Marriage and Fathers

Posted by: on May 24, 2016 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours……
We live in a time spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20). As you read the selection from Martin Luther’s Large Catechism on the sixth commandment below, realize that while the sad condition of our sinful hearts has not changed, the promotion of whatever is contrary to God’s Word by the government and the entertainment industry as good and normal should cause us alarm. In light of recent assaults on Biblical morality by these agencies, we might well thank God that the pastors and congregations of our church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, are pledged to faithfully confess the unchanging truth of God’s Word.
But inasmuch as there is such a shameless mess and cesspool of all sorts of immorality and indecency among us, this commandment is also directed against every form of unchastity, no matter what it is called. Not only is the outward act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, provocation, and means, so that your heart, your lips, and your entire body may be chaste and afford no occasion, aid, or encouragement to unchastity. Not only that, but you are to defend, protect, and rescue your neighbors whenever they are in danger or need, and, moreover, even aid and assist them so that they may retain their honor. Whenever you fail to do this (although you could prevent a wrong) or do not even lift a finger (as if it were none of your business), you are just as guilty as the culprit who commits the act. In short, all are required both to live chastely themselves and also to help their neighbors to do the same. Thus God wants to guard and protect every husband or wife through this commandment against anyone who would violate them.
However, because this commandment is directed specifically toward marriage as a walk of life and gives occasion to speak of it, you should carefully note, first, how highly God honors and praises this walk of life, endorsing and protecting it by his commandment. He endorsed it above in the Fourth Commandment, ―You shall honor father and mother. But here, as I said, he has secured and protected it. For the following reasons he also wishes us to honor, maintain, and cherish it as a divine and blessed walk of life. He has established it before all others as the first of all institutions, and he created man and woman differently (as is evident) not for indecency but to be true to each other, to be fruitful, to beget children, and to nurture and bring them up to the glory of God. God has therefore blessed this walk of life most richly, above all others, and, in addition, has supplied and endowed it with everything in the world in order that this walk of life might be richly provided for. Married life is no matter for jest or idle curiosity, but it is a glorious institution and an object of God‘s serious concern. For it is of utmost importance to him that persons be brought up to serve the world, to promote knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, and to fight against wickedness and the devil.
As we mark Father’s Day on June 19, I call on and challenge all Christian fathers – myself included — to become the spiritual leaders God has called them to be. That involves at least two things:

  • Instruct the members of his house in the chief articles of the Christian faith, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household” and
  • Faithfully bring them to the Divine Service on the Lord’s Day. “For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it” (Large Catechism, 4th Commandment).

If this doesn’t happen, it matters little whom we elect to represent us at the local, State or National level.
Pastor Paul Becker

Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law (Psalm 119:18).

Ascension Day

Posted by: on May 24, 2016 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…..

What is special about May 5th this year? Clue: what happens 40 days after Easter? You are correct – The Ascension of our Lord!
Why do we make such a big deal out of Ascension Day? Several reasons:
The writer of Hebrews says of our Lord Jesus, “But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.”

  • But this man; the same man who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, this man who rose on the third day, this man who was like us in every way except sin, now 40 days after his glorious resurrection has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  • After offering one sacrifice for sins forever; this summarizes so well the meaning of what happened on Good Friday, what we try to say with words like salvation and redemption, one sacrifice was efficacious because Jesus is true man AND true God, for ALL SINS – no exceptions, forever – without limit, assurance of eternal life.
  • Sat down at the right hand of God. One of our hymns says, “Man with God is on the throne” and in “Christ’s Ascension we by faith behold our own” At the right hand of the Father, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, prays for us, and from thence he will come to judge the living and the dead on the Last Day.

I’m not sure why Pr. Steven Starke’s hymn about Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father was placed in the Sanctification section, but I’m glad I found it for this article

1.     Christ sits at God’s right hand, His saving work complete, To reign till ev’ry foe will lie Beneath His feet— All that the Father planned, The Son sought to fulfill, When first He said, “Lord, here am I To do Your will.”
6.     All praise to Christ we bring, Our Lord who intercedes, Our great High  Priest enthroned above Who knows our needs; And to the Father sing Our songs of thankful praise, Who with the Spirit reigns in love For endless days.

© 2002 Stephen P. Starke. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, no. 100010138.

Pastor Paul Becker
Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.

Christians vs. Society

Posted by: on May 24, 2016 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…..

