Questions on Christian Living

Can WELS please put on an event for a night for 25-30 year olds? Or one for each age range on different evenings? How do single Christians find a date during the pandemic, without having to resort to social media/dating applications? Personally, I don’t prefer to meet people over direct message or through the internet.

What you are suggesting can be done more realistically by one of our congregations or several of our congregations combining their resources. The leadership of your congregation would be interested to hear about new ministry opportunities, so please pass along your suggestions to the appropriate people in your congregation.

Even though you stated your preference about social media, you might be interested to know that there is a WELS/ELS singles group on Facebook. Individuals within that group may know of similar local groups in your area. God’s blessings to you.

Do you offer a People's Bible commentary leader's guide?

I am not aware of a resource like that. Individual pastors may have created such a guide for their congregational Bible studies, but I do not see anything like that on the website of Northwestern Publishing House.

I am 23 years old and are trying to find a significant other. I have been praying on and off for the last 4 years to God to send someone my way and bless me with a relationship. In an ideal world she would be WELS or ELS. In time I've grown slightly weary. How do I know when or who it would be? What do I do?

For starters, I would encourage patience on your part. God’s design for marriage is that it be lifelong (Matthew 19:4-6). If marriage is that serious (and it is), then waiting for the right person and putting time into the relationship before marriage is worth it.

You may not perceive what I write next as being entirely encouraging to you, and I understand that, but I pass it on for you to keep your life’s circumstances in perspective. You might be interested to know that information from the United States Census Bureau indicates that the median age for American men at their first marriage is 29; for women, it is 28. You will draw your own conclusions from those numbers.

I would encourage you to keep bringing your petitions to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6). God has promised to hear and answer your prayers according to his love and wisdom (Isaiah 65:24).

Finally, you might be interested to know that there is a WELS/ELS singles group on Facebook. Individuals in that group might be able to let you know if there are similar groups that meet in person in your area. God’s blessings to you!

When the topic of money comes up, it seems we are very quick to reference the parable of the rich fool. However, this question is focused on the opposite side – not preparing for the future. On average, the typical American actually has very little saved for their later years. Long-term care is very expensive. From the perspective of assisted living, nursing homes, memory care, etc., one could hardly have too much saved. Is it sinful or irresponsible for people to say, “I’m not going to worry about it”? “I’ll let my kids or the government deal with it”? “Nursing home insurance is too expensive, so I won’t bother or worry about it. I’ll just go on Medicaid.” Many have a very cavalier attitude about the whole subject until it actually becomes a crisis. For Christians, what is the right approach?

You are asking some very practical questions. Perhaps we could start by looking at some courses of action to avoid.

One such idea is thinking that our plans for the future will successfully address every possible detail. James 4:13-15 teaches us that there are limitations to our plans and so we do best to put our plans into the Lord’s hands.

Another wrong idea is that I don’t need to make any plans for the future at all. Scripture explains that everything belongs to God (Psalm 24:1) and God entrusts his possessions to people, requiring that they be faithful in managing what he owns (Matthew 25:14-30). Faithfulness in managing God’s possessions is fostered by planning, as Jesus illustrated in the context of the commitment of Christian discipleship (Luke 14:28-33).

Avoiding those extremes will put us somewhere in the middle: recognizing the wisdom of planning and the limitations of planning. As managers of God’s possessions, we will want to use the resources God has entrusted to us wisely and faithfully.

The problem with the rich fool in Jesus’ parable, as the Lord explained it, is that he stored up things for himself but was not rich toward God (Luke 12:21). His plans were entirely self-centered. God was nowhere to be found in his plans because he had no place in his life for God.

Planning for something like long-term health care certainly displays kind consideration of others (Philippians 2:4) and is very much consistent with the Bible’s teaching that selflessness is to be the way of life for the child of God (1 Corinthians 10:24).

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed” (Psalm 20:4). Those are the inspired words of King David. Those words very nicely put the subject of planning in perspective. Plans are wholesome activities for Christians, and God’s blessings are needed for the successful completion of plans.

I married a woman a couple years ago who has two children from her prior marriage, 8 and 10 years old. Her children have never had any kind of education with God. I was born and raised WELS with the benefit of a WELS private school up through 8th grade. Although my wife is uncomfortable going to my church because of a troubled Roman Catholic upbringing, she is on board with us educating our children at home. And one of the kids even comes with me sometimes to church because he is interested. We take a few minutes to do children's Bible devotions and such, which is going OK so far. My question is this. I'm no teacher, and I don't have access to a WELS school for them. I've looked and researched for some sort of curriculum to aid in what stories we do first from the Bible, or to just have some sort of structure or plan. I get overwhelmed with all the different stuff out there. Compared to the Christian upbringing I had, I feel like I'm not doing nearly enough for our children. I feel like I'm in over my head. Can you recommend any resources to help give me some sort of structure to teaching them? Do you have any recommendations on what kinds of stories to focus more on or what order I should go in? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Ideally, as your wife’s comfort level with the church rises, you and your family will be able to utilize all the educational resources of your congregation. For the time being, you could benefit from Christ-Light Sunday School Lessons at Home. Videos of Bible lessons are available free of charge here. Your congregation may have accompanying printed materials. Please contact your pastor about those resources.

God bless you and your family!

Hello! I tend to be more introverted and find being in large spaces with people I do not know to be not pleasant. While in a congregation I do have a common faith to connect with others, I tend to enjoy the digital classes and personal studies more fulfilling. Some days though, I am very comfortable with going alone. Is it OK to do virtual/personal studies and attend on the days when I feel comfortable to be in public?

In light of how you have described your life circumstances, your approach sounds reasonable. Health concerns these days lead many people to opt for streaming worship services and online Bible classes.

If the concern is being with people in general and not your physical health, then that is a matter you could discuss with a medical professional.

Certainly, one of the blessings that has emerged in the past few months has been the flexibility of congregations in meeting the spiritual needs of their members. God’s blessings to you.

In the video "I bowed on my knees and cried holy," what bright thing is Jesus holding in his right hand?

If I found the right video, Jesus is holding seven stars in his right hand. That imagery is from Revelation 1:12-20. The stars represent the messengers, the pastors, of the seven churches in Asia Minor that initially received the apostle John’s inspired writing.

That particular image of Jesus holding seven stars in his right hand is filled with comfort. To Christians in the first century who were facing persecution and who could have easily wondered if God was still in control of things, John relayed the picture of the Lord holding his messengers in his right hand. That picture said the Lord was supporting the messengers of his word, and they were safe and secure in his hands.

The overall picture of comfort from Revelation 1:12-20 is that the risen Lord walked among the seven churches of Asia Minor; those Christians were not alone. How wonderful that same truth applies to Christians today.

Does WELS have any opinions on vegetarians/vegans? I see it as a way to help God's earth and minimize suffering. Why are people often so quick to try to invalidate those views?

Your question deals with a subject matter that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. Romans 14:1-8 makes clear that dietary preferences lie in the realm of Christian freedom. That means that people are to refrain from condemning another person’s exercise of Christian freedom (Colossians 2:16).

In Christian freedom and with godly attitudes, God’s children can glorify him even in the daily routines of eating and drinking (Romans 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

The apostle Paul put disputes over dietary preferences in perspective when he wrote, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

So, one of my favorite musical artists, "Lil Uzi Vert," said in a concert somewhere along the lines of my fans are going to hell with me. If he did go to hell, do I have a risk of going with him if I listen to his music?

Only God has the power to condemn people to hell (Matthew 10:28). A human being does not possess that ability.

Your question leads us to examine the many things and people that can influence our lives. When it comes to the words and sounds and images that can fill our minds, the Bible offers this instruction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Many Christians believe that Christians should be appalled that they are asked to wear a mask in Jesus' house, church. "Out of all the places you should feel safe and respectful, it is church," is what I hear. How do we explain the need for a mask in church? Thanks for your response!

A Together newsletter from March 2020 addressed your question.

“The Fourth Commandment and other words of Scripture remind us not only to show respect and obedience to governmental authorities, but also to remember them in our prayers as they make decisions to safeguard our nation.

“According to the Fifth Commandment, we have the responsibility not to do anything to hurt or harm our neighbor (or ourselves, for that matter), but to help our neighbor in times of need.”

In addition to information like this in the Together newsletters, WELS Congregational Services offers resources for congregations to carry out their ministries in these challenging times.

God speed the day when we can return to the corporate worship life we enjoyed a year ago.

I have been a member at our WELS church for 5 years now. I have strived to talk to all kinds of people at church in order to gain that strong community within our church. I know that God's word and truth is the most important thing at church, but I think Christian friendship/community is also important. Our church speaks truth but the community is lacking. My husband is super involved with church. He is spiritually fed. I struggle because I am raising my young children and can't quite gain those Christian friendships that I am craving. I noticed other churches in our area emphasize community. How do I know when to seek another church? I also read that children can sense when you don't want to be at church. I want to love my church but I don't. I am really struggling and wonder how to manage this when my husband has a completely different experience. I don't want to be a stumbling block to others because of my experience within our church. I have an amazing Christian community with a women's ministry I am involved in but I'm craving this at my own church.

You have a good understanding of how all-important Scripture is and how important Christian friendships are. Christian fellowship is certainly a blessing from God (Psalm 133:1).

I would encourage you to speak to your husband about your concerns (if you have not already done so) and also your pastor. Your pastor and other church leaders will want to be aware of ministry needs and opportunities. The history of the Christian Church shows that some ministries expanded, involving and including more people, when there was input from congregational members (Acts 6:1-7). By speaking with your pastor and other church leaders, your congregation can be in a position to assess the needs and viability of a moms’ group, for example.

Hopefully, having conversations like the ones suggested above will enable you to feel more at home in your congregation.

Enjoying friendships with other Christian women is also a blessing. There can even be additional blessings by benefiting from the ministries of their WELS churches.

God’s blessings to you and your family!

I have a friend who is a Free Mason. I know there is a reason we are not to be. Could you please explain?

In short, Freemasonry teaches work righteousness; it denies the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Anyone who tries to reach heaven by following the work righteous teachings of Freemasonry will fall short. The Bible teaches that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot be perfect as God demands (Matthew 5:48). We fall short of God’s demands of perfection (Romans 3:23). There is salvation through Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

Membership in a church or an organization implies that the person is committed to the teachings and practices of that church or organization. A person’s stated reason for joining Freemasonry might be business networking or friendship building, but membership still sends the signal to others that there is an acceptance of what the lodge stands for and teaches.

Having membership in a Christian congregation (where Jesus Christ is confessed as Savior) and having membership in a Masonic lodge (where Jesus Christ is denied) is contradictory.

Jesus’ words are so important in this regard: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). While a confession of Christian faith in the heart is connected to eternal joys, denial of Jesus has sad, tragic and eternal consequences.

Recently I stumbled along this thing called "reality shifting." It’s basically where you write a script and meditate so that you can shift realities and live in your desired reality. I kind of wanted to try this out, but before I do I wanted to know if it sounds like a sin. If it is a sin, I obviously won’t do it.

From what I know about the subject, it does not sound like a sin but rather a vain attempt to escape one’s present reality.

There are certainly some positive changes in life over which we might have control. Other positive changes may be out entirely out of our control. What do we do then? Do we pretend our present reality does not exist and imagine ourselves in a better situation in life? That sounds a lot like self-deception.

I think of 1 Corinthians 7:21, where the apostle Paul addressed the reality that some of his first readers were enslaved. Those people might have arrived at that reality because of debt, the outcome of war or an agreement to survive. What instruction did the Lord’s apostle have for those individuals? “Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” Imagining that life was different and better would not have changed the situation of those people. Living with the present reality with godly attitudes or working to change their circumstances in life were realistic options; “reality shifting” would not have helped them.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, we can’t change the reality of our natural sinful condition and our actual sins. Those are real, and we confess them to God (Psalm 51:1-5). God’s forgiveness of our sins is also real, and we praise him for blotting our sins from his memory (Isaiah 43:25). The promise of a perfect, glorious eternity with God is also real (John 14:2-3).

No amount of reality shifting will remove life’s problems for Christians. Jesus provided this dose of reality: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Thankfully, Jesus went on to say,” But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Apart from our almighty God and his powerful word, people are left to devise solutions for their problems and unwanted circumstances. It is no surprise those solutions fail. With God and his powerful word, however, Christians can be content with their present circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). I encourage you to stick with God and his word.

How does the WELS school community define 'modesty' with regard to school dress? Our school used to have a standard length to the top of the knee but now believes teaching Christian freedom and defining the standard as modest is all that is needed. What does modest mean? Do we define it based on current styles and norms?

Modesty is defined as “propriety in dress, speech or conduct” and “regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.” The WELS school community takes a definition like that and applies it in a Christian setting.

Because the WELS school community is large (2019 statistics: 372 early childhood ministries, 289 elementary schools, 25 area Lutheran high schools, two preparatory schools, a college and a seminary), one would expect to find differing applications of the definition of “modesty.” There is no detailed standard to which all students of all schools must comply. Such an approach would be legalistic.

If your school has changed its dress code policy, you will want to contact your school’s principal to pass along your thoughts and receive answers to your questions.

Without question, Christians of all ages will want to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That includes how they dress and conduct themselves. Dress and behavior are, after all, ways of letting our light shine (Matthew 5:16).

Does WELS have a guided trip to the Holy Land yet this year? Or perhaps next year?

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary is planning a 13-day archaeological study tour to the Holy Land, May 29-June 10, 2021. You can find more information here.

I would like to get a biblical view of the book "Twisted Scripture" by Andrew Farley.

I am sorry, but I am not in a position to provide book reviews. Perhaps your pastor can be of assistance in offering feedback on the book or recommending a reliable review.

What are your thoughts on the Guideposts books and pamphlets? Thinking of buying some. Thank you.

As Guideposts was founded by Norman Vincent Peale and its content can still be influenced by his beliefs and teachings, you will want to read any information very carefully. The content is ecumenical in nature and often goes beyond the teachings of the Bible. I would encourage you to check out the wide variety of trustworthy materials from Northwestern Publishing House.

I've been in contact for some time now with a fellow Christian. He frequently uses phrases like "the Lord spoke to me" and "the Lord put this on my heart." He comes across like he believes he is receiving direct messages from God outside of Scripture. To me, this doesn't seem to gel with what we read in Hebrews 1:1-2 - "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." I've always understood that passage to mean (and have been taught as such) that we shouldn't expect direct revelation from God anymore, and we should only look to Scripture for God's answers to questions we might have. What's the best way to respond to someone who insists on saying that "the Lord spoke to me" or "the Lord put this on my heart?"

God of course can do anything. He can communicate to us any way he wants. The Bible describes instances when God did speak directly to people, through others and in dreams. The fact that God communicated in these ways in the past does not guarantee that God will do so in the future. We have no promise of God communicating to us beyond Scripture.

Hebrews 1:1-2, as you indicated, teaches that we have God’s full communication to us in the pages of the Old and New Testament. There is no need to look elsewhere for communication from God.

If there is a “voice” from God inside us, it is the natural knowledge of his law and a conscience that is guided properly by Holy Scripture. If there is a “voice” from God inside us, it is the new self—that part of us that is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24)—that desires to live life according to God’s will.

It could be that your friend recalls or thinks of Bible verses at times. When he does that, he refers to the Lord speaking to him or putting something on his heart. That “speaking” is the recollection and application of God’s word.

Your question is a good reminder that we do well to focus on God’s communication to us through the Bible—and our communication to him in prayer.

Did Melanchthon describe the three uses of the law found in Loci Communes prior to Calvin in his Institutes?

Yes. In a 1534 commentary on the book of Colossians Melanchthon first wrote of the three uses of the law. A 1535 edition of the Loci Communes Theologici also described the three uses of the law. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion was first published in 1536.

I am curious about the WELS stance on use of the enneagram, which has become popularized in many churches. Thanks.

There is no official position or stance of our church body regarding the use of the enneagram. While I am not in a position to endorse fully this assessment of that practice, the information illustrates how a confessional Lutheran church body approaches the subject.

What can you tell me about Todd Friel [Wretched Radio], John MacArthur, or Colin A. Miller? I have watch several of their YouTube videos and they seem sound, but I would like a WELS opinion. Thank you.

Like the apostle Paul (Philippians 1:18), we can rejoice whenever—and by whomever—the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. At the same time, Scripture instructs us to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.” (Romans 16:17)

A brief look at the websites of the ministries of the first two individuals reveals errors regarding the Bible’s teaching of the End Times. There is also the denial of the sacraments as means of grace. I was not able to find doctrinal statements for the third individual you mentioned.

With the gaining popularity of people obtaining concealed carry permits, I would like to ask WELS' stance on potential lethal use of a weapon. My thoughts are that in Exodus 22:1-3 lethal force can be used if yours or your family's lives are in danger, but not if it is clear the threat is non-life-threatening. In either case, it should only be used as a last resort.

The Hebrew word in the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17) prohibits murder—the illegal and inappropriate ending of human life—and does not forbid all taking of life. So, for example, governments can rightly implement capital punishment (Romans 13:4) if they so choose.

What about individuals who want to protect themselves and their families, you wonder? Some Christians look to Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:17 as absolute directives not to resist physical threats. In their context though the verses advocate love toward others instead of seeking revenge.

Others look to sections of Scripture like Proverbs 24:11-12 and Luke 22:35-38 as the basis for defending oneself and one’s family from physical threats.

Protecting our own life (self-defense) could result in the death of another person. That is not murder. Exodus 22:2-3 illustrates the law God gave his people of Israel regarding defending oneself from a thief.

I am currently finishing a graduate degree, and I am looking into new employment opportunities. I have seen several jobs which I'd like to apply to, but many are at Catholic and other non-WELS/ELS colleges/universities. What is the viewpoint on me as a WELS Lutheran potentially working at these types of institutions? Does that go against fellowship guidelines?

If the job description for your position is standard, religious fellowship issues would not be involved. Our churches and schools sometimes employ non-members in a variety of positions.

Like so many areas of life, conscience is something to be considered. If you were to think that working in that position is wrong, then it would be wrong for you (Romans 14:14). Scripture directs us to act in faith not doubt (Romans 14:23).

To have a fuller conversation on this, consider speaking to your pastor. God’s blessings to you.

Why can we be thankful?

The Apostles’ Creed, along with Martin Luther’s explanations of the Articles, can go a long way in outlining our reasons for daily thanksgiving to God. The wording of the Creed and the explanations describe the only true God and his workings in our lives.

Martin Luther’s explanation of the First Article provides reason number one for thanksgiving to God: “I believe that God created me and all that exists, and that he gave me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my mind and all my abilities.

“And I believe that God still preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, cattle, and all I own, and all I need to keep my body and life. God also preserves me by defending me against all danger, guarding and protecting me from all evil. All this God does only because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it. For all this I ought to thank and praise, to serve and obey him.

“This is most certainly true.”

Luther’s explanation of the Second Article provides a second reason for giving thanks to God: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.

“He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.

“All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.

“This is most certainly true.”

Luther’s explanation of the Third Article gives us a third reason to thank God: “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.

“But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

“In this Christian Church he daily and fully forgives all sins to me and all believers.

“On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

“This is most certainly true.”

When we think of who God is and how his love affects our very being and life, we will have reason to do what the psalm writer instructed: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Why do WELS members not join lodges and the scouts?

Numerous documents on this website spell out our concerns regarding these organizations. You will find information on scouting here. This document addresses Freemasonry. Finally, this link takes you to a brief essay that provides a side-by-side contrast between lodges and biblical teaching.

I would like to speak to a Christian counselor who shares my faith beliefs about some very difficult personal matters. Can you refer me to someone in the Greater Milwaukee, Racine or Kenosha area? I am feeling alienated from my home church and do not know where to turn. Thanks.

Christian Family Solutions, a WELS-affiliated ministry, offers in-person counseling in the Greater Milwaukee area and video counseling from the privacy of your home. You can learn more about their services here. God’s blessings to you!

