Weigh Down Workshop, The Prayer of Jabez; the Left Behind Series, Becoming a Contagious Christian, a long succession of evangelism and stewardship programs, and most recently, The Purpose-Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose. There are many Christians for whom this list (give or take one or two) is Christianity. Some church fads come and go, some come and stay. A few are genuinely harmless; most contain serious theological error. All are popular - while they last In the fad-driven church, “exaggerated zeal” has replaced "the faith once for all delivered to the Saints."
Wilken continues: In the course of hosting Issues, Etc. I've examined most if not all of the recent church fads. I am always surprised - not by the fads themselves, but by something else. I am always surprised by how uncritically churches accept a fad, how enthusiastically churches embrace a fad and how carelessly churches abandon a fad. That is why this article isn't about the fads themselves, but about the kind of churches that accept, embrace and abandon fads.
Every fad has a life cycle. The fad is first accepted, then embraced and finally abandoned. For the fad-driven church, this life cycle is a way of life.
The cycle begins with acceptance. The fad-driven church is practiced at this. Too close an examination of the fad at the outset might raise too many questions. "After all, this book is a best-seller!" "Thousands of churches are doing it, how can we go wrong?" Accept first, examine later, if at all. This acceptance may come through the pastor's active promotion or through grassroots popularity. Either way, the fad spreads like wildfire in the congregation.
The cycle continues with enthusiastic embrace. By "enthusiastic" I don't mean excitement or emotion, although those things may be involved. What I mean is that the fad-driven church embraces its latest fad with creedal intensity. While the fad has currency, it is an article of faith. Belief in the fad becomes a mark of loyalty to the church. During this phase of the fad's life cycle, critics of the fad may be dismissed as unloving, judgmental or unconcerned for saving souls. At the very least, they are viewed as troublemakers and obstacles to the church's mission. During this phase, in some cases, the fad may dictate what is preached, the content of bible study or even the focus of congregational life.
The life cycle ends with the abandonment of the fad. Some fads have a built-in expiration date... most simply linger until something better comes along. The fad-driven church may cling with a martyr's fervor to the fad while it lasts, but everyone knows that its days are numbered. Sooner or later it will have to be abandoned. Accept the fad, embrace the fad and abandon the fad. This is the life of a fad-driven church.  There are exceptions to this life cycle. In a few cases a fad doesn't die; it grows into something bigger than a fad. It grows into a movement... [Pastor Wilken says,] I have often been critical of church fads at the height of their popularity. After several encounters with fad defenders, I noticed something. The seasoned member of the fad-driven church will defend his fad today. But he will happily abandon the same fad six months from now. I realized that the fad itself is inconsequential; everyone knows that it will be forgotten sooner or later. Christians caught in the cycle of church fads must defend a particular fad, because by doing so, they are defending their willingness to accept, embrace and abandon fads in general. They are defending their fad-driven-ness.
The need of discernment in the Church is one of the most frequent admonitions in Scripture. Paul's warning to the Ephesians is typical: We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects unto Him, who is the head even Christ.  
The church is supposed to stand immovable against “every wind of doctrine." By contrast the fad-driven church is a windsock. If you want to know which way the wind is blowing, the latest teachings, the newest programs or the most current methods, just look at the fad-driven church. If you want to know what the fad-driven church will be doing next, just walk through your local Christian bookstore or page through a Christian publisher's catalogue.
In the fad-driven church, books, programs and seminars are evaluated primarily by their sales, popularity and attendance records, rather than on their theological merit, "False teaching? Why would so many churches be reading this book if it contained false teaching?” Can millions of Christians be wrong? Yes, they can. [End Quote.]

Therefore, it is important for Biblical Christians to be ready to speak / the truth / in love. Our sharing is done with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience. We share the truth in love, that is, lovingly and out of a loving motivation. We're not about winning arguments. We're not about shoving religion down someone's throat. Being obnoxious or pushy is out of line.
We show respect by asking questions and genuinely caring about their answers. We want to find out about them, their hurts, concerns, needs. And we bring the Word of God to bear upon those hurts, concerns and needs to bring about healing, understanding, and reconciliation with God.
Finally, we do all of this out of a good conscience. We speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God! We don't sugar-coat the truth. We don't rewrite the truth to fit what they want to hear. We don't add to God's Word or cut anything out. All of those actions would be lying, and unloving.
And it doesn’t hurt to be proud of our congregation—in a godly way—rather than be embarrassed. If you are ashamed of Immanuel in some way, then that is something that 1) needs to be confronted in yourself, so that you may be better conformed to the Word, rather than what any human being says, and/or (possibly both) 2) it may be an area were healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness is essential between you and a fellow Christian who is here or not here. Both actions are part of the good conscience mentioned in our text.
So, we are to be prepared. And eat our Wheaties. And by Wheaties, I don’t mean the cereal. And I’d like to speak especially to the men. If you don’t eat your Wheaties, you won’t have strength to serve, either your family or congregation. One must be fed before he can feed others. Word comes first, then comes service. If you try serving before or instead of being fed by the Word, you will, I repeat, will burn out and get discouraged.
If we are to be prepared to share our hope in Christ, we ourselves should know of that hope and be comforted. That takes time in the Word, individual prayer and Bible Study, family devotions, Bible Classes, time reading good Christian books or articles, and time each Sunday at the Divine Service and Sunday School.
Telling the Good News about Jesus is not a burden, but a privilege. Consider yourself. Someone told you about the hope they had in Christ Jesus. That Word took root in you and the Holy Spirit brought about the fruit of faith. You believe because someone told you the good news about Jesus. You may have heard this Word from infancy. It may have happened later in life. You may have fallen away and then returned. Whatever the occasions God used to draw you to Himself through His Word and Spirit, He used someone who was prepared to share Christ's hope with you.
Therefore…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Amen.

Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (Ephesians 6:23) Amen.