“But choose capable men from all the people, men who fear God, men you can trust, men who hate corruption. Put them in charge of groups of 1,000, or 100, or 50, or 10 people. (Exodus 21:18)

Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) comments on this verse: “That great care should be taken in the choice of the persons who should be admitted into this trust; they must be able men, etc. It was requisite that they should be men of the very best character, For judgment and resolution—able men, men of good sense, that understood business, and bold men, that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours. Clear heads and stout hearts make good judges. For piety and religion—such as fear God, as believe there is a God above them, whose eye is upon them, to whom they are accountable, and of whose judgment they stand in awe. Conscientious men that dare not do a base thing, though they could do it ever so secretly and securely. The fear of God is that principle which will best fortify a man against all temptations to injustice. For integrity and honesty—men of truth, whose word one may take, and whose fidelity one may rely upon, who would not for a world tell a lie, betray a trust, or act an insidious part. For noble and generous contempt of worldly wealth—hating covetousness, not only not seeking bribes nor aiming to enrich themselves, but abhorring the thought of it; he is fit to be a magistrate, and he alone, who despiseth the gain of oppressions, and shaketh his hands from the holding of bribes.”

In the years preceding and following the American Revolution, many sermons were preached on this passage of Holy Scripture. That such exhortations no longer obtain in the vast majority of Christian congregations accounts in no small measure for our national malaise. I encourage all of us in our family gatherings, small study groups and conversations with friends and neighbors to raise these concerns often in the coming days. Christians living in the light of Jesus’ resurrection dare not be manipulated by the secular media, political advertising, or the pronouncements of those who fear men rather than God. Of the first Christ-followers it was said, “…These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,“ Acts 17:6

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Pastor Paul Becker

Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from Your law. Psalm 119:18

Marriage and Family

Posted by: on Oct 4, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow workers and fellow soldiers! (Philippians 2:25): For those of us who believe that marriage brings together one man and one woman to become husband and wife in order that any children that might be born will have a mommy and a daddy, the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is an egregious example of judicial activism and tyranny. As the founding fathers said repeatedly, Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. In his recent book “Truth Overruled: the Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom” Ryan T. Anderson spells out how the church can begin to fulfill this sacred duty. These quotes are from chapter eight, “Building a Movement.”

  • “The church needs to present a case for biblical sexuality that is appealing and that engages the best of modern thought. The virtues of chastity and lifelong marriage are enriching, but after fifty years, the church has still not devised a compelling response to the sexual revolution. The legal redefinition of marriage could take place when and where it did only because the majority of Americans lacked a sound understanding of the nature of man and the nature of marriage.” We are studying the Family Project during the 9:00 a.m. Bible class this quarter to help us better respond to this reality.
  • “The church’s second task is to develop ministries for those who experience same-sex attraction and gender identity conflicts.” What can we do? We can become familiar with, promote and support ministries such as Harvest USA (www.harvestusa.org). We can regularly practice hospitality to the single and widowed members of our church family and neighborhood by including them in family meals and events. We can encourage, develop and practice deep friendships that will expose the lie told by Justice Kennedy that without Obergefell people are “condemned to live in loneliness.”
  • “The church’s third task is to defend religious liberty and to help conscientious Christians understand how to bear witness to the truth when a radical sexual agenda has become a nonnegotiable public policy.” Our state legislators need to protect the religious liberty of all occupations, especially those under attack, e.g. bakers, florists, photographers, foster care and adoption agencies etc.
  • “The fourth task of the church is the most important and the most challenging. We need to live out the truth about marriage and human sexuality…The beauty and splendor of a happy family is our best testimony.” No family is perfect, but all families can be redeemed.
    What action is God calling you to take? Don’t assume that someone else will do it. Every baptized Christian has a voice and the ability to love and serve our neighbors by speaking the truth in love and by living generously.
    Your unworthy under-shepherd in Christ,
    —Pr. Paul Becker

“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.” Psalm 119::18

Fortnight for Freedom

Posted by: on Jul 6, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

As we pause to celebrate Independence Day once again, we find ourselves living in a strange time in which the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights are diminishing and in some cases disappearing completely. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 – July 4, 2015. They envision an intentional time of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, and offer the following prayer for our use:

O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, o heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church, in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nations, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Katherine Lee Bates famous poem “America the Beautiful” (first written in 1893) has long been my favorite patriotic song. Here is a stanza that we would all benefit from taking to heart:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Pr. Paul F. Becker

Open my eyes to behold wondrous things in Your Law. Psalm 119:18

p.s. Have you ever wondered why we started saying: “We shall serve Him!” at the end of the Divine Service? Here’s why: “…and the people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey.’” Joshua 24:24

The importance of Jesus’ resurrection

Posted by: on Jun 1, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours…..