My father was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive to me. I was the scapegoat and my brother the golden child. Yet, my father faithfully attended Lutheran church, tithed, and volunteered at church to assist the sick/elderly etc. I finally cut off contact 25 years ago to stop the abuse. I basically had no feelings one way or the other toward him, mainly just disappointment. If something had happened to my brother, I would have always done right by my father and helped him with medical care, etc. if necessary because that is the type of person I am. Now he has died and I found out that, in a trust and will he made years before my cutting off contact, he has left everything to my brother, even any and all personal household items. It seems as if his lifetime of abuse and rejection of me is complete. Given this, I wonder if such a person is now in heaven? I know no one is perfect and that one can repent at the last minute etc., but I am truly tormented by this situation.

There is no question your experiences have been very challenging. It was saddening to read about them. Thanks be to God that he remains your refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1) even in the most difficult situations in life.

God alone, of course, knows the answer to your question. You understand correctly that God, through his word, can change hearts—even as this life is coming to a close. When there is saving faith, even the weakest of faith, in the heart at death, there is the enjoyment of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. If unbelief fills the heart at death, there is an eternity of separation from God in hell.

Your self-acknowledged attitudes toward your father have gone from disappointment to being tormented. Anger would not be an unusual attitude for a person in your situation; appealing to God’s justice would not be a rare request. In responding to your question (“I wonder if such a person is now in heaven?”), I also have to bring in the subjects of God’s love and repentant sinners. Again, only God knows what judgment your father faced at his death. While I do not in any way want to be insensitive to the pain you have endured, I do have to ask this: Wouldn’t it be a reason to praise God if your father died in repentance and saving faith rather than dying in impenitence and unbelief, and spending eternity in hell? Because of his sins, your father certainly deserved punishment from a holy God, but it is a gracious God who “does not treat us as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10). And it is a gracious God who works repentance and saving faith in the heart to enjoy the forgiveness of sins Jesus won by his holy life and sacrificial death. I write this in response to your question about the possibility of your father being in heaven.

What I cannot do in a few paragraphs is help you resolve these matters. You would really benefit by speaking with your pastor or another trusted Christian counselor. A face-to-face setting like that would enable you to pour out your heart, ask more questions and then receive more complete guidance from God’s word. I encourage you to initiate that conversation. God bless you.

Thank you for the great answer given earlier on this site to a person wondering about whether or not they could use marijuana in a God-pleasing way. However, in addition to the encouragement of being sober-minded, couldn’t we also speak strongly against getting high as being a sin also? By getting high I mean purposely taking marijuana with high doses of THC with the intent of getting high, in the same way a person drinks to excess to get drunk? Let’s face it, many take the drug for that reason. Thank you for considering this added element of the question for me.

There are two questions on the website that address the use of marijuana, so I am not sure which question and answer you are specifically addressing with your comments and question. Both responses warn against actions that dull a person’s senses and lead to loss of self-control. As we can see sin in those actions, your “added element” is certainly an appropriate emphasis to the previously-posted questions and answers. Thank you for passing that along.

Is circumcision for infant boys biblicaly necessary or optional? Do medical effects have any impact on this choice? Is it purely tradition to circumcise, or why is the U.S. mainly the only country that circumcises and mostly for non-medical traditions? What does the WELS teach parents in this decision making process? Should infant boys be circumcised and why or why not? Thank you for taking the time to answer this question.

While circumcision was a requirement for God’s Old Testament people of Israel, it is no longer obligatory for followers of God in the New Testament age. The New Testament makes that clear. “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation” (Galatians 6:15). Circumcision was part of God’s Old Testament ceremonial laws.

Circumcision for health and hygienic reasons today is a parental decision.

Are anxiety and depression considered sins for Christians? What is the WELS biblical position about anxiety and depression for people coping with chronic physical and emotional pain and who may suffer from mental illness? While we never would excuse sin, how are we to view it if we or another we know of struggles with anxiety (to the point of involuntary anxiety disorders such as panic attacks) and/or difficult emotion regulation with depression, etc.?

The meaning of the First Commandment is that we “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” As human beings, we fall short of doing what God commands. Our violations of all the other commandments illustrate that.

Worry is a lack of trust in God. Jesus instructed his followers not to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). Through the apostle Paul, God instructed the Christians in Philippi not to be anxious (Philippians 4:6). While worry is a sin, worry can also be a symptom of mental illness. When that is the case, people are not freed from accountability; the presence of a mental illness can provide explanation for the worrying that takes place. Certainly, counseling with one’s pastor and receiving help from medical and mental health professionals is in order.

Depression is a mood disorder. “The cause of depression can be physiological, psychological, or spiritual, or any combination of these. Poor eating and sleeping habits or a lack of exercise can also cause depression, or they might be the result of depression. A serious loss, anger turned inward, or guilt that remains unresolved can all cause depression.” That quote is from page nine of a book titled Pressed Down But Not Forgotten. It is a good resource on the subject of depression. Your pastor or church library may have a copy.

Your questions draw attention to some of the problems people have been experiencing since sin’s entrance into the world in the Garden of Eden. Thanks be to God that through his gospel he provides forgiveness for all our sins and strength for Christian living.

Your questions also deserve a more thorough response than can be provided here. WELS Special Ministries, through its Committee on Mental Health Needs, has resources that may be helpful to you. You will find those resources here.

You often refer readers to a WELS statement on the roles of men and women when asked questions about the role of women in the church. If I interpret that statement correctly, women in the working world should also not have men report to them. I was in a very responsible position during my working life and had numerous men report directly to me. I had direct authority over them. Is this statement suggesting that was wrong?

You will often find references to a WELS statement on the roles of men and women when questioners ask about “the WELS position” on men and women living in God’s world.

The statement is not suggesting that your actions were wrong. The statement addresses the challenges Christians face as they live in God’s kingdom of power and God’s kingdom of grace.

A valuable read for you would be a Bible study on “Male and Female He Created Them.” The section “Living as citizens of two kingdoms” beginning on page 28 would be especially helpful. It begins with these words: “Part of what may help us walk through many challenging situations in life is to grasp the biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms, or two realms, both of which are under the rule of our triune God. Sadly, this doctrine is rarely taught clearly (or at all) outside of Lutheran circles, and all too frequently it is not even taught or understood well by Lutherans. Failing to grasp what is meant by these two kingdoms can cause us confusion as we live our callings out in the world and can, in fact, unintentionally do harm to the cause of the gospel we long to further.” God’s blessings on your reading.

I got into an argument with someone about the second commandment. I’m not sure if WELS has the commandments in a different arrangement as other denominations, but the commandment was “You shall not make any graven image.” He was using his interpretation of this commandment to showcase that he doesn’t believe in wearing crucifixes because people are trying to formulate an image of God above, and that’s wrong (as he claims the commandment says). There’s a lot to contest what he’s saying such as, the context in which the commandment is given, the translation, etc., but in the KJV and NIV translations there’s enough slack for him to continue to believe what he believes and have a decent argument. I don’t have enough concrete support to back up the idea that the verse is only in the context of idol worshiping, and it doesn’t mean you can’t make an image of God, religious art, or wear a crucifix as an indication of your belief. Can you please help? As much support as possible would help affirm me in this idea.

The “Ten Commandments” of Exodus 34:28 are literally “Ten Words.” God spoke ten “words” that constituted his commandments, but he did not indicate which was the “first word” or the “tenth word.” As a result, there have been three different numbering systems of the commandments throughout the years (the Jewish system, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran system, and the Reformed and Greek Orthodox system).

Since God did not specifically state which is the “second commandment” or which is the “ninth commandment,” it makes little difference if people attach a different number to a commandment or “word.” The content is not changed.

Your question addresses content that is associated with either the first commandment or the second commandment, depending on how people divide the “Ten Words.” Your question addresses Exodus 20:4-6: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God emphasized that command later in the chapter: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold’” (Exodus 20:22-23).

With those words, God is forbidding the making of an image for the purpose of worshiping it. What God forbids is exactly what the people of Israel did when they built a golden calf and worshiped it (Exodus 32).

When Christians beautify their worship spaces with crosses or wear them as jewelry, they are not worshiping those objects. The cross is a symbol of God’s justice and love. On the cross of Calvary, God spared sinners and punished his own Son in their place. The cross is a reminder of the depth of God’s love.

The Bible itself points to the significance of the cross: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Colossians 1:20; 2:14-15 and 1 Peter 2:24 also underscore the importance of the cross.

Christians use more than the cross as a reminder of God’s love and mercy. Think of some other items of Christian art you can find in churches: a scallop shell to call to mind the blessings of Baptism, a chalice and wafer to underscore the blessings of the Lord’s Supper, a dove to recall the work of the Holy Spirit, a manger to remember the lowly manner of Jesus’ birth, and an empty tomb to reinforce the truth of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Christians are not worshiping these images. These images keep the truths of God’s word before our eyes; they are visual reminders of God’s love and mercy.

As God has neither commanded nor forbidden the use of Christian art, using a cross lies in the area of Christian freedom. I hope this information will be helpful for you.

Do I need to fast? I have been a Christian my whole life and my stepmother just got into it. She is going to a non-WELS church and they teach it very differently. They are making everybody in that church fast for a whole month. I have never done it and the only thing my kids and myself can't eat are treats, and adults can only have one meal when it is 5:00 in the afternoon. I just need an opinion on what do and think about this. Thank you!

I hope the following information from a column I wrote for Forward in Christ will be helpful for you.

In Old Testament times mandatory fasting was uncommon. The Mosaic Law called for Israelites to fast on only one day of the year—on the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29; 23:27).

Of course, people were free to go beyond that requirement, and some did just that. Without being compelled by any divine directive, individuals like Hannah, David, Ezra, and Nehemiah—just to list a few—fasted. People often fasted in times of sorrow, repentance, and intense prayer. After Jonah’s reluctant missionary work in Nineveh, the Bible tells us that the king of Nineveh decreed a fast for all inhabitants— including animals (Jonah chapter 3). Eventually, Jews like the Pharisees fasted twice a week to make plain their claims of spiritual superiority (Luke 18:9-12).

In the New Testament, Paul wrote, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink. . . .” (Colossians 2:16). When Jesus completed his redeeming work and abolished the ceremonial laws, the number of required fasting days for God’s people decreased from one to zero. As was the case in Old Testament times though, Christians today are free to fast if they like.

So, is fasting something for you to consider? It is entirely your call. That is the freedom of adiaphora—those activities that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. Of course, you will want to understand what is involved in fasting. Do the fasts deprive you of food and/or water for extended periods of time? Are there health risks associated with them? Are there spiritual concerns of any kind? A physician can help you with the first two questions; I can help you with the last.

As is the case with any adiaphoron, motives for fasting can be important. Some of the literature I have seen speaks of fasting serving the purpose of “assisting and enhancing” our prayers. In view of that, you may want to ask yourself: “Am I thinking in any way that God is going to hear and answer my prayers because of something I am doing? Am I fasting like the Pharisees—thinking that fasting will put me in a better standing with God and make me superior to non-fasting Christians?” Any thoughts like these would rule out fasting.

On the other hand, are there thoughts of controlling the body and its desires—not being mastered by anything, even food (1 Corinthians 6:12)? Are there thoughts of taking good care of your body in which God lives (1 Corinthians 6:19)? Are there thoughts of eating to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? Thoughts like these can exemplify good motives for fasting.

Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism that “fasting and other outward preparations may serve a good purpose” in preparing ourselves to receive the Lord’s Supper. But the best preparation, he said, is believing Jesus’ words. Fasting—prior to the Lord’s Supper or any time—can be a beneficial practice, but there is no substitute for faith.

Hello. I am wanting to know about the Ray Comfort Bible. My family member calls himself a prophet. He says WELS does not practice evangelism. He changes the stories in the Bible to suppose this happened such as the birth of Christ. Upon looking into Ray Comfort he was described as not believing in God's Communion. I often feel trapped and talked down to as if he thinks he is a better Christian. I am concerned for him and another family member who shares similar views. Can you tell me how to handle this uncomfortable situation? What can I say and what should I not say? I know God sees all. But it bothers me he is leading people astray and actually thinks he's saving them. Ray Comfort's new Bible was recently given to a new family member, knowing I wouldn't like it. Can you help me in handling this in the proper manner?

As I am not familiar with that particular book, I am not able to pass along a reaction to it.

You can assure your family member that WELS is very much concerned about evangelism. While it is finally up to each Christian and each congregation to engage in evangelism, WELS as a church body certainly encourages it and provides resources. You can find some of those resources here. WELS Commission on Evangelism also operates a stand-alone website – What About Jesus?

When it comes to interacting with your family members, all I can suggest is that you listen to them to see how you can best point them to what Scripture teaches. Perhaps you could ask your new family member what he or she thinks of the Bible that was given. That person’s response could help guide what you say. You might even pass along the resources mentioned above.

Finally, if it is clear that your family member is leading other people astray, you will want to speak to that person: both for his or her good and the spiritual welfare of others (1 Timothy 5:20; 1 John 4:1-2). God’s blessings on your conversations.

Hello. My question might be confusing but please bear with me. I have been a believer in Christ for some time now. I’m also a fan and avid watcher of Japanese anime. Yet I struggle with addiction to pornography, including lusting after the girls in anime, or I should say the sexually explicit form of the medium known as hentai. I strive to break free from the addiction and treat the girls in anime with love as I would girls in the real world. Further complicating matters, I suffer from OCD, which is a mental disorder that causes doubt and unwanted thoughts. The OCD has caused me bad ideas that anime girls will be cursed by God due to all of the time I lusted after them. So my question is: would God curse anime girls by changing them in any negative way for me as punishment for my sin? Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this question.

You do not need to be concerned about God cursing animated characters because of your actions. The characters are not real. The real concern is your addiction to pornography. I would encourage you to check out the helpful resources that are available from Conquerors Through Christ. Conquerors through Christ website serves those affected by porn use. You may subscribe to the CtC e-Newsletter and visit  CtC on Facebook. If you are interested in speaking with a Christian counselor, Christian Family Solutions offers in-person and video counseling. Both organizations are WELS-affiliated ministries.

God’s blessings to you as you seek to do what Scripture says: “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

What would be the WELS view on a government mandated Covid vaccination? Some people are saying that by accepting a government mandated Covid vaccine you are receiving the mark of the beast. Could this be true?

I cannot point you to any directive that would address your first question. We trust that people will make responsible decisions when it comes to health care.

There have been several recent questions and answers regarding your second question. Using the “Search Q&A” feature will show you those questions and answers. Here is one.

If I may ask a follow-up question please in regard to my previous “vows and cards” question. I thank you for the response. One doubt remains in my heart. What about verses like Psalm 15:4? Even though my understanding has changed about the permissibility of card games, should I not still keep a promise made to the Lord? Thank you for your wise counsel.

The immediate context of the verse you cited is the child of God’s interactions with other people: not speaking evil of them (verse three) and using money for their good (verse five). It would be wrong to make a promise to another person and then break it (verse four).

Your promise to God was a matter of misinterpreting his will for your life. Recognizing your Christian freedom (Galatians 5:1), you are free to participate in the activity you mentioned.

First, thank you for your time. I have recently been struggling with a decision of faith. I was born by a “mother” who was a drug addict, and a “father” who is a registered sex offender. Since they could not take care of me, they gave me (and my two brothers) to my grandmother. My grandmother’s health was always bad so she put us up for adoption. We now have loving parents who have adopted eleven children total and fostered many more. Our family are all ELCA members. In the past year, I have found a girlfriend, who is a WELS member. I have been attending church with her and her family for the past 6-8 months because I love the church, the pastors, the sermons, and overall how the church operates. My girlfriend and I have been taking the Bible Information Class and are about to do the last lesson this week, and I am thinking about/wanting to becoming a WELS member. But my adopted parents are homosexuals. I have two mothers whom I love so very much and never want to hurt them. They gave me and all of my siblings so much love and gave us a new life. They are two of the best people I know. But I do want to become a WELS member after finishing the Bible Information Class. How can I do this? I know it could hurt my parents because of the WELS’ views on homosexuality. I have talked to the WELS pastor a little bit and plan to set up a private meeting to talk about it soon. But I need more. I am stuck. I never want to hurt my parents, but I know I want to become a WELS member. Please help me. Thank you.

I understand your situation and your predicament. What I would encourage you to do is try to differentiate more between the loving care you received from your adoptive parents and their relationship with God.

From what you wrote, your adoptive parents provided an environment that was free from the problems associated with your birth parents. For that, you are thankful. At the same time, your adoptive parents—by their violation of the sixth commandment—are living contrary to God’s will. For that, you are concerned.

If we love people, we will want to share the truth with them. It really is unloving not to share vitally important information with anyone. If we love God, we will want to do what he says.

Here are some Bible passages I would encourage you to consider. Galatians 6:1 – “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” Christian love compels us to speak to people who are “caught in a sin.” Ephesians 4:15 – “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” When we speak to others about sin in their lives, we do so lovingly—seeking their spiritual good. James 5:20 – “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” Rebuke can lead to repentance, and repentant sinners enjoy the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:37 – “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” While we love family members, we are to love God more than them. That is the heart of the first commandment. As our Catechism explains, we keep the first commandment when we “Fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” The last Bible passage illustrates that “all things” includes “all people.”

The conversation you will have with your adoptive parents will not be an easy one. The WELS pastor with whom you will be meeting can prepare you for that conversation better than I can in this question and answer service. God grant you strength as you testify to the truths of Scripture to your adoptive parents. God’s blessings to you as you consider joining our church family. Church membership is a tangible way of doing what Jesus said: “acknowledging him before others” (Matthew 10:32).

If a person refuses life-saving medical treatment, would it be considered suicide?

You will want to speak to your pastor if your question involves you and your health.

Another valuable resource for you is Christian Life Resources. There you will find information like this: “QUESTION: What medical treatment may I in good conscience refuse?

“ANSWER: We should never refuse any medical treatment for the purpose of hastening our death. The time of death is God’s to choose. Under most circumstances we should not refuse treatment for conditions easily and commonly treated like pneumonia, which if left untreated may kill us, for the purpose of hastening our death from a terminal condition like some forms of cancer. We also should not refuse food and water even when given artificially if the purpose is to hasten our death by malnutrition or dehydration so that we do not have to die naturally of some other condition over a period of months or even years.

“Major surgery or other costly medical treatment of our modern age whose only purpose is to extend what God will take away very soon may in good conscience be refused. Limited resources may not make these treatments possible, and the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands does not make them necessary.”

Are there any Bible apps available for download to my Android phone that are acceptable for a WELS member?

There are many Bible apps that could be beneficial to you. Here are some recommendations I received that I can pass along to you.

This first link will direct you to “5 Audio Listening Bible Options.” The hosts of WELSTech discussed those options in this show. WELSTech has many resources to help spread the gospel.

Other Bible apps you could consider using are YouVersion Bible, Bible Gateway’s app, and the Logos Bible App. You will find these in the Google Play Store.

Finally, there is the WELS app. It offers many resources for Bible reading and devotions.

God bless your use of Bible digital and print resources!

My 23-year-old grandson wears Goth clothes, spikes, skulls, black fingernails and eyeliner but dresses more appropriately for church. How worried should I be about the message it sends to people he meets outside church?

Your grandson’s attitudes might differ from other people who dress like him, but people will not know that unless they speak with him. His outward appearance ties him to others who dress like him, and observers often identify those individuals with attitudes of anger and pessimism.

If your grandson does not wish to be misidentified from a distance, it would be in his best interests to disassociate himself from those who dress like him. Of course, if your grandson shares the attitudes of anger and pessimism of those who dress like him, that calls for a different approach: he would be served best by speaking to his pastor.

While the Bible does not lay out a particular dress code for worshipers, it is good to know that your grandson dresses “more appropriately for church.” Thinking of others (Philippians 2:4) finds application in our words, our actions, our demeanor and even in our appearance. And, finally, that is true whether we are in a church or outside a church. In daily life we want to display our faith and point others to our Lord (Matthew 5:16).

I'm a 30-something single guy that's been a WELS member since birth. I've tried many of the popular online dating sites, with no success. I pray every day for God to help me find a wife that shares my beliefs, and grant us the blessing of children some day. My church doesn't have any sort of 20's and 30's group to meet people. How can I meet the single WELS women that must be out there?

I do not know if you are aware of the following groups, but I will pass along the information regardless.

This link will provide you with information about a WELS and ELS singles group. They have a presence on Facebook.

Not knowing where you live, this second source may or may not be helpful. This link will give you information about the WELS Faith Centered Singles Group. It is located in NE Wisconsin.

This is the limited information I have regarding your question. God bless you.

What does long-suffering mean? My daughter has a chronic medical condition which is hard for me to accept and deal with. I wonder if this applies?

“Long-suffering” is the King James Version counterpart of “patience” that we find in more contemporary Bible translations. “Long-suffering” or “patience” is a quality attributed to God (1 Peter 3:20) and his children, Christians (James 5:8, 10). By your patient attitude, the word applies to you and your situation.

When we keep in mind that “patience” is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), we recognize that God develops and increases that attribute in us through the use of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

May God continue to give you and your daughter patience as a loving and wise God directs all in your lives for your spiritual and eternal welfare (Romans 8:28). God bless you and your daughter!

I'm dying from a terminal illness. I'm frustrated because I believed Jesus would help me. The longer I suffer, the more I doubt. If there is life in heaven after death, why does the Bible say no one praises God from the grave?. A living dog is better than a dead lion? No one has ever been to heaven except the one who came from heaven? Jesus said this. I have lost everything in this life. The more I pray for faith and a relationship with God, the worse I get. Is anything God tells us in his word true? What makes Israel's God different from another society's god? Why do good God-fearing people suffer with no help? Am I not loved by the God I put all of my hope in?

Dear friend, your questions tell me that you need someone to talk to and someone to serve you with God’s word. I trust you have a pastor with whom you are in contact. He will be able to address your questions in more detail than I can.

Here is how I can respond from a distance. Physical death is one of the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23). We will all experience death (Hebrews 9:27) unless the Lord returns visibly to this world in our lifetime.

When it comes to illnesses, the Lord can heal and extend life from our perspective or, in his love and wisdom, he can allow death to take place. In either case, God is working for our good (Romans 8:28). In the latter case, God is bringing about the greatest good possible because he is calling one of his children home.

Psalm 6:5 does state: “Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?” That verse is simply pointing out the contrast between those who are alive on the earth and those who are not. A section of the Bible like Revelation 7:9-17 describes Christians who had died praising God in his presence in heaven.

The verse you cited about a dog and a lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4) simply speaks of the connection of hope to life. Death ends all hope for those who are not connected to Jesus Christ in faith.

Jesus’ words about heaven (John 3:13) mean that only he came from heaven to earth to explain spiritual matters to people. No human being has gone from earth to heaven to acquire that information and then returned to earth to share it.

Everything that God tells you in his word is true (Numbers 23:19; John 17:17). He tells you that your sins have been forgiven (1 John 2:2). He tells you that whoever believes in Jesus has forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 3:16). He tells you that those who believe in Jesus will live forever (John 11:25), and death cannot separate his children from his love (Romans 8:38-39).

The God of the Bible, the triune God, alone exists (Isaiah 45:5). All other gods are idols. You can trust God—and his power and his wisdom and his love.

Again, I hope you have a pastor with whom you can share your questions and concerns. He will be glad to share the message of God’s word with you. God bless you.

My husband would like a personalized Bible for Christmas. With so many out there, what should I look for when looking online for a Bible? Version and other info.

What a wonderful request on the part of your husband! You are correct in noting that there are many, many Bible translations available today.

Perhaps I can narrow down the options if I let you know that our new Catechism is available with Scripture verses from three different Bible translations: The New International Version (NIV), the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV).

Any of those translations would benefit your husband. What might be helpful is selecting the translation that your congregation uses. Perhaps your pastor can help you arrive at a final decision.

We have a granddaughter who will be performing in the musical "Head Over Heels." We did not know anything about this production so I found things about it on Facebook. I was upset at what I read. It is full of transgender, lesbian, etc. issues being presented as being very acceptable. It seems to be a very inappropriate production for anyone to see much less young teens (she is a 9th grader). I don't know how to react to my granddaughter/or my son. They live in a different state and therefore we see them only once/year. We do have phone conversations on a regular basis though with our son. Recently it has become evident that the family is not placing Christian values as important in their lives. I am afraid that her being involved in this activity will just take her farther from the values our son/her dad was taught. How do we respond/react?

For starters, considering the age of your granddaughter, one has to wonder if there is any revision of the content of the musical. This could be something you talk to your granddaughter about. You could explain your familiarity with the musical and ask whether or not some of the objectionable themes are in the production with which she is involved.

If objectionable and inappropriate themes are present in her production, you can ask your granddaughter what she knows and thinks about her role in the musical. You can ask her what she knows and thinks about the themes of the musical that concern you. You can ask her how all of this lines up with the faith she has been taught.

I do not pretend that these conversations will be easy, but the difficult conversations are the ones we need to make. A similar, difficult conversation can take place with your son.

Beyond these suggestions, regular contacts—including emails and texts—with your granddaughter that encourage her in the Christian faith and Christian life are important. You can supply what Christian encouragement she might not be receiving from her parents.

Finally, but very importantly, continue to pray for your granddaughter and her family. Scripture assures us that prayer is “powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Pray that your granddaughter and her family remain strong in the faith and let the light of their faith shine brightly (Matthew 5:16).

Lately I have been struggling in school to get good grades. I have studied and put so many hours into preparing for my tests, but the outcomes of my tests do not seem to match up with my work done. Because of this, is God somehow telling me something about why I am not doing very well? I am praying constantly and getting very confused on why these bad grades could help me later in my life.

I would encourage you not to try to connect your test grades to a message from God. What I do not know is what help you might be seeking to improve your test scores. Does your school have a learning center or a tutoring service that you could utilize? Have you talked to your teacher(s) about different test-taking strategies or study skills? If not, do pursue those options.

I would also encourage you to put test scores and grades in perspective. While grades can be important for eligibility in extracurricular activities and financial assistance in higher education, do keep in mind that learning is much more important. The knowledge that you acquire, regardless of your grades, is important now and in the future.

Finally, you and I will want to remember that natural talents and spiritual gifts are going to vary from one Christian to another. The description of the Christian Church as the body of Christ emphasizes the diversity and importance of each member (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). You and I can easily become discouraged if we look around and see someone else who might have greater talents or gifts than we do. That “comparison game” diminishes God’s personalized treatment of us: we are a unique part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and God has gifted us according to his wisdom and love (1 Peter 4:10).

So, be faithful and keep working to the best of your God-given abilities. Remember that the Bible contains the most important knowledge we have. That is why it says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

I am hoping you can give an in-depth explanation of Titus 2: 3-5. Specifically, do these verses apply to women today? As an older woman, do I have a responsibility to teach the younger women? If so, what does that mean? Finally, could you explain what it means to be "busy at home"? Thank you!

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:3-5).

Those verses of Scripture remain applicable to Christian women. Those words instruct mature Christian women to model the Christian faith to younger Christian women.

Older Christian women are in a position to show younger Christian women how to live as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. That includes not slandering other people and not being controlled by alcohol (verse three).

Mature Christian women can teach younger Christian women how to carry out their roles as wives and mothers faithfully (verse four).

Older Christian women can give younger Christian women lessons in controlling the sinful nature and executing faithfully their responsibilities in the home (verse five).

By the identification you gave yourself, you do have a responsibility to teach these lessons of Christian living to younger Christian women. Do keep in mind that many of these lessons are caught and not taught. That means that you are teaching these lessons to younger Christian women by your actions and attitude—and not just your words.

So, keep teaching! Keep setting a godly example as you point women and men to Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Jesus said we are to forgive others, but does that mean we should stay in relationships with people who are toxic and manipulative?

I am not sure which kind of relationships you have in mind. When it comes to marriage, the Bible lists unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9) and malicious desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15) as actions that break the marriage bond and enable the other spouse to leave that relationship. Other situations can call for loving rebuke, confession and absolution to enable spouses to maintain their commitment to one another.

When it comes to friendships, there could be circumstances that warrant creating distance from people who do not treat us well. If that is the case, Christians still have biblical mandates like these to guide their actions: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14), and “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

God bless your efforts to speak openly and honestly with people (Ephesians 4:15) and to seek their good (1 Corinthians 10:24).

I searched under "roles of men and women in society" and found nothing, so my question is as follows: WELS’ position on the doctrine of the role of women, as found on this link ( says, “6. We reject the opinion that male headship and female submission apply only to marriage or only to marriage and the church (1 Co 11:3; 1 Ti 2:12).” According to the statement above, women are subject to the headship of men in marriage, in the church, and in society. Does that mean a woman cannot hold a secular job (department headship in a college/university, civic headship over government employees, CEO/VP in industry/agriculture/science, president/congressperson/judge/governor/mayor/etc., for example) in which she has men in positions below her? Can WELS members vote for female political leaders? Should a WELS man take a secular job under the authority of a woman?

The same document that you referenced also states this in the “In the World” section:

“20. Christians also accept the biblical role relationship principle for their life and work in the world (1 Co 11:3; Eph 5:6-17). Christians seek to do God’s will consistently in every area of their lives. We will therefore strive to apply this role relationship principle to our life and work in the world.

“21. Scripture leaves a great deal to our conscientious Christian judgment as we live the role relationship principle in the world. In Christian love we will refrain from unduly binding the consciences of the brothers and sisters in our fellowship. Rather, we will encourage each other as we seek to apply this principle to our lives in the world.

“22. Because the unregenerate world is not motivated by the Gospel or guided by God’s will (1 Co 2:14), we as Christians will not try to force God’s will upon the world (1 Co 5:12). We will seek to influence and change the world by our Gospel witness in word and deed (Mk 16:15; Mt 5:16).

“Conscientious Christian judgment” will go a long way in answering your three questions.

In “Man and Woman in God’s World,” our church body states this: “The headship principle is equally valid in society, since this principle is part of God’s unchanging will for men and women in their relationships with one another. The Bible, however, does not make direct application of the headship principle in society as it does in marriage and the church. For that reason we need to avoid making applications that may lead us to say more than Scripture says. There is no scriptural mandate or model, for example, asserting that a Christian woman may never hold a position of leadership in secular society. Nor do Christian men have biblical warrant to assume that they dare never be placed in a position where a women will have authority over them in business or politics.”

I am a follower of Jesus Christ and am at odds as to what I should do. My granddaughter is living with a guy and they need things for the apartment. I have been asked if I would help her. I Know this is a sin and so does she. We were all raised in and believe the word of God. My question is how to show the love of Christ. I don't want her to think I am here to judge her. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Praying you are able to answer my question.

What can be helpful in your situation is that you and your granddaughter are in agreement on how you both view her situation. Your dilemma is trying to determine how to give your granddaughter consistent messages of God’s love for her, your love for her and God’s will for holy living (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

One course of action would be for you to explain to your granddaughter that you, in good conscience, cannot assist her in her situation. This would be applicable if you believed you would be guilty of sinning against your conscience (Romans 14:23) by assisting her financially. You could affirm your love for your granddaughter but explain the reasons for not assisting her. One of the challenges with this course of action is trying to keep the lines of communication open with your granddaughter in the future.

Another course of action might be to provide assistance of some kind that does not go towards the maintenance of her shared apartment. Could there be a way that you express to your granddaughter your thoughts on the living arrangement and also provide assistance of some kind only for her? The limited information I have prevents me from going any further with this possibility.

You can certainly point your granddaughter to Jesus’ words of “seeking first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and the Lord’s promise of taking care of the needs of people who do put him first in life. Sometimes people get involved in live-in situations for financial reasons and budgetary concerns. With Matthew 6:33 in mind, I like to remind people that God has his own math system for taking care of his people’s needs.

Finally, if your granddaughter is a member of a church, her pastor needs to become involved in the situation. This can alleviate some stress in your life.

God bless you with wisdom, love and strength!

Why is it that Christians are so quick to condemn playing video games that contain violence like Call of Duty, yet are so honoring and supportive of Christians serving in the military? I understand that the Augsburg Confession states that Christians can be soldiers, and I agree with this. I just don't get why if serving as a solider is not sinful and an honorable thing, why would it be a sin to play a video game like Call of Duty where you pretend to be a solider?

God’s fifth commandment has the purpose of protecting life and prohibiting murder. God has that concern for a person’s life because when earthly life comes to an end, so does that person’s time of grace (Isaiah 55:6; Hebrews 9:27).

In the Bible, God explains that only he (Deuteronomy 32:39) or his representatives (Romans 13:4) have the right to end a person’s life. If soldiers, in defense of their country and in service to God’s representatives in government (Romans 13:1-4) take the life of another person, that is not a sinful act.

In the case of some video games, virtual killing is presented as entertainment. Each Christian will have to determine the appropriateness of being involved in those games. What games like those can certainly do is desensitize people to violent loss of human life and to devalue human life.

Recognizing that the images and sounds that reach our minds can affect us, it is no surprise that the Bible gives this instruction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). It would be helpful for Christians of all ages to ask themselves if the entertainment they are engaged in passes the “Philippians test.”

My friend who is a Christian has been using sage. I always thought sage and dream catchers were bad. Should we use those and should I tell her if not?

What I do not know is how your friend might be using sage. If the usage involves superstitious practices like you mentioned, then it is certainly appropriate for you to speak to her. As Christians, we look to God for our safety and strength (Psalm 46:1).

Artists like Madonna and Prince have many times drawn comparisons between sexuality and Christian faith (e.g. "Like a Prayer," etc.). Is it blasphemous to make such comparisons?

Blasphemy is an appropriate word to use in the comparison you cited. From what I learned about the lyrics of that song, one line in particular prompted charges of blasphemy. It is my understanding that the music video that accompanied the song clearly contained blasphemous content.

The book of the Bible we know as Song of Songs describes the love between a man and a woman, and symbolizes the love between God and the Christian Church. In Ephesians 5:21-33, the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to use the relationship between Jesus and the Christian Church as the pattern of marriage between a man and a woman. When Paul spoke of “love” in that relationship, he used the Greek word “agape.” That love desires the best for another person and is not self-seeking. Another Greek word for love is “eros.” That love seeks to possess and is associated with eroticism. It is significant that Bible writers did not use that word to describe the relationship between Christ and his Church.

Your question illustrates how popular culture, including music, often fails to uphold moral standards. When it comes to entertainment, the Bible’s instruction is always applicable: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

How should I react to someone saying, "Good luck," to me? I don't believe in luck. I feel God is in control of everything, and chance doesn't fit into the equation.

One approach could be to thank the person for his or her concern and then briefly explain that “luck” might be for other people, but you go through life with God at your side: he watches over you and works everything for your good (Romans 8:28).

Your question illustrates how Christians can find witnessing opportunities in the littlest of everyday conversations. God bless your witnessing!

Is it O.K. to play "Dungeons & Dragons"?

I can pass along a previous response to a similar question.

“We cannot say role playing games are wrong in and of themselves. They would fall into the area of what is called adiaphora, that is, things that Scripture does not command nor forbid.

“However, when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons, there are some issues that Christians would want to consider. In her book, The Truth About Dungeons and Dragons, Joan Hake Robie points out that besides promoting sex and violence, the game also dabbles with spirits and promotes the occult.

“Another book, Angels and Demons: Have Wings Will Travel, describes how the game works: ‘The key person is the Dungeon Master, who creates a dungeon. The goal of other players is to work their way through an elaborate maze filled with monsters and creatures in order to seize hidden treasure. To accomplish this, the players must resort to many different tactics, including murder, rape, and casting evil spells. Even though these actions are only imaginary, the players become acquainted with occult rituals and creatures’ (pp. 67, 68).

“Although some of these same elements may be found in other games, including some video games, the Christian will want to consider whether this is a best use of his or her leisure time. In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul tells us, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.’

“Another issue is that Dungeons and Dragons is sometimes the first step toward being involved in the occult. In the book, The Edge of Evil, Jerry Johnson warns, ‘Those who have come out of the occult tell us that Dungeons and Dragons is one of the most comprehensive and effective training manuals used to prepare young people for entrance into the occult (p. 106).

“As we use our Christian discretion in areas of entertainment, the wise thing is that we exercise good Christian judgment. This will serve us much better than compiling a list of acceptable or not acceptable games.”

Can a Christian desire to be rich?

Wealth, in and of itself, is not evil. It is the value that people place on wealth that can make it evil. It is a first commandment issue when wealth becomes more important than God (Exodus 23:3; Matthew 6:24).

Considering what the Bible says about “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), a desire to be rich—however that is defined—is a risky desire.

A man by the name of Agur understood life well when he wrote, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8). Contentment “in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12) is our goal.

Growing up in WELS churches, I have been told many times that we are saved by Christ alone and not by our own works. I have also been taught that we should live lives of thanksgiving and love to God in everything that we do. I have heard about spiritual apathy, not truly being sorry for our sins, receiving Communion unworthily, and not truly desiring forgiveness. These teachings have caused me much stress and confusion because they seem to be opposite things. How can I balance serving God in all I do with not being self-righteous? Ephesians 2:8-9 comfortingly shows us that our salvation is not at all in our hands. However, Matthew 7:21 states that only the one who does the will of God the Father will go to heaven. How do I balance not being work righteous with not becoming sinful with spiritual apathy? Also, I have heard that we need to confess our sins and repent to be saved. Is this true? Isn’t confessing sins and repenting a work? Many times in my life I have tried to confess my sins, but I just don’t feel truly sorry. What happens then? Why don’t I feel sorry? Do we need to repent after every time we notice that we have sinned, or should we just have faith that the sin is forgiven? How often do we need to repent? Thank you so much for all your time spent on this. I have been struggling with this problem for a very long time, and it is driving me crazy. I will appreciate any help that you can give me.

You have been taught well that God alone is responsible for your salvation and that your grateful response, moved by the Holy Spirit, is a life lived to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 5:15). I will try to respond to your questions as you listed them.

When you wonder about serving God and not being self-righteous, you are illustrating what Christians are like. Our new self desires to use life God’s way (Ephesians 4:24), while our old self—our sinful nature—seeks to use life selfishly and sinfully. As the apostle Paul demonstrated (Romans 7:15-25), there is reason for a constant struggle in a Christian’s life between humbly serving God and being self-righteous—in the context of your question.

When it comes to not being work-righteous or spiritually apathetic, the key is the motivation behind what we do in life. As Christians, we try to keep God’s law. Our motive is not to earn anything from God. Salvation is a gift. Our motive is to thank and praise God for his gift of salvation. We strive to carry out Galatians 6:10 (“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”), but the motive is gratitude not work righteousness.

Confession and absolution are very important. 1 John 1:8-10 contrasts confession and impenitence. Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 teach that impenitence bars people from the kingdom of God.

Confessing sins is a work, yes, but it is God’s work in us. God uses his holy law to lead us to confess our sins (Psalm 19:2; Romans 3:19-20; James 2:10).

Confessing our sins is an ongoing activity for Christians. Think of what Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism: “Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer.” Recall the very first of Luther’s 95 Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Matthew 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Your concern about motivation for godly living, sin and confession is good. I would encourage you to focus more on Jesus, your Savior. Take the focus off yourself, wondering if your actions are pleasing to God or your confession of sins is genuine and sufficient. Look to Jesus. He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). He deals gently with us (Matthew 12:20) and seeks to deepen our faith and trust in him through the gospel.

I hope this has given you some help. Do follow up with your pastor as needed. God bless you.

Why don’t Lutherans make the sign of the cross like Catholics do? I know Lutheran pastors start services by making the sign of the cross but why doesn’t the congregation do it?

Some Lutherans do make the sign of the cross; many do not. It is entirely a matter of Christian freedom.

You might be interested to know that in his Small Catechism (in the Concordia Triglotta) Martin Luther included this preface to his Morning Prayer: “In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say: In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer” [which we know as Luther’s Morning Prayer].

Similar wording precedes his Evening Prayer: “In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say: In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer” [which we know as Luther’s Evening Prayer].

In addition, The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) included this rubric for worshipers: “The sign of the cross may be made at the Trinitarian Invocation and at the words of the Nicene Creed ‘and the life of the world to come.’”

Lutherans are free to follow or disregard those instructions for making the sign of the cross. There are no ceremonial laws for New Testament children of God.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that some Lutherans make the sign of the cross when they receive the Lord’s Supper. Lutherans who do that are exercising their Christian freedom. Lutherans who do not join in that practice are also exercising their Christian freedom.