The importance of Jesus’ resurrection

I’ve had the privilege (twice!) to hear Rev. Professor Jeffrey Gibbs teach on the importance of Jesus’ resurrection in Christian life and ministry. Dr. Gibbs wrote the Concordia Commentary on Matthew and teaches at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. His basic take away point is that we have placed undue emphasis on what is called the intermediate state, or the period of time between physical death and the resurrection of the body as confessed in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Our hope rests not on being disembodied spirits in heaven with Jesus, but on the glorification that we will share with Jesus when this mortal puts on immortality and this corruptible puts on incorruptibility. Dr. Gibbs suggested , somewhat tongue in cheek, that we inscribe on our tombstones: “just a temporary set-back”. He drew our attention to hymns that emphasize this truth such as “Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won” in which we sing: Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done! From the grave will Christ recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; This shall be my confidence. He also composed a new stanza for the familiar hymn “Abide with me”.

And when You come again at last to save,
Bring us to life, Lord, raise us from the grave.
So, then, with all creation, brave and free
I shall rejoice for you abide with me.

The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. The most powerful nations of the world have been laid waste because of their lies. History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed upon in a sea of lies. Where this happens, as in the case of declining pagan antiquity, religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society — in short, one sphere of life after another falls sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man denies that he and others are dying, the terrible dissolution of his culture is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance, the likes of which has never been experienced. (Hermann Sasse, Union and Confession, 1936)

Pastor Paul Becker
Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things in Your law. Psalm 119:18

Sow righteousness, reap love

Posted by: on Feb 27, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Rev. Franklin Graham has said that our nation is morally crumbling within and that we have turned our backs on God. Countless pundits, prognosticators, and talk show hosts fill our minds with numbing details of this pervasive decay. While it so happens that I agree with Graham’s assessment of our national disease, it nevertheless begs the question: what shall be done? I know one thing for sure: the media won’t tell us the truth, nor will our elected officials. Fortunately for us, through His servants, God sends His Word of Law and Gospel, for He desires that none should perish, but that everyone should turn to Him and live.

The LORD spoke his word to Jonah, son of Amittai. He said, “Leave at once for the important city, Nineveh. Announce to the people that I can no longer overlook the wicked things they have done.”

Like so many in our own day, Jonah didn’t much care for God’s plans, and tried to go his own way. After a three day experience of divine discipline and correction in the belly of a great fish, Jonah, with reluctant repentance, accepted his assignment.

The people of Nineveh believed God. They decided to fast, and everyone, from the most important to the least important, dressed in sackcloth.

Here we see the only answer to the question: what shall we do? Believe God. Change the way you think and act. Give some outward sign of the seriousness of your sorrow over sin. Every year God renews the cry of the prophets to his people in the 40 days of Lent: Return to the Lord your God! For He is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love!

God saw what they did. He saw that they turned from their wicked ways. So God reconsidered his threat to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.

How shall we respond to God’s call? Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin through the Word so that we may be among those who fear and love God.

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2b)

May it be said of us as it was said of old: The people of Nineveh believed God.

—Pastor Paul Becker

Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain. —Hosea 10:12

Epiphany to Lent

Posted by: on Jan 31, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

Six short Sundays after the Epiphany quickly bring us to the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 18. But first, we will celebrate “Shrove/Fat Tuesday” (2/17) with a traditional pancake – sausage supper. This presents us not only with an opportunity to say farewell to our ordinary rich foods for simpler fare of the 40 day fast, but also to support with your financial gifts and encourage with your love and prayers those who plan on being part of a short-term mission team to the Native Americans in western South Dakota the week of June 8.

As I write this article, many of the baptized are observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, beginning with the Confession of St. Peter (1/18) and ending with the Conversion of St. Paul (1/25). In that spirit, and in light of the ongoing persecution and suffering of Christians in the Middle East, I bring to your attention a commemoration dear to our Orthodox brothers and sisters of Antioch (Syria, Lebanon and abroad):

The Centennial Jubilee of the Falling Asleep of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (1915-2015), “Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America”. (from their website): Our Father among the Saints, Raphael (Hawaweeny), Bishop of Brooklyn, was the first Orthodox Christian bishop consecrated on American soil. Traveling throughout the continent in the first years of the 20th century, he founded thirty parishes in North America. His feast day is celebrated in the Antiochian Archdiocese on the first Saturday of November. St. Raphael, a man of angelic name and apostolic fervor, was influenced by many cultures. He was born and raised in the Middle East, educated by Greeks at Halki and by Russians at Kiev, and he spent the last nineteen years of his life as a missionary in North America.