Making the sign of the cross can be a helpful reminder that Christians are redeemed children of God—people who enjoy salvation only because of God’s forgiving love and not because of anything they have done (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). Wearing a cross can serve that same purpose. With untold words and various actions, Christians seek to point others to Jesus and his cross (Galatians 6:14).

I have a sex addiction. I lock up when talking to a male therapist. Are there female therapists within WELS to help?

Christian Family Solutions, a WELS-affiliated ministry, offers in-person and video counseling. There are men and women on their counseling staff. This link will give you more information about their providers.

If I am a photographer and I was asked to photograph a gay or lesbian wedding, what is the right thing to do?

Christians do want to “[speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) on all occasions. When it comes to marriage, Christians lovingly share the biblical truth that God designed marriage to be the union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:22-24; Matthew 19:5,6; Romans 7:2).

What happens to that confession of truth when Christians engage in business transactions with people who define marriage differently? When Christians operate businesses, they interact with and provide services for many different people.

Christians will want to understand that their transactions with non-Christian churches or individuals are not endorsements of their doctrines or practices. When Christians sell their products to individuals who self-identify with unscriptural practices or ways of living, they are not necessarily approving or sanctioning the actions of their customers. If that were the case, then Christians would need potential customers to fill out an application form so they would not be guilty of doing business with those whose lifestyles or opinions were not Christian.

But there may come a time when Christians will refuse to be a partner in what is contrary to the will of God or will bring harm to others. A Christian will consider the role of conscience and will want to refrain from sinning against his or her conscience (Romans 14:23). Deciding what to do is not always easy. Christians will wish to choose opportunities to act as disciples of Jesus and to speak the truth in love, but one size does not fit all situations.

1 Corinthians 5:12,13 is helpful in providing direction for Christians’ interactions with unbelievers: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” Those words come in the context of the apostle Paul’s directing the Christians in Corinth to take action with a church member who was impenitent over an incestuous relationship. The apostle instructed the Corinthians to implement what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 18: “If your brother or sister sins . . .” (vv. 15-18). Church discipline involves those within the church. We have no specific instructions from God on addressing personal sins in the lives of those outside the church.

Certainly, those words from 1 Corinthians chapter 5 do not mean that we close our eyes and ears to what is going on in the world. What those words mean is that the church does not have the responsibility or divine mandate to discipline people who are not part of the church.

So, where does this leave us? Yes, we want to love our neighbor, but because there is no manual that spells out in detail how best to live a life of neighborly love, Christians will wrestle with questions like the one you asked. They will seek to arrive at decisions that agree with biblical principles and that do not violate consciences. They will also seek to refrain from judging the motives of fellow Christians who arrive at different decisions.

Is it okay to lie to someone to avoid hurting their feelings? For example if someone ask me if I like their outfit and I say yes, when actually I don't like it, is that a lie? Or if someone states an opinion on something that has to do with politics or religion and I agree, when I actually don't agree, is that lying?

“Speaking the truth in love” is what God instructs us to do (Ephesians 4:15). A few verses later, the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). Lying is not an appropriate course of action for Christians.

This means that you will want to exercise tactfulness, gentleness and love in how you respond to questions over which people can have divided opinions.

I enjoy training in self-defense for fitness and for the protection of my person and my loved ones. We do not train to cause trouble but to avoid it if at all possible. When it's not possible but appears inevitable, we train to respond with total commitment and violence when necessary until a threat is neutralized. Within this, there are, obviously, threat levels and response levels, but the techniques can be brutal and must be applied with great discretion. Scripture says not to "clothe oneself in violence" (sic), which seems to leave room for self-protection. Is this training incompatible with Christianity or does it come down to, as I suspect, the intent behind it? Thank you.

Some Christians look to Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:17 as absolute directives not to resist physical threats. In their context though the verses advocate love toward others instead of seeking revenge.

Others look to sections of Scripture like Proverbs 24:11-12 and Luke 22:35-38 as the basis for defending oneself and one’s family from physical threats.

Christians, individually, will need to examine their consciences—and motives, as you suggested—to determine if and to what extent they might defend themselves and their property.

Psalm 73:6 states: “Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.” Asaph, the inspired psalm writer, was describing “the wicked” (Psalm 73:2). He used picturesque language to describe how the ungodly “dress” themselves. Pride dangles from their neck as a necklace, and violence covers their bodies like clothing.

By contrast, the Bible instructs Christians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14). Christians wear a much different kind of “clothing.” But, again, Christians will determine whether or not to move into self-defense mode to protect the life God has given them and others. I certainly cannot label training for fitness and possible self-defense as wrong.

Is it okay to say all lives matter?

That is a theologically accurate statement. Arguably the most well-known passage in the Bible, John 3:16 states that “God so loved the world.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 teaches that Jesus “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 1 Timothy 2:4 makes it clear that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9 restates that truth: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Hi, I am having a bit of problem that I am not sure how to solve in regard to correcting wrongs. You see when I was a college student, my friend lent me his Netflix login info for about a year. I used it on a few occasions throughout the year and went on to get my own Netflix account. But I still feel guilty because I did not pay for it when my friend lent me his. You see lending someone else your Netflix info is a violation of the Terms of Service (which I did not while I was using my friend's account). I want to try to pay Netflix back, but my family says that seems crazy since Netflix is a transaction based business and does not take donations (This would cost $192 total). Similarly, for the last 3 years of my college education I have had an Amazon Prime Student Account which is half the price of a regular prime account. I was unaware of this until last week, but I found out from the Terms of Service that I am not supposed to share my account or account benefits with my family (My mom runs the account). I feel guilty and want to pay Amazon for those three years as a regular account (Which would cost $360 total). I know that God forgives me and I know that I cannot correct everything I have done wrong. I just want to correct the things I can. I do not know if I am doing this to please God or instead appease my guilty conscience and sense of pride. I just want your opinion on if trying to pay the money back is an idea that makes sense, or should I just ask God for forgiveness and move on?

As Christians, we confess our sins to God (Psalm 32:5). We know that such confession is not meaningless; God forgives sins (1 John 1:9).

Your question concerns fruits of repentance: undoing a wrong or making amends for what we have done. Since you stated that you cannot make donations to the companies you mentioned, I imagine a course of action could be buying gift cards for those businesses and then giving them to others. That way, you would be returning money to the businesses without deriving personal benefit. The decision on what to do is entirely yours.

If you do happen to go that route, I trust you will maintain the distinction between proper fruits of repentance and improper thoughts about the forgiveness of sins. God’s forgiveness is full and free. Our actions do not contribute to our forgiveness (Titus 3:5). God’s blessings to you and your family!

I was wondering if there were any government officials who were WELS. If so, who were they?

WELS members, past and present, have served in local, state and federal government positions. I do not have a list of those individuals and their positions, however.

I am WELS. I have a neighbor who is Amish and she struggles with the Amish bishops and all of the rules and regulations. She reads the Bible a lot and believes it is the word of God. She says the bishop doesn't like her reading the Bible and she is supposed to believe that what he preaches is all she needs. I told her whenever she is told something contrary to what she has read in the Bible, ask him where in the Bible she can find that. I'm trying to help her to strengthen her faith. I'm not trying to convert her. I hope and pray you understand the question and give me some direction. Thank you.

I do not find a question in your remarks, but if you are wondering about the advice you have given to your friend, I agree with it.

God’s will is that we read his word (John 5:39). God’s instructions to the people of Israel demonstrated how much he wanted them to use his word in their daily lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Scripture provides a good example to follow in listening to what people say and then comparing that to the teachings of the Bible (Acts 17:11). It sounds like you are encouraging your friend to follow that example. That encouragement on your part is good.

The more we treasure God’s word, the more we will want to read it, listen to it and study it (Psalm 119).

Lately, I've been seeing advertisements for "Bible smuggler" organizations like Open Doors USA, Mission without Borders, and The Voice of the Martyrs on my Facebook page. They claim to provide clandestine support to persecuted Christians in hostile countries. From what I've read on their websites, they seem legitimate both doctrinally and ethically, but I'm still skeptical. Are WELS missionaries familiar with such organizations? Would it be wise to make an official analysis or statement about them?

I do not know WELS missionaries’ level of familiarity with the organizations you mentioned.

Speaking for myself, I believe that the members of our Synod are equipped to compare the stated beliefs and core values of such organizations with what the Bible teaches and then arrive at accurate conclusions. That personal examination eliminates the need for any official analysis or statement.

Your questions are timely reminders about Christian persecution. The Bible teaches that Christians can expect persecution (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12). Scripture teaches us to counter persecution with prayer (Matthew 5:44; Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:2). The Bible teaches that God will not abandon those who suffer in his name (1 Peter 5:10). How we long for the time when persecution for the faith—and all effects of sin—are no longer part of our lives (Revelation 21:4)!

What is WELS' position on Freemasonry? Is it accepted and encouraged by WELS? I have been a Mason for 40 years and a lifelong Lutheran (ELCA). Thank you.

In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we state this: “We reject participation or membership in organizations that have religious features in conflict with the Christian faith, such as most lodges.” Freemasonry is one of those lodges. This link will take you to that statement in its context.

Clicking on this link will provide access to a brief article: “The Religion of the Bible and of the Lodges.” I encourage you to read that article so you can see the conflict between Freemasonry and the Christian faith.

Thank you for asking.

What does the Bible have to say about hypnotism?

The Bible does not specifically address hypnotism. Its applications range from entertainment to treatment of addictions. Because the Bible does not address hypnotism, Christians will want to apply other biblical principles to the subject. Those principles can include being personally responsible for our actions (Ezekiel 18:20), being in control of our actions (2 Timothy 3:3; 2 Peter 1:6), seeking help from the Lord (Psalm 50:15; 121:1-2) and subjecting our thoughts to Jesus Christ and his gospel (2 Corinthians 10:5).

My mother is an alcoholic. She has always been emotionally unstable but now her physical health is failing her. We don’t have much to do with each other. She feels like we have a meaningful relationship but I don’t feel the same way. I feel hurt by what she has done to our family. I have recently asked her to abstain from drinking around myself, my husband and my children. I explained to her that I love her but I don’t want to witness her do this to herself anymore. She was upset with this so we haven’t spoken in months. I am afraid she will die not knowing how much I love her. I want to be in her life and I want her in mine. I pray frequently about this issue. Should I just back off and leave it alone or should I be more persistent in trying explain my feelings about the situation to her?

There are important pieces of information I am lacking as I try to respond to your question. I do not know if your mother has sought and is receiving help for her alcohol abuse and failing health. I do not know if your mother is under the spiritual care of a pastor who knows of her condition. If your mother is not receiving physical or spiritual care, do what you can to encourage her to receive the help she needs.

If your mother’s health is failing, your time to speak to her may be limited. She knows of your love and concern from past conversations but reminding her of your ongoing love and concern is important. By all means, tell your mother of your love for her. Reassure her that your love for her leads you to speak openly and frankly with her. Continue to speak the truth in love to her (Ephesians 4:15).

Of utmost importance is your mother’s soul; her relationship with God is vitally important. That is why a pastor’s ministry to her at this time is significant. Don’t overlook the resources your own pastor may have to help you and your family.

Keep praying for your mother. We know from the Bible that prayer is powerful (James 5:16). Prayer is powerful because the One who hears and answers our prayers is powerful.

Do share scriptural truths with your mother. Remind her of God’s love for her (John 3:16). Recall for her the importance of confession and absolution (1 John 1:9 – 2 John 2:2). Point her to God as her refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).

God bless you and your family!

What is the WELS' belief of Vision Boards? And the idea of Vision Boarding and visualizing dreams?

There is no synodical view on something like this.

This is the definition of a “vision board” I am working with in answering your questions: “a collage of images and words representing a person’s wishes or goals, intended to serve as inspiration or motivation.”

If a person’s wishes or goals are God pleasing, then using images to reinforce those wishes or goals in life can be helpful. At the same time, Scripture teaches us to entrust our plans to our all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving God (James 4:13-15). He knows what is best for us and will do what is best for us—with or without our plans.

My "Through My Bible" in three years won't go beyond February 28, 2020. How do I get this to work again? I missed my devotions for 2 days now. Please help me to get this back.

I am sorry to hear about the problems you have encountered. I am not sure what the specific problem might have been. The “Through My Bible” feature is still available on the WELS website.

Clicking on this link will take you to today’s (March 4, 2020) Bible reading – from Genesis chapter 10.

God bless your Bible reading and listening!

What are the requirements for fasting and how do I fast?

“In Old Testament times mandatory fasting was uncommon. The Mosaic Law called for Israelites to fast on only one day of the year—on the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29; 23:27).”

“In the New Testament, Paul wrote, ‘Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink. . . .’ (Colossians 2:16). When Jesus completed his redeeming work and abolished the ceremonial laws, the number of required fasting days for God’s people decreased from one to zero.”

The quotations above are from an article in Forward in Christ that addressed fasting. This link will give you access to the complete article.

Matthew 24:12-13 states that, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of MOST (emphasis mine) will grow cold, (v.13), but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." This scares me a bit because I believe that, like many, I've occasionally allowed myself to slip into an unloving spirit. I read Scripture (almost daily) and do journal devotions. I know my salvation was determined by Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose again. I am a baptized believer who attends weekly worship with my family. I am not particularly social, so this can "problematic." What more may I do to help myself in this area?

The words of Jesus that you quoted do speak of dire conditions as we move closer to the Last Day. Love for God and love for others “will grow cold.”

Could your love for God and others increase? Certainly. The same thing could be said about my love for God and others. The same thing could be said about all Christians. That is why it is not surprising to read words like these from the apostle Paul: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). There was room for growth in the hearts of the Christians in Thessalonica two thousand years ago. There is room for growth in the hearts of Christians today.

That room for growth does not mean that salvation is in jeopardy. Keep in mind that it is faith in Jesus Christ that saves (Mark 16:16). It is not the strong faith of the Christian that saves. Christian faith saves because it is attached to Jesus Christ, and he is strong.

What I read about you is that you are taking your faith seriously. Your trust is in Jesus Christ. You are regularly hearing and reading God’s word. You remember your Baptism. You have times of slipping “into an unloving spirit.” Those are times when the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21) gets the upper hand in our lives. Especially in those times, we confess to God our unloving attitudes and we receive in faith the forgiveness of our sins. Strengthened by God’s forgiveness of our sins, we strive to put down the sinful nature and follow our new self. We seek to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in daily living. And the very first item is “love.”

In light of your “social” concerns, perhaps you could consider volunteer service in your congregation and community. Take inventory of your interests and gifts, and see how you might grow in reflecting the love of Jesus in your life.

A man once came to Jesus and said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). That man spoke for many other Christians. We do believe in Jesus as our Savior, but we recognize there is room for growth in our faith and our Christian love. Thankfully, the Lord has the means to increase both: it is his gospel in word and sacrament. Keep using them faithfully. God’s blessings!

Recently my girlfriend and I found out we are pregnant before marriage. We took an at-home test but still have yet to go to the doctors to ensure the findings are correct. And obviously it was unexpected. And at our age and point in our relationship we’re unsure if this is what we want. Is it wrong to pray that our finding come up to be a false positive? We do not want to abort it but are unsure of if this is what we want right now.

Regarding prayer, I do not know if you and your girlfriend have gone to God in prayer, confessing your sins and seeking his forgiveness. The possibility of a pregnancy points to sexual activity outside marriage. God forbids that (Exodus 20:14; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). So, if you have not used prayer for confession of sins, I urge you to do that.

The Bible’s message is that God responds to a confession of sins from repentant, faith-filled hearts (1 John 1:9). Through the gospel in word and sacrament, God provides his message of the forgiveness of sins won by his Son, Jesus Christ.

A godly response to the message of forgiveness is using life God’s way. A good, proper course of action for you and your girlfriend is to refrain from sexual activity before marriage (Hebrews 13:4).

I am so glad to read that abortion is not an option, should there be a pregnancy. Adoption could be something for both of you to think about if there is a pregnancy.

When it comes to your prayers about this situation, you can be certain that God will hear your prayers and answer in the best possible way for all involved.  He knows what is best and will do what is best.

As it is with many questions that come my way, I can tell you that you would do well to speak to your pastor. He is in a position to hear words of confession and give you personally the message of forgiveness of sins. He could also address other questions you and your girlfriend might have. God bless you.

I just came to this site. I see questions, but where are the answers?

If you clicked on “Recent Questions,” you would see only the questions. If you click on a particular question, the text expands to give the first part of the answer. Clicking on “Continued” will reveal the rest of the answer.

The same thing is true if you use the “Topical Q & A” categories. For example, clicking on “Baptism Questions” will list several questions, but you need to click on a specific question and “Continued” to see the entire answer to that question.

I hope this helps.

I know that Jesus died for my sins, but I'm worried that I don't actually have the Holy Spirit? How do I know? Can you suggest some Scripture passages that would give me comfort when I am unsure?

From the information you provided with your question, I take it that you not only “know” that Jesus died for your sins but that the Holy Spirit has led you to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Knowledge of Jesus is one thing, but Spirit-worked faith is what brings into our lives all the blessings Jesus won by his holy life and sacrificial death.

When God brought you to saving faith, he did so through his Holy Spirit, “whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6). The Holy Spirit now dwells in you. Twice in his first letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul asked a question that reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit lives in them. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

The same apostle reminds us that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit signifies God’s ownership of us: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possessions—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Other passages that assure Christians like you that “you have the Holy Spirit” are:

“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son in our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6).

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).

“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24).

You have the right idea with your question: looking to Scripture to find reassurance of God’s love for you and his presence in your life. God bless your remembrance of passages like these.

Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

Is gambling always sinful? What about gambling as entertainment when safeguards are in place?

When asking your question you clarified that you do gamble but limit the frequency of the activity, limit the amount of money put at risk, and maintain fiscal responsibility in your giving to the Lord. You want to view gambling as an acceptable form of entertainment that offers at least relatively harmless excitement, but you are really not sure if this is right.

Since gambling has become so pervasive in our culture, Christians increasingly wrestle with questions like yours. It’s a question that won’t go away.

Always sinful? No.

The main reason we don’t classify gambling as sin is that we don’t have the right to label something sinful if the Bible doesn’t. Gambling was well known in Bible times and a widespread obsession in ancient Rome, yet God’s Word contains no prohibition of the practice.

A second factor is that there is no universal definition of what gambling is. To make a sweeping statement that “gambling is wrong” could condemn all risk taking and games of chance that conceivably would include investing in the stock market, involvement in the insurance industry, or playing penny-ante parlor games.

Often sinful? Yes.

Historically Christianity has strongly opposed most gambling practices because they are hard to reconcile with timeless biblical principles for God-pleasing lifestyles. Here’s a partial list of issues that surface when gambling is considered:

  • The Bible condemns and warns against greed, the love of money, and “get rich quick” mindsets (Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:10; Proverbs 13:11; Ecclesiastes 5:10). These attitudes often accompany gambling, and temptations to sin quickly surface in that environment.
  • The Bible repeatedly calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves (as in Romans 13:9,10), yet most forms of gambling invite us to get something at the expense of those who must ultimately lose. Even when my neighbor seems willing to lose what he has, should I seek to take advantage of that?
  • Romans 14:19-21 instructs us     to avoid the use of otherwise    permissible activities when we    might lead others to sin or harm another’s faith. Isn’t this worth thinking about in our country where there are an estimated 8 million pathological and problem gamblers and where 60 percent of adults have gambled within the past year? Do we ultimately feed an industry that preys on so many?
  • We are called to be faithful stewards, or managers, of all God’s blessings all the time (Psalm 24:1; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Luke 12:35-48). While gambling is only one in a long list of potential time and money wasters, the question needs to be asked: Is this a wise use of resources God has given, even when moderation is shown? Do we fail to support our churches and yet spend money on gambling?

Personally sinful? Yes or no.

After identifying pertinent issues and inviting self-examination, we entrust the matter to the conscience of the individual brother or sister, who is called to apply the Bible principles in his or her own life. Generally speaking, churches used to condemn gambling more quickly and comprehensively than they do now. Such is the power of culture. For the conscientious believer, however, the internal struggle to know and do what is wise, loving, and beneficial will continue. Your question is evidence of that.

Sometimes Christians might apply one principle somewhat differently than others. Let’s be quick to listen to their explanation and loving when we offer input. What we really want most is that believers grow spiritually and seek to do what shows love for their neighbor and respect for our gracious Lord.

I was recently diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder. My doctor says I have a chemical imbalance in my brain and prescribed anxiety drugs, but so far I have refused to take them. I feel that my faith is very weak for giving into these fears and anxieties. What does God say about the use of these drugs?

God’s Word does not speak directly to the topic of taking medication to alleviate anxiety. What it does do, however, is speak in terms of “principles” that guide in making such decisions about medication. Applicable principles would be to love God (Matthew 22:37-38) and to love others (Matthew 22:39). If your anxiety interferes with your ability to demonstrate love for God and for others it is commendable to find a solution.

We are also to be mindful that we are stewards over our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19) so you would want to only do things that help and not hurt your body. As such we are to care for our bodies, which requires eating the right foods, drinking the right fluids, and even taking the right medicines.

While we might be tempted to think that by taking medicine we are failing to exercise trust in God, there is a different way to look at it. One of your greatest blessings is God’s gift of life. It is a blessing entrusted to each of us to care for in a manner that glorifies God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Sometimes such care is as benign as bandaging a small physical wound, dressing warmly on a cool day, or walking in the fresh air and sunlight. Sometimes being a good steward of our bodies involves consenting to major surgery or taking medication to help us heal and feel better.

In a world of sin there is no avoiding its consequences. Bodies are imperfect. They are frail and vulnerable. In our imperfection we provide the best care we can. We never do this apart from God’s providence. We trust in his promise to work all things for our good. We trust that the effectiveness of our actions is still subject to God’s will for our lives.

So, on the one hand you repair wounds and take medicine as a responsible steward of God’s blessing of life. On the other hand, you do such things trusting in his love, his promises, and his providence.

Finally, always desire to grow in faith but never forget to celebrate the faith that you already have. Your faith has you turning to fellow Christians via this Web site to seek out God’s counsel and direction. For now God’s response to your concerns is not what you expected or wanted, but you know he is the one who has the answers. Even if, for a time, you must suffer, lean on your faith which instructs you that there is a purpose, even in the hardship (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Taking anti-anxiety medication is one way you care for your body. Celebrate God’s blessing of medicine that assists you in this act of stewardship and service to him and rejoice in your faith, which holds you in his arms.

Should we forgive others for all sins they may commit against us? If they show no remorse or repentance, are we still to offer our forgiveness?

The topic of forgiveness is prominent in Scripture. Thanks for highlighting this subject with your question.

Forgive fully and unconditionally

A number of passages indicate we are to forgive unconditionally, whether or not others express repentance, show remorse, or offer any apology. Please read these thoughtfully. Matthew 6:14,15 instructs us to forgive human beings with no explicit mention whether or not they are believers or are repentant. Mark 11:25 and Luke 11:4 call us to pardon “anyone” and “everyone” without distinction. Seeking pardon for his crucifiers, Jesus mentioned their lack of comprehension (Luke 23:34), but contrition or regret are not in the picture. The Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer likewise provides no explicit or implicit condition of repentance linked to pardoning our debtors. We have ample evidence to say believers are to forgive fully, unconditionally.

I suspect your question may stem from passages that focus on our forgiving fellow believers who express repentance. Luke 17:4 as well as Christ’s powerful parable in Matthew 18:21-35 explicitly address forgiveness among Christians. Contrition and repentance always play a role here. You might also be thinking of our high privilege to forgive or not forgive sinners in administering “the keys” in ways that reflect prior repentance or impenitence (see Matthew 18:15-20; John 20:21-23). This tells us much about how we are to communicate with fellow sinners as God’s representatives on earth, but nothing removes from us the sacred, personal obligation to forgive unconditionally.

Communicate forgiveness wisely and lovingly

Our culture makes a big deal about victims forgiving criminals who wronged them. Remorse is sought from the guilty, and when those victimized express forgiveness, they are praised. The greater needs of the guilty, namely, godly repentance and divine forgiveness, are typically ignored. That’s a shame. It’s wonderful when sinners forgive other sinners, but God’s forgiving sinners is far greater. This is the message we are fully qualified to share with the world. So as we forgive others personally and unconditionally, we do well to think about how we communicate this to those who sin against us.

How might we offer clarifications as we affirm our full forgiveness to others? Especially to those who have wronged us yet have given no evidence of contrition before God or reliance on Jesus as their sin-bearer, we may say:

I fully and freely forgive you, sinner to sinner. I hold no grudge against you, seek no retaliation, and will keep no record of wrongs. I have no desire or need for this. My Lord Jesus is my ultimate Protector, and he will satisfy justice in the end. Vengeance is his to give, not mine.

But please understand that this actually may mean very little for your long-term well-being. If and as long as you do not repent before God of your sin, you do not enjoy the forgiveness Christ earned for you. You forfeit personal benefit of his pardon. You have my forgiveness, given cheerfully in love. But just like me, a sinner like you, you need the personal enjoyment of Christ’s forgiveness, which is also freely given. I am willing to do anything I can to help you enjoy this.

Our responsibility is to forgive others fully, unconditionally. As we communicate this, let us also speak wisely as well as lovingly so that we will best serve our neighbor.

Are WELS girls able to participate in the Girl Scout program as it currently stands as an organization? Please give doctrinal position. Thank you.

The Girl Scouts organization is not an option for WELS girls as long as the Girl Scouts’ Promise and Law are the foundation of the organization.  The website of the Girl Scouts currently states:  “Everything in Girl Scouting is based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law.  The Girl Scout Law includes many of the principles and values common to most faiths.  Thus, while a secular organization, Girl Scouts has, since the movement began, encouraged girls to take spiritual journeys via their faiths’ religious recognitions.”

As the Girl Scouts organization allows members to define “God” however they want, it is a group that puts all religions on equal footing and maintains that girls are able to do their duty to the God of their understanding.

This now becomes a first commandment issue (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7).  There is only one God:  the God of the Bible who has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There is only one Savior, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Only Christians are able to do things that are pleasing to God (John 15:5; Romans 14:23).  We will want to belong to organizations that give clear testimony to the truths of the Bible.  Scouting is not one of those organizations.  The Lutheran Girl Pioneers program, of course, is one in which we can encourage WELS girls to participate.

Is is sinful to drink alcohol?

An appropriate starting place is to allow Scripture to determine whether drinking alcoholic beverages is a sin or if it is something neither commanded nor forbidden, that is, a matter of Christian freedom.

This particular point is not difficult to determine. There is no prohibition in the Bible that declares drinking a sin in and of itself. It would be spiritual arrogance and rank legalism to declare something sinful when the Bible has not done so. And there are quite a few passages that speak of a proper and pleasing use of alcoholic beverages. Whether it be general passages like Proverbs 9:1-5, or Isaiah 55:1, or examples like Christ’s miracle in Cana (John 2:1-11), or Christ’s use of wine in the Last Supper and while instituting the Lord’s Supper, or Paul’s fatherly advice to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), the legitimate and proper use of alcoholic drinks is clearly established. It is a matter of Christian freedom, and we have no right to bind another’s conscience on this point.

It is precisely because it is a matter of Christian freedom, neither right nor wrong in itself, that Paul’s words in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 come into the picture here. The freedom to drink wine, for example, implies the freedom to refrain from doing so when it best serves our Christian purposes. In all matters of Christian freedom we need to ask if our doing something (or not doing something) is wise and beneficial, or potentially a cause for a weaker brother or sister to stumble spiritually (that is, to spiritually “offend” another believer). It may also become a point of Christian confession, something that needs to be done or not done to establish or testify to the truth of Scripture.

What is the WELS stance on joining Boy Scouts and why?

The Boy Scouts are among the most respected organizations in this country, and the skills, activities, and companionship which they offer could be a benefit to any child. Yet for more than 70 years the Wisconsin Synod has warned its members that their children should not participate in the Scouting program.

Our basic objection to Scouting was that the required promise and law contain religious elements which imply that the Scout can do his duty to God regardless of what religion he belongs to. This contradicts the clear statements of Scripture that no one can perform works pleasing to God without faith in Christ.

Over the years the wording of the Scout Law and its explanation have become vaguer and less offensive, but the religious principles have been maintained. All members of the Scouts must accept the Scout Oath and Law, but they may interpret them in their own way. For example, an atheist boy who refused to promise to do his duty to God was denied membership, but when he took the oath with the understanding that “god” was not a personal being, he was permitted to join. This is certainly a very offensive interpretation of the concept of “duty to God.”

Recognition of the religious basis of Scouting is not limited to the WELS. Advocates of strong separation of church and state have objected to the promotion of Scouting in public schools because of its religious requirements.

Because the religious requirements of Scouting remain unchanged, our WELS congregations cannot make use of the Scouting organizations. We have a better option in the Lutheran Pioneers, which provide many of the same benefits as Scouting, without the objectionable religious requirements.

The religious principles of Scouting remain unchanged, but there has been one notable development. The increased vagueness of the Scouting literature and the fact that some Scout troops may make little use of the religious features make it more difficult for pastors and teachers to convincingly demonstrate from the Scout Handbook the false religious principles which underlie Scouting. This makes it more difficult to convince parents that their children should not belong to the Scouts. The Girl Scouts are a separate organization, but the same principles and observations apply to that group also.

What happens on judgment day to a believer who constantly criticizes others, blames everyone else for his problems, and refuses to forgive others by always bringing up their past wrongdoing?

I cannot say definitively what will happen on the Last Day to this constantly critical person because I cannot look into his heart. He may be a weak or immature believer reminiscent of the Corinthians with their habitually bad behavior (see 1 Corinthians 1:11; 3:1-3). Or he may be an unbeliever whose profession of faith is empty. But I can say that we all have to deal with critical people, even in the church, and important issues need to be identified and addressed whenever that happens.

I appreciate the fact that you are asking the question and expressing concern. It is not normal for believers to be so characteristically or chronically critical of others. We should not ignore, much less excuse, such behavior or take it lightly.


You describe a faultfinding lifestyle trait. This is disturbing. All of us have bad moments, are subject to bad moods, and can be critical at times. But the Bible describes a child of God as one whose dominant lifestyle is governed by the new man rather than the old. We’re not talking about ethical perfection, but we are talking about a discernible habitual pattern of godly attitudes and actions, fueled and maintained by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Constant depreciation of others and an unforgiving attitude are not compatible with true faith (as James 3:9-12 and Matthew 18:21-35 illustrate well). So we take this situation seriously.

Even if faith remains, denigrating others is not living a life “worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). There may well be serious psychological and social issues to be addressed. Most often, as the old adage says, “hurting people hurt people.” Low self-esteem and insecurity are frequently involved, and miserable people tend to prefer—or seek to create—miserable companions. Even if it’s more of a superficial matter of lacking social skills like diplomacy and tact, this is serious stuff for the Christian community, since we represent our Lord when we interact with others.


We are to be agents of change not just identifiers of bad behavior. I am to speak straightforwardly with the critic, confront unacceptable speech, and hold professing believers in particular to biblical norms. Our Lord’s clear counsel in Matthew 18:15-20 applies to this kind of situation as it does with any other departure from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Within the church this always involves a compassionate use of law and gospel to expose sin and underscore the grace of God for sinners. Enlist the help of fellow believers who know the person and his behavior patterns. The primary goal is to serve the person’s spiritual as well as emotional needs. A companion blessing of serving the critic’s needs is that it keeps us from growing bitter or becoming enablers of bad behavior through silence.

Be patient in your loving testimony to the critic. Change may not be apparent overnight. Ingrained behavior patterns are notoriously difficult to amend even if the person is repentant and growing spiritually. Expect fruits of faith, but be realistic in your expectations as you entrust the person to God’s Word and Spirit, and continue your testimony to him and intercessions to God on his behalf.

What is considered justifiable anger? When sin is involved, is justifiable anger only reserved for positions in authority? Can you please give me Scripture to reference? For example, when a child is abused by their parent, is their anger justified?

The Bible does not label all anger as being sinful.  Jesus had justifiable or righteous anger when synagogue worshipers refused to answer his question whether or not it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day by healing an individual (Mark 3:1-6) and when he cleansed the temple courts of money changers and merchandisers (John 2:15-17; Mark 11:15-16).

Christians too, not just those in authority, can have righteous anger when others set aside God’s commands:  when they hurt and abuse others, when they mock God and his word, when they sin.

God’s concern though is that a person’s righteous anger might turn into sinful anger, so he says:  “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…” (Psalm 4:4; Ephesians 4:26, 31).  As sinful human beings, our anger over other people’s sins might lead us to seek revenge, get even or wish evil on them.  God expressly forbids those thoughts, emotions and actions (Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:9).

The bottom line is that we can walk a fine line with anger.  The sins of others might rightly arouse our anger.  We can express our displeasure of and concern for people’s sins.  We might even seek justice.  We will pray that those who have angered us will confess their sins and then enjoy God’s forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.  Ultimately we leave matters in the hands of God.

Jesus gave up EVERYTHING for us. Jesus also asked his disciples to give up EVERYTHING, even their families and they did. What does that mean for those that are "believers" that don't give EVERYTHING? Jesus himself said, for those that don't give EVERYTHING cannot be my disciple. I don't know a single WELS believer or anyone from any denomination that has done this.

I understand your question to be referencing Luke 14:33 – “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”  If that verse were simply isolated and pulled out of context, it would look like we all need to live ascetic lives in order to be disciples of Christ.  However, the words at the beginning of the verse (“In the same way,”) instruct us to understand this verse in light of the verses that precede.

In the verses that precede, Jesus spoke to people about the difference between following him physically and following him in faith.  Following him in faith means putting him first and being ready to give up whatever interferes with that course of action.  In the preceding verses Jesus spoke of loving family members less than they love him (“hating” them in that sense).  He spoke of suffering in his name (carrying the cross).  He used the illustrations of a building project and a military campaign to highlight the high cost of following him.

With that background, Jesus gave the instruction in the verse you referenced.  When understood in context, it is not a command to live a life of poverty.  Scripture rather instructs us to use our possessions to support the work of the church (2 Corinthians 9:7 ), to provide for the needs of our family (1 Timothy 5:8), to pay taxes and support the government (Romans 13), and to help those in need (1 John 3:17).  When understood in context, Jesus’ instruction is a call to follow him in faith without being sidetracked by anything or anyone in this world.  With that understanding, now you do know believers who can be associated with this Bible passage!

Is it OK for women to attend the voters' meeting, as long as they do not take the floor? I have read over and over 1Timothy 2:11-15, and have read Genesis 3:16. It does state that the man is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of man, hence I would say that having women at a meeting would be completely acceptable, given the woman does not take the floor to speak. But as long as she speaks to her husband, brother, etc., her voice and opinion could be made to the council/ board/ general meeting. I have searched and searched Scripture, and have yet to find anything prohibiting women from attending the meetings.

Because your question addresses a matter of adiaphoron—a specific subject matter on which the Bible is silent—our congregations have varying practices in this regard.  Our congregations apply the broad principles of the Scripture passages you referenced to twenty-first-century church structure, which is admittedly more complex than the structure of the first-century church.  The applications that are implemented range from holding open forums where all members are invited to hear board and committee reports and ask questions, to enabling women to attend voters’ meetings—to observe the proceedings only or to speak.  We do well to remember that while voting is an authoritative action, so may also be the debate leading up to a vote.  Christian men and women will want to live within their God-given roles in settings like these.

You mentioned you have read and re-read Scripture passages that lend application to this subject matter.  That is what we want to do individually and as a family of believers.  I can direct you to a couple of Bible study resources that congregations can use as they address questions such as yours.  The first is A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s World.  The second is Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift.  God help us all to work together as brothers and sisters in the faith for the good of God’s kingdom and the glory of his name.

A middle-age unmarried man and woman recently moved into the neighborhood and expressed interest in joining our church. Would they be welcome to join a WELS congregation and allowed to receive Holy Communion? Thank you.

It would be good if you could put your pastor in contact with these individuals.  Your pastor will be able to talk with this man and woman about issues related to this situation of living together without the benefit of marriage (Matthew 18:6-7; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:4).  Where sin is confessed, he will gladly announce God’s gracious forgiveness in Jesus his Son.  God willing, the individuals will then resolve their living arrangements so that church membership can be established.  And church membership—as you indicated—furnishes the privilege of receiving the Lord’s Supper.

I have a good job as a director of a department at a university. I've been in the office for over 12 years and have been director for 7. I've found myself feeling anxious and depressed 3 times in the last 5 years and, especially at those times, have felt trapped and hopeless that this is where I'll be "stuck" for the rest of my life. I feel something is missing and that I'm not using the gifts God has given me as natural strengths due to the job requirements. I've signed up for online career change systems, taken numerous aptitude tests, investigated careers and come up with nothing. I keep thinking there must be a career, or careers, out there that would be perfect for me but I can't seem to find what that would be. There are many areas that intrigue me but each would require quitting my job, going back to school, and I'm not certain that I would love those careers. I'm feeling stuck. God has given me my natural gifts and I know he wants me to use them but I can't find where. At what point do I quit searching and just sit back and wait for God to show me his will or must I keep searching, what feels like a futile effort, and not just expect God to hand me the perfect career? I'm really struggling with a lack of motivation in my current work which leads to feeling of guilt. I want to serve God and be happy but I just can't shake this sense that something is missing.

The first part of your background has me wondering if, in your “anxious,” and “depressed” and “hopelessly- stuck” times of life, you have sought and received any medical and professional care that might have been needed.  Hopefully that is the case.

Other parts of your background tell me that you have certainly explored (and perhaps in your estimation, exhausted) options for career change.  I cannot suggest anything of substance in that regard.

Where I can respond is in the area of your question.  I am led to wonder if you are putting unnecessary strain on yourself by “waiting for God to show you his will” for a career change.  If that is indeed the case, I believe you could find it liberating to read more on what the Bible says about Christian vocation.  Especially appropriate Bible sections are 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 and Colossians 3:22-24.

I would also commend to you some excellent reading material on the subject of Christian vocation.  Our synod also has a very fine Bible study on Christian vocation that congregations can use.  Here are just a few excerpts from it:  “We have less control over the direction our lives take than we may realize.  External circumstances—which are under God’s control—often influence the course of our lives.

“When our work seems meaningless, it can be hard to continue serving faithfully in our vocations.  But if our vocations are assignments from the Lord, they are never meaningless.  Ultimately we are not doing our work for the sake of our own feelings of satisfaction, but for the Lord.

“Often we make decisions [of vocation] by focusing on ourselves—our needs, our aptitudes, our interests, and so on.  The Bible’s discussion about vocation teaches us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto our neighbors.”

Martin Luther wrote much on the subject of Christian vocation.  You might find it valuable to see what insights he offered on the basis of Scripture.

Finally, when we encounter feelings of guilt—real or imagined—we know that we can go in spirit to the foot of the cross and be assured that Jesus removed all our sins and the guilt of our sins.  King David’s experience is also ours:  “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

I do wish you well and pray for your contentment as you continue using your gifts and abilities to serve God and your neighbor.

Are women allowed to be voting members of WELS?

Elsewhere on this website you will find This We Believe:  A Statement of Belief of the WELS.  The “Church and Ministry” section addresses your question on the basis of Scripture:  “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).”  One of those assemblies is the voters’ assembly.

While women in WELS congregations do not cast votes in voters’ assemblies, that does not speak at all to their status in God’s sight.  Scripture says to Christians:  “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

What is the church's position on faith healing (excluding children, money)?

God, of course, can do anything.  If he chooses to bring about physical healing through an individual, he can do that.  Before Jesus sent out his twelve disciples, “he gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1).  He instructed those same men:  “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:8).  The Lord gave similar instructions to the seventy-two disciples that he commissioned:  “Heal the sick…” (Luke 10:9).  The apostle Paul listed “gifts of healing” (1 Corinthians 12:9) as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

That being said, there is wisdom in approaching the subject of faith healing with the biblical injunction of “testing the spirits” (1 John 4:1).  Biblical history (Acts 8:18-19) as well as recent history (exposés of would-be faith healers) illustrate how rife with fraud this subject can be.  The spiritual gift of healing certainly showed the power of God in the early New Testament church.  Since we today have all the Scriptures, we would not see as great a need for this gift.  Still, we would not pretend to limit God or say what he can or cannot do.