Practical Suggestion #2 from “Live the Six: Learning to Live as an Everyday Missionary” from Lutheran Hour Ministries: Get in the habit of asking people around you if there’s anything you can pray about for them. As they talk to you, write the concern down. It will help you actually follow through and will show them you’re serious about their concerns.

With great joy I anticipate going with all of you into the desert/wilderness with Christ our Lord to grow stronger and closer to the One who “for us temptation sharp He knew, for us the tempter overthrew”.

Pastor Paul Becker “…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Pastor Shehab – “From Islam to Christ” Saturday, January 24 at 10:00am

Posted by: on Jan 10, 2015 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours:

On the weekend of January 23-25, we will be hosting Pastor Hesham Ali Shehab of Salam Christian Fellowship (sharing space with Peace Lutheran Church, Lombard, IL) whose purpose is to share Jesus Christ with Muslims and others from the Middle East and North Africa. Our local mission council, Central Appalachian Lutheran Ministries (CALM) will hear him speak here at on Concordia on Saturday (1/24) at 10:00 a.m. (lunch included).

Pastor Shehab, now an LCMS pastor/missionary serving the immigrant Arabic communities of greater Chicago, grew up as a devout Muslim in Lebanon. While studying at university, he met a LCMS Pastor serving with Lutheran Hour Ministries who was teaching class on the New Testament. Hesham was struck by the words of Jesus, “love your enemy.”

After meeting with the Pastor for several months, Hesham was brought to saving faith in his Savior Jesus Christ; converted by the power of God’s Word. There are many good articles to read on their website: http://salamchristianfellowship.org.

Pastor Shehab will also be present Sunday morning, January 25. He will participate in Bible class at 9:00 a.m. and will offer a message during worship service at 10:30 a.m.

Practical Suggestion #1 from “Live the Six: Learning to Live as an Everyday Missionary” from Lutheran Hour Ministries: Learn the names of service workers you encounter every day/week. The clerks at the stores you frequent, the custodial staff that cleans your work place, mail man, sanitation engineer (guy who collects your garbage). Express interest in their families and ask them how their lives are going.

May 2015 be a year full of grace and truth for each of us!
Pastor Paul Becker

What’s this about plastic donuts?

Posted by: on Oct 29, 2014 in Pastor's Desk | No Comments

From Pastor Becker’s heart to yours……

During our stewardship emphasis this month, we will not be focusing on the usual themes of time, talent and treasure, or proportionate, weekly giving to the local church – important as those things are. Instead, we will be focusing together on what makes a gift acceptable or pleasing to God. In the past couple months I came across a book called “Plastic Donuts” by Jeff Anderson. You can get a sneak preview of all this by going to www.AcceptableGift.org. This material has produced a significant paradigm shift in my thinking about giving as a follower of Jesus Christ. Here is a snippet of what we will dive into this month (from Jeff Anderson’s Facebook page):

Did you know there are two kinds of financial gifts?
(1) acceptable gifts – these are gifts that please God
(2) effective gifts – these are gifts that get the job done (get food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, the gospel to the lost, etc.)

Small_DonutSome effective gifts are acceptable gifts, too. But not all of them are. The property given by Ananias and Saphirra would have “effectively” met great needs. But the gift did not please God. The Pharisees gave effective tithes; but Jesus was not impressed. Of course, not all acceptable gifts are effective gifts either. Consider the perfume Mary used to worship the feet of Jesus. This was not effective use of assets; but the gift was very pleasing to Him. What about the money given to Judas? Scriptures say he stole from the purse. Still, couldn’t those resources provided have been pleasing gifts to God first?

Gift-giving began 6,000 years ago. Cain and Abel gave gifts and we suspect Adam and Eve did, too. Interestingly, there were no needs during this time. No poor, no orphans, no sick or diseased. No need for evangelism either. From the early beginnings, gifts to God were for a single purpose – to please Him. God desired gifts from His children. There was no need for “effective gifts.”

Hopefully this will whet your appetite for a remarkably refreshing look at giving from the perspective of what is pleasing to God. If you really want to dig into this, Jeff has written a major paper on what the Bible says about giving entitled: 2000 Gifts – What They Reveal about Tithing, Acceptable Giving, and Plastic Donuts. Download a pdf here.

With thanksgiving in my heart, Your unworthy under-shepherd in Christ,
Pr. Paul Becker