Is it correct to say that whatever power or insight a person/medium might have is given to them by Satan? I can never figure out how these people come to know things about others. I realize that some of these TV shows are a hoax but sometimes it appears to be legitimate.

Yes.  The connection between mediums and Satan is so established that God warned his Old Testament people numerous times about mediums:  “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.  Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)  “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists…” (Leviticus 19:31)   “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?  Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20)  Jesus’ followers listen to his voice, not Satan’s (John 10:27).

I feel it's valuable to have many opportunities to read God's word. I have many translations of the Bible and a few more modern books. I recently picked up a copy of Baker's Dictionary of Practical Theology. I find it invigorating to read non-WELS books in order to make sure I'm paying attention to the text. Is there any danger in this?

I’m sure you’d agree that an obvious answer to your question is that there is always a danger we might believe and buy into anything we are reading.

In your case it sounds like you are reading literature critically, sorting out biblical truth from error.  You are testing the spirits (1 John 4:1), which is exactly what we are to do.  Reading a variety of literature can certainly expand our knowledge base.  Remaining tethered to the truths of Scripture as we read other literature is absolutely paramount.

As a WELS member is there a religious problem in joining the American Legion? Thank you!

The American Legion’s Web site explains that it “was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization.”  While the essential character of the organization is not religious in nature, still there can be religious elements in the local post, such as prayers, a chaplain and burial rites.  It would be worth your while to speak to individuals at the local post to find out to what extent there are religious elements at that level.  Speaking to your pastor would also be helpful.  Certainly if Lutheran Christians were to join an organization like this, they would, as in other settings of life, refrain from prayers and religious activities if there is not unity of faith (Romans 16:17).

I've been with WELS since 07/08. I was taught that joining the Freemasons is wrong, and I understand why. However, I am in the military and we have oaths and creeds everywhere. Where is the real difference and line drawn with service related oaths and creeds and fraternal? Additionally, what is the standpoint with the Military Order of the Cootie, a section of the VFW?

The difference is in the nature of the organization.  On limited occasions in our society we might use God as our witness to assure others that what we are saying or promising is the truth (e.g., a witness in court, a person joining the military or a person elected to public office).  Such swearing—biblically defined—is not a matter of joining together with others in religious practices.  Even then, God warns us about unnecessary swearing (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12).

I have to say that I am not that familiar with the Military Order of the Cootie.  Their Web site tells me that they are an entertaining and charitable organization.  Affiliated Web sites speak of  Sky Pilots or Chaplains.  That tells me to be concerned.  You will want to speak to individuals at the local level of the organization (the “Pup Tent”) to learn more and also speak to your pastor.

What is the church's stance on casino gambling? I don't do it very often, but I recently won $450 on a slot machine. I gave a chunk of my winnings to my church. Is it bad to use gambling money to give to church? I always thought that if I'd ever win a lottery, I would donate a whole bunch of it to the church to use for mission work. I doubt that will ever happen, but would the church even accept money that came from a lottery? Or would I have to give it to them without saying where it came from? Thank you for your time.

The Bible does not specifically address gambling, but does speak of greed and covetousness that can easily and often be associated with gambling.  In addition, the Bible instructs us not to squander the resources that God has entrusted to us, but rather use them to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7), to give back to the Lord and his church (1 Corinthians 16:2) and to help those who have needs (1 John 3:17).

As might be expected, Scripture does not address the matter of a church receiving gifts that originated from lottery or gambling proceeds that are not tainted by sinful motives or actions.  Usually congregations do not know the source of members’ offerings.  If you were to win a large sum of money and considered giving part of it to your church, I could foresee conscience playing a role in whether or not you revealed the source of that gift.  And while consciences of congregational leaders might play a role in receiving that gift, the church could receive your gift with the knowledge that the giving was done in faith and motivated by love and gratitude for God’s grace in Christ.

How do you survive when your 27-year-old son announces he is gay? I have been a WELS Lutheran all my life and raised my children to be Lutheran also, sent them to Sunday Schools, Lutheran Pioneers, they played their musical instruments for church services, went to church almost every Sunday/special services.

Remember that God remains your “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  Take to heart what God has promised:  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  Circumstances in life may change, but our God does not.  God stands ready to hear your prayers.  So, turn to him, lay out your requests before him, and be confident he will hear your prayers and answer them according to his love and wisdom.  God remains present in Word and sacrament to bolster your faith and strengthen you for Christian living and witnessing.  So, take him up—often—on his offer to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

In addition, tell yourself that you took your parental responsibilities seriously and did what you could as a parent to bring up your child “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), recognizing that no one has ultimate control over what someone else thinks or believes.  Recall God’s general promise:  “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

More than ever, your son is in need of Christian influence and witnessing in his life, so continue to reflect to him the love of God in Christ, while also making it known what God says about homosexuality.

As far as resources are concerned, you would do well to speak with your pastor.  He may be aware of counseling services available in your community or associated with your congregation.  I can also pass along to you this link to a resource available from a member of our synod.  You may be especially interested in a new “support page-network for family members” in the “Resources” section.

God bless you as you face this challenge in life.  Know that the Lord goes with you and surrounds you with his loving presence and powerful love.

I am in the first semester of an MA in theology program at a renowned ecumenical school situated within one of the nation's elite universities. My hope was to specialize in biblical theology and go on to do a PhD. Since mid-August I have been regularly attending a local WELS church where I am now seeking membership (I do not have a Lutheran background). The problem I now face is that my academic program is largely at odds with WELS teachings. After coming to agree with all of WELS confessions and doctrinal statements, I have become disillusioned with my graduate studies because of the pervasive theological liberalism and outright error. I am prayerfully considering dropping out as I grow more dissatisfied with my program each day. On the other hand, I am privileged to be enrolled in this institution with a full tuition scholarship and my grades are very good. What is the WELS position on members participating in non-WELS graduate theological education?

We do not have a rigid, hard-and-fast position on the subject matter of your question.  What our pastors would do with congregational members in your situation is alert them to circumstances at the educational institution where biblical fellowship principles might be compromised and to the very real danger that the errors taught in the classroom might be comprehended as truth by the WELS student.  A person in your situation needs to remain firmly grounded in God’s word and be able, with God’s strength, to withstand any ridicule and persecution that might result.

I understand your struggle, which is compounded by the financial implications involved.  Part of me wonders how much more you might enjoy and benefit from an education in the truths of God’s word, even at your own expense.

If you have not done so already, do speak with the pastor of the church where you are seeking membership.  He is in a position to discuss this at length with you.  God’s blessings to you!

What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

In our society you will receive different answers to that question depending on the person who is responding.  To some, those terms are synonymous.  To others, those terms differentiate between a person’s non-physical activities and worship of a deity through an organized church.  Still others will answer in a variety of ways.

Christians see a connection between spirituality and religion.  There is only one religion, one godly faith.  It revolves around the Triune God and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the world’s only Savior.  The working of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts through the gospel—joining them to faith in Christ—is what makes people spiritual.  1 Corinthians 2:10-16 provides an explanation of that.

Is it a sin to use birth control?

It can be, depending on the motive or method.  Providing a full treatment of the topic goes beyond the scope of this forum.  Christian Life Resources, an organization within WELS, has extensive information on the subject.  This link will take you to that part of their website.  You might want to begin by reading the three-part Birth Control Series.

Many people these days say, "Oh, my God." Is that not taking God's name in vain? Thank you.

Yes.  God did not reveal his name to us so we could use it as an interjection when we are surprised, upset or angry.  God commanded (Exodus 20:7) that people not “take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (King James Version) or “misuse the name of the Lord your God” (New International Version).  The common exclamation you described is a misuse of God’s name.

Our Catechism reminds us from Scripture that God has revealed his name to us that we might pray to him, praise him and give thanks to him.

Our Catechism also reminds us from Scripture that Jesus forgave our sins against the second commandment by keeping that commandment perfectly in our place and by suffering the punishment our sins against that commandment deserved.  That surely is reason and motivation for using God’s name properly.

Someone asked me why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus did not say we should celebrate his birthday. Why do we celebrate Christmas every year?

“Christian freedom” is the short answer.  God has neither commanded nor forbidden the celebration of the anniversary of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem.

While every day of life furnishes the opportunity to praise God for the gift of his Son, Christians in freedom have designated December 25th as a special day to commemorate the time when “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  Designating a special festival like Christmas provides an occasion to give special praise to God.  And giving praise to God is his will for us (Psalm 22:23; Psalm 147:1).  Have a blessed Christmas!

"I don't want a religion, I want a relationship." I have seen this quote (and many like it) all around the internet and friends constantly saying it and some Christian churches teach that, but it kind of confuses me. I figure that religion and relationship should go hand-in-hand, especially after looking up the definition of religion. And it concerns me that it might give someone the false impression that you don't need to go to church if you have a relationship with God. Would there be any risk in using this quote? I don't know if I'm thinking too much into this or if there is actual risk in using that quote.

There is always a risk in being misunderstood by using a quote that different people use for different purposes.  People inside and outside the church might use that quote to contrast organized religion and a person’s spirituality apart from organized religion.

Some people might contend that they do not need to belong to a church to worship God.  That is true to some extent, but the Bible specifically directs us to gather together with fellow believers:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Corporate worship provides for mutual encouragement.  It enables worshipers to be fed with God’s gospel in word and sacrament.

On the other hand, there might be churches which use that quote to illustrate how their worship style distinguishes them from liturgical churches.  They might use that quote for outreach purposes, to emphasize the caring nature of their family of believers.

There can be other reasons why individuals and churches might use that quote.

Like you, I too find religion and relationships going hand-in-hand.  That is because Scripture pairs them together.  1 Timothy 5:4 states:  “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”  True religion is one in which people love others—especially family members.  Such action is pleasing to God who first loved us (1 John 4:19).  James 1:27 explains:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  True religion is one in which people can call God their Father and Jesus Christ their Brother.  True religion is one in which people care about others and show love to them.  True religion is Christianity,and it is all about relationships—vertical and horizontal.

Is it wrong to be a fan of a sports team? What if you take these Bible verses into consideration: Proverbs 8:13, James 4:4, and 1 John 2:15-17?

No, it is not wrong to be a fan of a sports team.

The Proverbs passage instructs us to hate the things God hates:  “evil, pride, arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”  If I were to consider that passage within the context of your question, I would say that if we follow a sports team, we dissociate ourselves from any ungodly behavior of its players or other fans.

The passages from James and 1 John contrast loving the things of this world that are evil and opposed to God, and loving God.

As with all areas of life, God wants to be the number one love of our life.  He instructs us:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  Whether it is following a sports team, pursuing a hobby of music, earning a living or raising a family, we are to love God more than anyone or anything else.  Putting God first will be reflected in our priorities and our usage of God’s gifts of time, money and abilities.

When we fail and put other things and people first before God, we confess those sins to God and receive his forgiveness in faith.  Renewed and energized by our Lord’s forgiving love, then, we strive to live again for him who “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

As a Lutheran in this current time, should we steer clear of "halal" meat--considering that part of the preparation of this meat includes invoking Allah? And especially in light of (at least here in the USA) the abundance of non-halal foods?

Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permissible.”  Halal meat comes from animals that have slaughtered in keeping with Islamic laws of the Qur’an.  Included in the slaughter process is a ritual with prayer to Allah or the mention of his name.  “Can Christians eat such meat?” you wonder.

The situation associated with your  question is similar to what the apostle Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians.  In ancient Corinth meat that had been associated with pagan worship practices was available for sale in the marketplace.  Some Christians believed it would be wrong if they bought and ate that meat.  Other Christians were convinced there was nothing wrong with the meat.

How did the apostle handle the situation?  For starters, he reminded the Corinthians that there is only one God—the God of the Bible, the Triune God:  “We know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that ‘There is no God but one’” (1 Corinthians 8:4).  The food that had been sacrificed to idols was perfectly fine because, as Paul pointed out, idols do not exist.  Similarly, meat today slaughtered in the name of a false god is not tainted, because the god of Islam does not exist.

“But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled” (1 Corinthians 8:7).  Whether we are talking about ancient Corinth or 21st century America, if Christians believe it is wrong for them to eat meat that has been associated with idolatrous worship practices, then it is wrong for them.  The apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Rome of that same truth:  “But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean” (Romans 14:14).  When a person’s conscience has labeled something as “sin,” that person needs to keep the law the conscience has established, or else the person sins against his or her conscience (Romans 14:22-23).

On the other hand, Christians who recognize their freedom in buying and eating meat associated with idolatrous practices can consume that product without sinning.  At the same time, such Christians will exercise their Christian freedom with a loving eye toward those whose consciences are guiding them in a different direction.  This is where the apostle Paul’s instruction comes into play:  “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).

So, you “should steer clear of halal meat” if your conscience is telling you to do that.  If it is not, you can purchase it—again, with a loving concern for those Christians who do not agree with you.

I will provide a similar response to your question in a future “Light for our path” column in Forward in Christ.

How do you answer someone who says that their atheist friend is more moral and upright than some of their Christian friends? Where do moral values differ from an atheist to a Christian if at all?

The answer is understanding the difference between unbelievers who do nice things and Christians who do good works.

Unbelievers can be motivated to do nice things and be good citizens (we call that “civic righteousness”) for a variety of reasons. Like all people, they know from creation that there is a God (Romans 1:19-20; Hebrews 3:4). Like all people, they naturally know right from wrong and they have a conscience that, unless it is dulled or completely obliterated, convicts them when they do wrong (Romans 2:14-15). Unbelievers may be motivated to do nice things to gain recognition from people, to stay out of trouble, to create an atmosphere of cooperation among others, or any other number of reasons.

Non-Christians can be motivated, like all people by nature, to do nice things in the hope that they can influence God and somehow receive his reward.

While unbelievers may be motivated to do nice things in life, those nice things remain simply nice things. God is not impressed by them. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Scripture says: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

On the other hand, because of the power of God in their hearts and lives, Christians are able to do good works that are acceptable to God because of Jesus his Son (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). Good works are the things Christians do to thank God for their salvation. God’s word serves as a guideline, explaining what good things Christians can do to direct their praise to God.

In the eyes of the world, might it appear that an unbeliever’s nice things are more numerous than a Christian’s good works? That could be the case. Such a comparison might be between an unbeliever who is a good citizen and neighbor, and a Christian whose sinful nature is showing itself more than the new self.

What we cannot do is be fooled by what we see. Nice things and good works are on “the outside.” Faith and unbelief are matters of the heart. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Because of their gratitude for God’s free gift of salvation, Christians have every reason to do good in life (Colossians 3:17).

God’s desire is that his children let their “light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we let our light shine, others may become interested in Jesus Christ and be brought to faith by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. When that happens, then the nice things those former unbelievers now do become good works in God’s sight because they stem from hearts that are filled with Christian faith and they are prompted by proper motivation.

I have had Christian education from kindergarten through high school. Now I am studying at a private university with no religious affiliation. I was surprised to see how different people behaved when I first went to college. I've been through the ups and downs, but I got used to this contempt for moral behavior and Christianity. However, I've been recently feeling like God isn't here. It seems like he is so far away. I go to a nearby WELS church every Sunday, but it feels like I can only "find" God and the message of Christ there. What words of comfort can you offer me for this feeling of distance from God six days a week?

Your scenario underscores the importance of personal Bible study. Worshiping with fellow Christians on Sunday is good encouragement for Christians (Hebrews 10:25). But just as we would not expect one meal to sustain us for a week, so it is not realistic to expect one feeding from God’s gospel to carry us through the week.

What you will want to do is supplement your Sunday worship with regular Bible readings and devotions. (Perhaps you are doing that already, but that was not part of the information you provided.)

Here is where there are many resources at your disposal. This link will take you to the area of the synod’s web site where you can sign up for daily email devotions. You could look on the web sites of Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for live-streamed and archived devotions. This link will take you to the Campus Ministry section of our synod’s web site. You can sign up there to receive materials. Finally, talk to the pastor of the congregation where you are worshiping as a student. Perhaps he knows of a WELS campus ministry that exists nearby. Or, maybe he can put you in touch with other students at your university who are united with you in faith.

Above all, keep close to God through regular reading and study of his word. Through his word the Lord will assure you of his continual presence in your life. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Then, communicate with God through prayer.  God bless you!

Should German Christians living under Hitler's Nazi regime have disobeyed government commands to kill Jews, Gypsies, socialists, and people with mental handicaps?

In his word God declares: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). If a government contradicts God’s word by ordering Christians to kill innocent citizens, Christians have every reason to implement the apostles’ course of action: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29)

Might there be consequences to such bold obedience toward God? Certainly. That is the essence of the Christian cross—suffering for the Christian faith. But Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Hello. I am considering a career in either marketing or graphic design. Can a Christian consider an occupation in those areas? It seems like modern-day marketing (specifically advertising) portrays many sinful things contrary to God's Word. Many current ads are not afraid to portray sin in them. They could show people being covetous for their product. They could show men or women in scantily clad clothing trying to make the consumer lust. They could show a homosexual couple with the intent of making that acceptable. Or it might show people being discontent, rude, or hateful towards a competitor's product. Therefore, could a Christian be a marketer if they would have to create advertisements that portray sin in them? As for graphic design, you can't decide the content that you can show. Yet, the graphic designer would still try to design material for the company to try to promote that product in the best way they can to try to make the consumer buy the product by any means necessary. So, would the graphic designer be trying to make the consumer covet the product or could he do his job without trying to do this? Or is all of this simply a matter of trying to do your job by adhering to what it says in God's Word? Are we simply to try to do any job (that isn't intentionally sinful) to the best of our ability to the glory of God without trying to sin and/or trying to make others sin? So what is the Christian to do? I think about passages like Matthew 18:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 10:23. Or is this simply a matter of what Romans 14 says? A broader question is what jobs could a Christian consider doing? Thank you for your time. God bless.

The numerous questions I read appear to come from a very conscientious approach to life. For that I commend you. At the same time, I am interested in tempering your concerns with a realistic view of what we call Christian vocation.

Because it becomes impractical in this forum to respond to each of your questions, I am thinking the best way to provide help is to steer you to reading material that addresses Christian vocation. This link will take you to a short paper on the topic. This link takes you to a Bible study written by the same author. Perhaps your pastor or congregation already has that Bible study. These materials will make clear how it is, and why it is, that we serve God with our lives.

I can assure you that you do not have to shy away from your fields of interest—marketing or graphic design—because of built-in, universal conflicts to the Christian faith. There could be projects that challenge you, but the industry itself is not off-limits for Christians. Who knows? You could even be involved in the marketing or ad design of a new prescription drug that serves as a great benefit to people!

I began by commending your conscientious approach to life. Certainly, we do not want to act against our conscience or God’s word. At the same time, we want to recognize the freedoms God has given us—even in the ways in which we can serve him and others. God bless your reading of those materials and your subsequent vocational plans.

I have to answer a question on a teacher's exam asking "When did the earliest humans enter Wisconsin?" According to the WI Website, it says "the first known inhabitants of what is now Wisconsin were called Paleo-Indians, who first arrived in the region in about 10,000 BC." Of course, we don't believe that the earth is that old. How can I answer according to our Christian beliefs?

If one goes by the genealogies in the Bible, as Archbishop Ussher did, there is a world history of approximately 6,000 years. Recognizing that the biblical genealogies are not complete, it becomes realistic to add some time to that total. It is not uncommon to read of conservative theologians speaking of creation having taken place within the last 6,000 to 10,000 years. So, the date that you provided is not striking. However, many anthropologists and archaeologists speak of Paleo-Indians within the context of a time frame of the human race that far exceeds what is suggested by the Bible.

Christian test-takers in a secular environment who want to pass exams and not compromise their faith do face a dilemma. One person who was in that situation years ago told me how she handled it. Because it was an open-ended question, there was space to write: “I know you’re looking for this answer” [and then she listed it], “but this is what I believe.” God guide you in your response.

Hi Pastor, I have a question about what it means to do everything to the glory of God. Does that mean that our thoughts are to be constantly occupied with that task at every moment of the day--in the sense that we are to be consciously giving thanks and praise to God while talking to a friend, working at our vocation, watching a ball game, etc.? How could we even function in day-to-day life and concentrate on what is before us if that was the case? I guess I'm just confused about what this is supposed to look like in our day-to-day living.

You ask a very practical question. The answer is seen best by considering the instruction of doing everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) in its context.

In the preceding verses—going all the way back to chapter eight—the apostle Paul had been addressing the subject matter of meat sacrificed to idols. Christians in Corinth had divided opinions. Some were of the conviction that it was wrong to eat such meat since it had a track record of being associated with pagan worship practices. Others believed there was nothing wrong with the meat, so it could be eaten.

How did the apostle seek to resolve this? By leading the Corinthians to think of one another. Those who recognized their freedom to eat that meat were to refrain from doing so if their actions would lead others to go against their conscience and sin. Those who felt they could not eat that meat were not to condemn those who did. With his instructions, the apostle was teaching the Corinthians in a very practical way that “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).

After thoroughly treating the issue of food sacrificed to idols, the apostle made a conclusion: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). His point was that even something like taking part in a meal—even if the menu included food that had been sacrificed to idols—could be done to the glory of God when the Christian participants treated others with love and when they gratefully received the food as a gift of God (1 Timothy 4:3-5).

We do things to the glory of God, then, when we do what is right in the sight of God and when we show love to others.

“What does this look like in our day-to-day living?” It is not the continual assessment of an activity, as you illustrated. That approach is reminiscent of pietists, who advocated continual soul searching for proper motives. Rather than the continual assessment of an activity, “doing all things to the glory of God” would show itself especially in evaluating a course of action ahead of time: “Is this something that will give glory to God?” “Will God be glorified by doing this?”

With that in mind, we can eat and drink and take part in innumerable activities in life to the glory of God. And giving glory to God is exactly what he desires and deserves (Revelation 14:7).

It has been said, "Forgive and forget." Does the Bible state the same for mankind? Thank you.

God is certainly one who forgives and forgets. He states with absolute certainty: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). The writer to the Hebrews draws on Jeremiah 31 in relaying these words from God: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). God’s forgiveness is complete.

The Bible’s message is that people who enjoy God’s forgiveness through faith in his Son Jesus Christ are to forgive others who sin against them. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

In response to the apostle Peter’s question about the frequency of forgiving people for multiple offenses committed against him, Jesus told the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). The account ends with the Lord referencing the harsh treatment the servant who did not forgive others received, and then pronouncing: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). In the sermon on the mount, after teaching his disciples to pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” Jesus warned: “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).

Forgiving others is our responsibility and privilege. Forgetting the sins people have committed against us may not be all that easy. There may be visible, ongoing reminders in life of some sins that people have committed against us. In addition, our sinful nature will not want to let go of the wrongs people have done to us. Still, trying to move on from the memories of other people’s sins will be best for our spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health.

How can we grow in our Christian lives as “forgivers” and “forgetters”? Faithful, regular use of God’s gospel in word and sacrament is essential. The more we understand and appreciate the great debt of sin that God has forgiven us, the more we will be motivated to forgive—and forget—the smaller sins that people commit against us (cf. the parable of the unmerciful servant).

I am a writer, and would like to know if there is an outlet for women who wish to write about God and the Bible teachings.

You may find an outlet for your writing with WELS Women’s Ministries. This link will show you Bible studies that women have written for other women and women’s groups.

Forward in Christ, our synod’s official magazine, has a standing invitation for men and women to submit stories about the Christian faith and life. This link provides more information.

Northwestern Publishing House also invites individuals to submit Bible-based materials, including Bible studies for women. This link will take you to that invitation.

God’s blessings on your writing!

What was Luther's opinion of the Jews?

Your question is one that is asked regularly, so allow me to pass along part of a response to a similar question about Martin Luther that appeared in the October 2013 Forward in Christ.

“Was Luther an anti-Semite? Accusations of anti-Semitism against Luther usually stem from reading his 1543 tract ‘On the Jews and Their Lies,’ in which the Reformer used immoderate language and gave questionable counsel on how to deal with Jews at that time. While we have never endorsed what and how he wrote in that treatise, we also believe a fair, historically-sensitive appraisal of the man and his message will show the Reformer was not anti-Semitic.

“Excellent books have been written on this topic, but here we must limit ourselves to these brief points: Luther also wrote about Jews in sympathetic ways and rebuked European Christians for their treatment of Jews. Here’s one example: ‘The fury of some Christians (if they are to be called Christians) is damnable. They imagine that they are doing God a service when they persecute the Jew most hatefully, think everything evil of them, and insult them. . . . Whereas, according to the example of this psalm (14:7) and that of Paul (Romans 9:1), a man ought to be most heartily sorry for them and continually pray for them. . . . They ought to attract them by all manner of gentleness, patience, pleading and care’ (What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 2, 683).

“Luther’s attitude is more accurately characterized as anti-Judaism rather than anti-Semitism. His opposition was not racial or ethnic, but theological. He was targeting people who persistently and vigorously rejected the truth of salvation through faith alone in Jesus the Messiah and Savior of the world. Luther wrote harshly against the Roman pope and his theological supporters for the same reason.

“Like everyone else, Luther was a child of his times. It’s difficult for people today to put themselves into his historical context, yet it’s unfair to judge him according to our standards of civility. Luther’s language sounds cruel, but his opponents often used similar language, and literary style of the era included harsh ridicule, name calling, and deliberate excess. Ultimately we must conclude that the treatise in question doesn’t represent Luther at his best. We cannot endorse or excuse what he wrote. From a historical viewpoint, it should not surprise us that he sometimes shared unacceptable attitudes of his day. What is amazing is how often he rose above his times and advocated magnificent and eternal truth, most of all the full and free gospel of forgiveness.”

What are you to do if you have wronged someone, (a fellow WELS member), but they seem to refuse forgiveness by ignoring your attempts at reconciliation? Are we to continue to reach out to the person?

The confession of the lost son in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:11-32) illustrates godly actions when we sin against other people. When he rehearsed his conversation with his father and when he actually met his father, he said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (vv. 18, 21). The son realized that a sin against other people is a sin against God; a transgression of the second table of the law is a transgression of the first table.

It sounds like you have followed that example: you confessed sin to someone you wronged (and presumably also confessed that sin to God).

As a child of God you know and believe you have God’s forgiveness. But now you desire the forgiveness of a fellow child of God. That is understandable and entirely in keeping with what God says in his word: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Jesus spoke words of warning if people do not forgive those who have wronged them: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

You have made efforts at reconciliation, but those efforts have been rejected. So, what can you do? You and I cannot change another person’s heart, but God can. Pray that the other person involved understands the seriousness of withholding forgiveness, and then does become reconciled with you. Continue to show love to that person. Your expressions of love may stir up a guilty conscience to godly action (Romans 12:20). Do your best to pattern your life after the apostle’s instructions: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15). God bless you.

Is fantasy acceptable for a Christian? Specifically Harry Potter, which contains magic and witchcraft. I grew up with the movies, have read all the books, and have a ton of merchandise. I am worried that this is satanic?

Allow me to pass along what one of my predecessors wrote for Forward in Christ a few years ago in response to a similar question.

“What is the WELS position on the Harry Potter series? Some say they are wrong and won’t allow their kids to read them, while others let their kids read them.

“Your question yields no simple answer. Some are ready to hold a book burning and want our synod to ban books. They need one answer. Others see no harm from children (or adults) becoming absorbed in these books. They need quite a different answer. Allow me to offer answers for both extremes.

Banning isn’t necessary

“First, let me address those who lean toward condemning any reading of such books except to refute them. Most literature contains large quantities of things with which we disagree. Other than the Bible, we need to exercise discretion whenever we read. Developing spiritual discretion is an essential skill in an unbelieving world: ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Much of what we disagree with in Harry Potter is quite obvious compared to far more subtle influences. When Satan wishes to do his worst, he doesn’t wear wizard’s robes but ‘masquerades as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). Much of what comes out of Christian publishers, containing subtle mixtures of truth and error, is far more dangerous than Harry Potter because the Christian may read it with his guard down. Couldn’t a Christian parent read a Harry Potter book with a child and sort through what is right and wrong? Might that help children toward a lifetime of better discernment of what comes at them from all media? What’s more, we would not say that every flight of a child’s imagination is evil. A child (or adult) can find enjoyment in make-believe.

“In one of the talks I had with my 11-year-old about these books, I reminded him that there is no such thing as good and bad magic, but all such claiming of powers apart from God is stealing God’s glory. My son reminded me that he understood Harry to be literature, not life, by saying, ‘I know, Dad, but he’s fake!’

“One final warning: to set up as many rules as possible is not the heart of our faith. We would not necessarily be stronger Christians if we could boast that nothing tainted by the world has ever entered our homes or minds. Listen to what Paul said to those who were becoming a little too enamored by rules and regulations: ‘Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence’ (Colossians 2:20-23).

“In the immediate context, Paul isn’t addressing banning books, but a false asceticism that labeled as evil all physical things in God’s creation. However, there is a principle for our discussion. As we work hard to keep evil from getting at us from the outside, the danger is that we forget our real problem is sinful hearts on the inside. My heart needs a daily humbling dose of the reality of my own sinfulness so that I run, not to find better rules, but to the cross of Christ for free forgiveness and for power to live in the world but not of it. Remember: those who caused Jesus the greatest trouble were the most scrupulous moralists of the day. ‘Taste not! Touch not! Handle not!’ was the Pharisees’ theme song.

Caution is needed

“But now for the sake of those who may be waving high their Harry Potter books in triumph that Forward in Christ magazine has given its approval, allow me to sound some real cautions in your direction. Although fantasy books and movies have existed for years, the culture in which those books and movies appear today is vastly different from our parents’ and grandparents’ culture. We have moved from an outwardly Christian culture to one that loves anything ‘spiritual’ as long as it isn’t biblical. Wisconsin Christians were rudely awakened to the shifting sands of our ‘spiritual’ brave new world when my state hired a Wiccan priestess (the Rev. Jaymi Witch!) as a prison chaplain. It is particularly among adolescents and young teens that interest seems to be on the rise in things bordering on the occult. In such a spiritual smorgasbord environment, isn’t there reason for concern if our children idolize someone whose triumphs are riding his Nimbus 2000 broom and becoming as adept at casting spells as his schoolmates? The danger is one of developing a spiritually unhealthy fascination with things magical and superstitious.

“The apparent progression of the intensity of the magic in the successive books of the series also bears watching. Allowing our children to read what may confuse and disturb them with little or no Christian guidance is spiritual child abuse, even if the vast majority of those children never try to make a feather levitate or run out to buy a how-to book on casting spells. The most deadly combination is a home without many words from Jesus but with plenty of words about Harry. Christian discernment doesn’t flow naturally from sinful hearts. Discernment is a spiritual gift nurtured by frequent contact with the Spirit’s inspired words. It’s a gift best ‘tested’ under the loving guidance of mature Christians. Our sinful nature loves to twist Christian freedom into a ‘cover-up for [doing] evil’ (1 Peter 2:16). To soar above other supposed ‘weak’ believers by proudly boasting that potential spiritual traps can’t bother us, leaves us sounding ridiculously similar to a fellow named Peter who crash landed amidst the flames of his boasts. Against such proud arrogance Paul wrote: ‘So, if you think that you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12)!

Final thoughts

“Where does this leave us? A banned book list substitutes limited rules for exercising sound wisdom and discretion. Nor is the answer to repeat the proud mantra of some in Corinth: ‘Everything is permissible for me.’ To that Paul answered: ‘‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything’ (1 Corinthians 6:12). Neither a blanket condemnation nor a blanket endorsement is the ‘Christian’ answer. Christians need to wrestle with such questions without imposing their best solution as the only suitable response for every Christian family. We must heed the warnings Scripture speaks both to those who add and to those who subtract from it! We don’t need our synod to supply us with an Oprah Winfrey reading list nor a banned book registry. We need Christians well-versed in Scripture and growing in Christ’s saving love for them—who then share that regularly with their children. We need Christians wrestling in prayer for spiritual wisdom to live in the world but not be of it—who then model that for their children.”

Is Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 for Christians? What about verses like Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 6:24, and Luke 12:33-34? Is 1 Timothy 6:17-19 a summary of how Christians can both enjoy earthly blessings as well as store up for heavenly blessings? Is everyone under a test from God, then, as to how we will use our earthly blessings with the reward being heavenly blessings? This is my reasoning, but I just want to confirm that my reasoning is biblically correct. Thank you and God bless.

Yes, those words from Ecclesiastes 5 apply to Christians. Christians recognize that God is the source of all their blessings. In his wisdom and love God bestows earthly blessings upon his children. God’s gifts are good and perfect (James 1:17), and his children can receive them with thanksgiving and enjoyment (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

If God chooses to lavish earthly blessings on his children, those gifts too are good and perfect. Earthly wealth in and of itself is not evil. Earthly wealth becomes a problem when people value it more than God. That is a message of God’s first commandment.

While Christians are appreciative of God’s earthly blessings to them, they recognize how much more important God’s spiritual blessings to them are. The soul is much more important than the body. Jesus highlighted that truth when he asked: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:26) The title of one of our hymns can go a long way in answering those questions: “Take the world, but give me Jesus” (CW 355).

When we consider the temptations that both poverty and wealth can pose, we can appreciate this request made to God: “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8). Contentment with God’s earthly blessings is a secret we all need to learn (Philippians 4:12).

Finally, God does promise to bless faithful usage of the possessions he has entrusted to us (e.g., Luke 19:11-27). Those blessings are extra evidences of his love—going beyond his gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

My fellow WELS friend and I have been discussing an array topics lately. She is very skeptical of non-denominational churches, and their seemingly emotional basis of faith and God. She is very turned off by the mystical terms that many of them use about feeling God, and their relationship with God, based on their own human emotions and feeling. I agree with her, mostly. Lately, though, we were discussing the phrase that "God placed this on my heart" (to do or carry out some Christian task). She feels that this is another non-denomination emotional response. I agree that I don't believe God will whisper what I should make for dinner in my ear. But I do feel that there are certain life events that we pray for guidance about, and God answers our prayers about what we should do and how we can serve him best. I feel like I have felt God's hand in my own life, directing me to certain decisions in the past. I know that God has a perfect plan in place for each of us, so does he ever reveal that plan by "placing an urge to fulfill his plan on our heart?"

The prophet Jeremiah was a person who had reason to speak along the lines of “God placed something on my heart.” But in the twentieth chapter of the book that bears his name he put it a little differently. “You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

God had called Jeremiah to relay messages to the people of Judah. Many of those people rejected Jeremiah’s messages. Consequently, the prophet was tempted to reduce his rejection by keeping quiet about God. But you notice Jeremiah couldn’t do that. When he thought of stifling God’s message, he noted that God’s “word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (verse 9).

God’s word was the driving force in Jeremiah’s life and ministry. God’s word moved the prophet into action in life. We could say the same thing about God’s word being a motivating force in our lives. Let me provide a few examples.

We know that God wants us to share his word with all people. Perhaps I read an article in Forward in Christ about our synod’s world mission work. Perhaps my reaction to the information in the article, then, is more fervent prayer for the Holy Spirit’s blessing on the spread of God’s word and increased personal mission offerings. Did God place something on my heart, or did the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12), planted in me (James 1:21), move me into action? I would opt for the latter.

We also know that God wants us to help others as we can, as opportunities arise (Galatians 6:10). Suppose I see news reports of people losing their homes to wildfires and raging floods. Suppose my reaction is a gift to our synod’s Christian Aid and Relief. Did God place something on my heart, or did the living and active word of God move me into action? Again, I would opt for the latter. God certainly provides opportunities for doing good works (Ephesians 2:10), but it all comes back to his word.

Whether it is confessing sin to someone I have wronged or sharing a word of encouragement from God’s word with my neighbor, I can trace godly actions to God’s word which provides direction and motivation. Whether my actions were prompted by something I read this morning in the Bible or by something I remembered from Sunday’s sermon, I can link my acts of Christian love to God’s word.

It is definitely God “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13), and he works in you and me through his word.

In Matthew 22:17-21 Jesus instructs us to pay the taxes due the government. When we are informed that our government is using tax dollars for the support of wicked and sinful enterprises such as Planned Parenthood (abortion), how are we to look at paying taxes?

Some representatives of God in government (and the church and the home) represent him well, while others do not. The Caesar whose likeness was on the denarius presented to Jesus in Matthew 22:19-21 was one of those authorities who failed miserably in representing God faithfully. That was also the case with the Caesar in power when the apostle Paul wrote: “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7). Neither our Lord nor his apostle qualified the directive to pay taxes to the Roman government, which even funded idolatrous worship practices.

What Christian citizens certainly want to do is contact those who represent them in government when tax revenues are used in ungodly ways. Let your voice be heard!

And more than communicating with your representatives, speak to the King of kings in prayer. Carry out what that same apostle wrote: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). God’s people want to be faithful in remembering their governmental leaders—at all levels—in prayer.

Can Christians "cast lots" or flip a coin to determine the will of God or what God wants us to do? Proverbs 16:33 and Acts 1:23-26 seem to speak favorably of this. However, would such a practice be "putting the Lord your God to the test"?

In Leviticus 16:8 God gave Moses instructions on how the high priest was to cast lots to identify the scapegoat sent into the desert on the great Day of Atonement. Beyond that, there are relatively few instances in the Bible of people casting lots. Those instances relate what people did; they do not carry with them the command to do likewise. In addition, God has not promised to reveal his will through that practice.

God has revealed his will to us in the pages of the Bible. He gives us freedom to make decisions in life that concern our earthly lives. When we prayerfully consider what decisions will glorify God and reflect his revealed will in Scripture, we can choose courses of action with Christian confidence and contentment.

Is the book "Radical Christianity" by David Platt doctrinally sound? Is the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan doctrinally sound? If not, based on Romans 16:17, would you recommend avoiding the teachings, via books and podcasts, of these two men?

I am not in a position to offer detailed comments on these particular books. The Reformed backgrounds of both authors serve as a warning to read their works critically.

In general, I can say that Romans 16:17 would not prevent us from reading books that are not doctrinally sound. Knowing the doctrinal errors of other churches or individuals—through personal reading of their materials—can be beneficial and helpful in our witnessing efforts to others.

Certainly, as you read religious material, or watch or listen to religious programming, you want to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). You want to follow the example of the Bereans (Act 17:10-15) who compared what they heard with Scripture.

While we can read or use many different kinds of materials to grow in our understanding of biblical truth and error, I would not encourage you to keep exposing yourself to a steady diet of false doctrine in your reading or podcast listening. There is so much good content that can occupy our attention. God guide and bless you!

May a Christian listen to classical music? Someone once said that if you are doubting about something, put it through the Philippians 4:8 filter. If I put classical music through that filter, then classical music seems to be the way to go. What do you think?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” That directive in Philippians 4:8 can be a valuable guide for Christians when it comes to determining what kind of entertainment is suitable for their eyes and ears, and ultimately their minds and hearts.

While one can, in almost any genre of music, find pieces that do not pass through the “filter” of Philippians 4:8, I would say you are generally safe with classical music.

I commend you for your conscientious approach to entertainment choices!

My friend's ex-wife is moving out of state with their children against the custody order. He is extremely stressed. I have been telling him to have faith for the past week and he came to me today and asked if I had some Bible passages to help him with that. Could you help us out?

In the Bible God provides comfort and strength for his children as they go through troubles and difficulties in life. There are many, many passages you could share with your friend. Here are some that come to mind.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging… The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:1-3, 7).

“’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).

“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

God bless your Christian service to your friend, and may God give your friend peace and strength through his powerful word.

For most of my life I have voted for candidates based upon "pro-life" and "pro-family" issues. This year I'm compelled to vote for a candidate whose political platform supports "pro-choice" and "pro-gay rights." Is it a sin for me to vote for a candidate who supports these issues, even though I don't? My reason for voting for this candidate would be for reasons other than those two issues.

My answer to you would be different if you were seeking “pro-choice” and “pro-gay” candidates and voting for them exclusively on the basis of your agreement with them in those areas. My answer to you would also be different if you explained how conflicted you were with the choice of candidates, but then cast your ballot against the guidance of your conscience. Because of the rationale you provided, I cannot label your proposed action as sinful.

Voting for candidates, especially at the national level, is a serious matter. When we move beyond the personalities and news sound bites, we recognize the party platform and personal agenda associated with each candidate. And when you and I cast a vote for a candidate, we are empowering that person to act in our behalf. That is why serious consideration of the candidates’ stand on issues is so important.

But this is exactly where serious consideration can become so complex. One candidate may be pro-life, while being deficient, in your estimation, in personal qualities and/or proposed public policies. Another candidate may be pro-choice, while having, let’s say, less overall negatives associated with him or her. In situations like this, Christians who wrestle with the choices—and their conscience—may arrive at different conclusions.

It may be that some Christians feel they cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate. It may be that some Christians take a “lesser of two evils” approach and vote against the candidate whom they consider to be a greater danger to society. It may be that some Christians vote with some reservation but in good conscience for the candidate who represents most of their own values and positions.

The reality is that there is no perfect candidate; every candidate is flawed. In the end, a sinner will be elected to the presidency. I mention this not to minimize your struggles but to put this and every election into perspective.

Thankfully, in spite of the outcome of any presidential election, our God reigns; he “reigns over the nations” (Psalm 47:8). God rules and reigns over the nations of this world in the best interests of his church. And so let me encourage you and all readers of this question and answer to follow God’s instruction through his apostle: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

Pray for our country and its leaders at all levels, that the Christian Church and its members may continue to carry out its important work of proclaiming God’s law and gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

A fellow Christian asked me a question that I struggled answering. For example, with the election, we hear so many people say, "God has a plan." Or when an impending downsizing is coming: "God has a plan for you." But what about situations such as a child in a third world country who is starving to death? Does God have a plan for the child? A child who suffers and dies and maybe not heard about Jesus? Can you pass along ideas on how to answer in love based on Scripture?

The “plan” people often have in mind goes back to Jeremiah 29:11 – “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” In that verse God spoke of the plans he had for the exiles who were living in Babylon. God’s specific plans were that the exiles’ captivity would last 70 years, after which they would be able to return to Judah and Jerusalem.

God’s plans for the exiles were very specific, and by means of prophecy God made those people aware of his plans. When we speak of God’s plans for people today, we cannot be as specific. In the Bible God makes general promises regarding his protecting love and providence. Because neither you nor I can know the mind of God (Romans 11:34), we can have difficulty identifying his specific plans.

Still, we know from Scripture what God wants and desires. He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He wants his gospel shared with people everywhere (Mark 16:16), including children and their parents in impoverished areas of the world.

In addition, God wants his followers to share the blessings he has given them to meet and alleviate the physical needs of others (Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 13:16). When people waste God’s blessings or are selfish with them, it comes difficult to carry the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2).

The physical and spiritual plight of people around the world is a vivid reminder for Christians to ramp up their efforts to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The prayer of the hymn writer is a good one to make our own: “O Master of the loving heart, The friend of all in need, We pray that we may be like you In thought and word and deed. Oh, grant us hearts like yours, dear Lord, So joyous, free, and true, That all your children, ev’rywhere, Be drawn by us to you.” (Christian Worship 491:1, 4)

Is it OK to pray for death? My life is pointless and without meaning. My kids are older and my wife is self-sufficient. I have no reason to stay alive but won't take it myself. Is it a sin to pray for God to end my life and take me away from here?

I do have to say that I am very concerned about your question and your situation. While I am relieved to read that you recognize and intend to keep God’s fifth commandment, which includes forbidding self-harm, I am troubled to read that you believe your life is “pointless and without meaning.” This question and answer forum cannot replace the conversations people need to have with their pastors and health care professionals, so I strongly encourage you to initiate visits with those people. Without knowing any more of your situation, a sense of despair comes through your words. That is serious, and that is why I urge you to speak to people who are in a position to help you.

In general, is it OK to pray for death? There is nothing wrong in expressing to God our longing for heaven. In the opening chapter of his inspired letter to the Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul conveyed thoughts like these: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me” (Philippians 1:22-26).

You notice that Paul had a longing for heaven, but at the same time he did not give up on this life. Paul’s attitude was that he would use his earthly life to serve God and others until the Lord called him home.

That is the same attitude I encourage you to adopt. If you were able to type and send in your question, you have capabilities that can be exercised to the glory of God and the good of your family and others. As a Christian, you have at least one spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:7) that can be used in the context of your family, your church family and your community.

Our life does have meaning and purpose—and it is all because of Jesus Christ. Don’t let Satan or others lead you to think otherwise.

Friend, trust that God knows best regarding the length of our earthly pilgrimage (Psalm 31:15). Speak to people who can provide care for body and soul. Above all, listen to the voice of your loving God who says to you in his word and sacraments: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Christian ethics question: when what God says conflicts with federal marriage laws and abortion laws, would it be OK that a Christian taking the oath of office just lie and say he will uphold those laws that conflict with what he knows God says? Or, should he not seek offices where he will be expected to disregard what God says when it conflicts with laws of the United States?

Lying under oath is not an option. When we use God as our witness to assure people we are telling the truth but lie instead, we break God’s second commandment (Exodus 20:5). (See also Leviticus 19:12.)

When it comes to Christians serving in government positions, we want to keep in mind that Christians live in two kingdoms: the church and the state. While God’s word directs life in the church, natural law and human reason direct life in the state. Sometimes the state enacts laws that are contrary to natural law and human reason. What then? Is the state, the government, still God’s servant (Romans 13)? Yes, but not a very faithful servant. Christians who want to serve in the state can do so—even when laws run contrary to God’s word—by recognizing that the state operates on different principles than the church.

Moses recognized that. As the leader of the church, he penned under inspiration of the Holy Spirit the establishment of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:20-24). As the leader of the state, he wrote certificates of divorce (Matthew 19:3-9) that served to preserve order among Israelite society. A Christian judge might find himself in a similar situation: being in full agreement with the Bible’s teachings of marriage and divorce (perhaps even taking part in a congregational vote on excommunication related to an unscriptural divorce), yet granting an unscriptural divorce in his court. Such actions on his part are not hypocritical; they reflect his involvement as a member of the two kingdoms of church and state that operate with different guiding principles.

If a Christian cannot in good conscience serve in a governmental position because the laws of the land conflict with God’s word, that person will want to seek a different vocation, as you suggested.

Christians will prayerfully seek to determine how they can best serve and honor God as citizens of both kingdoms, recognizing the principles that guide each kingdom and applying them as faithfully as they can to their situations.

When I give weekly offerings of 10%, should I be giving 10% of my gross earned income or 10% of my net earned income (after taxes?). I truly am not sure. Thank you.

I remember how a person in the past answered a question like yours. The answer went something like this: “If you had the opportunity to be given a raise in salary based on your gross income or net income, which would you choose? The way in which you look upon a potential increase in God’s blessings in your life can guide you in how you think of responding to God’s blessings by way of your offerings.”

That was someone else’s response to a question like yours. Here is my response. There is no right or wrong answer to your question. New Testament followers of the Lord enjoy freedom from the Old Testament ceremonial laws, including laws concerning tithes (10%).

While you and I have freedom from those laws, it is not as though God does not provide any guidance for us. He does. He speaks of giving back to him in proportion to our income (1 Corinthians 16:2). Planning and giving back to the Lord based on a percentage of our income is definitely a scriptural approach. In essence, the Old Testament tithe has been replaced by ___%. New Testament followers of the Lord are free to fill in the blank. And if you desire to fill in the blank with a “10,” you can use that number in relation to your gross income or net income.

Recognition that “our” money belongs to God (Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8) and gratitude for our salvation (Romans 12:1) provide good reasons for proportionate giving that is generous and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The value of a percentage-based approach to giving is that it enables the giver to manage the fluctuations of income and still follow a plan for giving back to the Lord.

God bless your management of his blessings!

I was told, because WELS does not allow Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts (which I know and understand why), that we are forbidden to eat Girl Scout cookies? They said first off, you can't buy them, as you'd be supporting them indirectly; but they also added, we are not to eat the cookies. Can you expound on this for me? Thank you.

I really cannot expound on something that is incorrect. There is no synodwide practice that addresses eating cookies—regardless of their source. You will want to contact the people who shared that misinformation with you.

If drinking is not necessarily bad, does that mean drinking a little too much in the right company may not be a bad thing? As in one may have a drink more than necessary when you know no harm will come out of it. And is it OK to enjoy such things?

Sin is sin, whether we are in the right company or the wrong company. Our actions, not our company, determine whether or not we have sinned against God’s will.

In the context of your question, it is sinful to drink alcohol to excess. That is true whether we are in the right company, the wrong company or all alone.

The Bible does not condemn the use of alcohol (Psalm 104:15; 1 Timothy 5:23). It condemns the abuse of alcohol (Romans 13:13: Ephesians 5:18).

My boyfriend and I are planning to get married. He grew up Catholic but wants to become a WELS Lutheran like myself. We recently accepted a job together and the housing where the job is runs a little high. Is it okay to live together, in separate bedrooms, before we get married in the church?

The situation you describe is not okay.  Allow me to explain why.

Rather than distancing yourself from temptations to engage in premarital sexual activity (1 Corinthians 6:18), by living together you would be putting those temptations in front of you and your boyfriend every day. If you think you would be able to withstand those temptations, Scripture offers a warning (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Even if you did refrain from sexual activity in a live-in situation, you would have to ask yourself if your life were in line with the admonition that “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3). Two people of the opposite sex living together create more than a hint.

In addition to thinking about yourself and your boyfriend, I encourage you to think of others. Have you taken into account what your parents think of this? While the fourth commandment changes in scope as parents and children grow older, the fourth commandment never disappears. Have you thought of how your actions might affect other family members, friends and acquaintances? Might your actions cause them to stumble spiritually (Matthew 18:6-7) and perhaps embolden others to follow your example? Love for God certainly drives our desire to live godly lives. Love for others is another strong motivator.

I certainly do not have full knowledge of your situation and what other options for living arrangements you and your boyfriend might have. I encourage you to explore them. While financial considerations figure prominently in your question, I would remind you that God can have an entirely different economic system in taking care of his children (Matthew 6:33).  We can do the right thing and trust that God will take care of us.

It is good to read that you and your boyfriend have thoughts of being one in the faith. You could be a real blessing to your boyfriend by explaining to him how maintaining separate living quarters at this stage of your life fits in with holy living (Romans 12:1). Let your light shine for him and others (Matthew 5:16).

As I do with so many questions, I’ll wind up my response to you by encouraging you to speak to your pastor about this. Don’t feel that this is a subject you can’t address with him. He would be happy to provide scriptural guidance. God bless you.

Is there a WELS review of the novel "The Shack"?

We do not generally provide reviews of books or movies. It is possible that a WELS pastor has written a review of the book. Your pastor may be aware of such a resource.

I am struggling with the current United States president. I have always respected our political process and voted my conscience. I see the unrest and apparent bigotry of the current administration and their appointees. I know that we are all sinful but it seems to me that Jesus led by example to feed the poor and care for the sick. How can we support someone who seems so unchristian in his attitude and policies? Are we expected to support the Republican Party simply because they don't believe in abortion, regardless of how they act in so many other areas?

After every election there are happy and unhappy people: the candidates and their supporters. After every election there are opportunities for those who won and those who lost to be gracious and kind to each other. After every election there are occasions for us to remember not only the eighth commandment but the fourth commandment.

The fourth commandment teaches us that God has representatives in three areas of our lives: the home, the church and the government. It goes without saying that God’s representatives in all these areas may represent him well, or they may misrepresent him. God’s will is that we honor him by honoring and respecting his representatives (Colossians 3:20; Hebrews 13:7, 17; Romans 13:7). God’s will is that we obey his representatives—unless they command a course of action that is contrary to what God says in his word (Acts 5:29).  If we disagree with a person in office or the person’s policies, we can express that disagreement in proper channels that are available to us.

God’s will for you and me goes beyond political parties. God’s will is that we honor his representatives in government with obedience and respect. Consider what God said through the apostle Paul: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2). Note what God said through the apostle Peter: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right…honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17).

The main person of authority of the Roman Empire when those apostles penned their words was Nero. He was definitely no friend of Christians; his atrocities against them are well documented. Yet, the directives of “be subject” and “honor” applied even to him—not because his life or actions generated respect, but because he filled a seat of authority God had established.

In addition to those passages, consider what God said through the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Whether or not we voted for a candidate, whether or not a government official reflects our faith, we want to pray for them.

Here is such a prayer from our hymnal: “Lord of all nations, I praise you for the blessings you have showered on my country. Guide and guard your representatives in government as they care for the needs of all citizens. Give them wisdom to rule our society with honesty and justice, that we may have peace in our lives and opportunities to witness to your love. Amen.” Let’s offer prayers like that regularly.

Our son is totally messed up since leaving the military four years ago. The VA has done everything they possibly can to help him. He has an alcohol and drug problem and mental health issues. As of this last week, he is in jail on felony charges. We are at a loss of how to reach him. He seems so lost! I have tried to direct him back to his faith, but I am never sure if he is really listening. How can we help him?

I am sorry to hear about your son’s condition. His situation calls for resources that this forum cannot provide. But I can recommend resources for you.

First and foremost would be your pastor and/or your son’s pastor. The local pastor is in a position to provide spiritual care for your son.

Beyond that, it would be good for you to know about the counseling that is available through Christian Family Solutions, an agency within WELS. They offer face-to-face counseling in select locations and video counseling through an internet connection. This link will give you more information about their services.

You and your son might also benefit from the resources of the Lutheran Military Support Group, an organization within WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. This link will take you to their web site.

Also, depending on where your son is jailed, there may be a WELS chaplain nearby who could visit him. Your pastor would have information about that.

Your son needs God speaking to him through his word. Find out if your son can have access to a Bible. Encourage him to read it. Don’t discount the power of prayer (James 5:16). Keep presenting to God the petitions that concern your son. I will remember him in prayer as well. God bless you.

There are times when I am just truly disgusted with myself when it comes to my sins. I ask for forgiveness every Sunday in church and pray for strength to do better. There are many times I knowingly commit sin and I tell myself beforehand I shouldn't do it, but I go ahead and do it anyway. Examples would be swearing, lying, lust, sexual content. This scares me so much when I knowingly commit sin. Am I lost? Can I still be saved? Can I be forgiven? How do I know I am truly repentant? Thanks.

In Romans 7:17-24 the apostle Paul outlined his personal struggles against sin and his sinful nature. Paul’s words describe the war that takes place between our sinful nature and our new self on a daily basis. Paul’s words illustrate his frustration in falling into sin rather than consistently living according to God’s will. Those kinds of sins are ones that we would call sins of weakness. With those sins, there is no plan to sin, but weak people give in to temptation. They confess their sins, enjoy the forgiveness of sins through faith and resolve to resist temptation in the future, but the cycle can repeat itself.

“Willful sins” are quite different. Those sins take place when people know what God’s will is, but they don’t care. Instead they act against better knowledge—and conscience—and forge their own way through life. Confession and repentance are lacking. Willful sins are especially serious. You will want to examine your heart and life.

Only God and you know your heart. The fact that you are reaching out for help and answers is encouraging to me. Your words sound like the cry of a Christian who “knows the good he ought to do,” but doesn’t do it as regularly and consistently as he would like. Your words lead me to think of the prophet Jeremiah, who lamented: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Thankfully, in our battle against sin and our sinful nature, there is good news. That comes right after the verses that begin this response: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) There is forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

How can you become more consistent in resisting temptation and living for God? Perhaps you could ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable. Meet with this person regularly to share the ups and downs of the Christian life and to provide opportunity for that person to hold you accountable in living more faithfully for your crucified and risen Lord (2 Corinthians 5:15). (You could do the same for that person.) More than anything, continue to use God’s gospel in word and sacrament to build up your new self and to become stronger in the conviction that you are a redeemed child of God (1 John 3:1-2).

Further doubts or questions of your standing with God are best addressed in person, to your pastor. God bless you.

What is the WELS position on visions, dreams, and other such personal experiences with God? A WELS pastor seemed to change the subject rather quickly, pointing back to the Word of God, when a friend of mine told him about his vision of God that he experienced.

God of course can do anything. He can communicate to us any way he wants. The Bible describes instances when God did speak directly to people, through others and in dreams. The fact that God communicated in these ways in the past does not guarantee that God will do so in the future. We have no promise of God communicating to us beyond Scripture.

What the Bible does say is that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2). We have God’s full communication to us in the pages of the Old and New Testament. There is no need to look elsewhere for communication from God.

In addition, God tells us that dreams can actually be a tool of people who want to mislead and deceive us (Jeremiah 23:25-28).

If there is a “voice” from God inside us, it is the natural knowledge of his law and a conscience that is guided properly by Holy Scripture. If there is a “voice” from God inside us, it is the new self—that part of us that is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24)—that desires to live life according to God’s will.

The pastor referenced in your question did well to focus on God’s communication to us through the Bible.

I rely on a public library computer for Internet access. Is there a way to see all of your Q&A's and save them to a USB thumb-drive so I can take them home and read them on my home computer in the evenings?

After consulting with individuals here who manage and oversee the web site, I am afraid I am not able to pass along any way in which you could carry out the plan you had in mind.

What you might be interested in is a book where the author has done that kind of work for you. The book is Your Questions, Scripture’s Answers. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House. While the book’s questions and answers are not current, they are relevant.

I commend you for your interest in the questions and answers of our web site and your desire to learn from them!

How does a confessional Christian relate to a fellow Christian of that same church who was going to be excommunicated because of one's impenitence, but then asked to be released from the congregation instead, which the church did with a letter of admonition? This person shortly thereafter claimed to have left the Christian religion. In regard to Matthew 18, 2 Thess. 3, and 1Cor. 5, does a Christian continue not to associate with the impenitent brother who has left the Christian faith, or, now that the person has claimed not to be a Christian, does the Christian now associate with them and resume a relationship?

In regard to either scenario, the concern about “associating” is that, by our attitudes and actions, we somehow mistakenly lead an impenitent person to downplay impenitence and unbelief, and conclude that what they did was not so bad after all.

If we completely cut off contact from such people, we also remove godly influence and Christian testimony from their lives. (And it is only through the word of God through which God works to change hearts and lives.) Christians like you, then, strive to maintain a balance between testifying to the seriousness of sin, impenitence and unbelief, and living a life of Christian love in your interaction with others. God bless your balancing of these testimonies!

For many years WELS has had concerns with Scouting, especially with the former handbook promoting work righteousness, and rightly so. When did that change? Spare the details, but at a congregation meeting the church president talked about picking up his son from Boy Scouts. After talking to the pastor privately, he said the handbook we were always concerned with has since been replaced and Scouting has become a totally secular organization. Aren't there still other concerns? Is WELS now officially OK with Scouting?

Our web site contains the following response to a previous question about our synod’s position on Scouting. Because Scouting has not changed its oath or law, our position remains the same.

“The Boy Scouts are among the most respected organizations in this country, and the skills, activities, and companionship which they offer could be a benefit to any child. Yet for more than 70 years the Wisconsin Synod has warned its members that their children should not participate in the Scouting program.

“Our basic objection to Scouting was that the required promise and law contain religious elements which imply that the Scout can do his duty to God regardless of what religion he belongs to. This contradicts the clear statements of Scripture that no one can perform works pleasing to God without faith in Christ.

“Over the years the wording of the Scout Law and its explanation have become vaguer and less offensive, but the religious principles have been maintained. All members of the Scouts must accept the Scout Oath and Law, but they may interpret them in their own way. For example, an atheist boy who refused to promise to do his duty to God was denied membership, but when he took the oath with the understanding that ‘god’ was not a personal being, he was permitted to join. This is certainly a very offensive interpretation of the concept of ‘duty to God.’

“Recognition of the religious basis of Scouting is not limited to the WELS. Advocates of strong separation of church and state have objected to the promotion of Scouting in public schools because of its religious requirements.

“Because the religious requirements of Scouting remain unchanged, our WELS congregations cannot make use of the Scouting organizations. We have a better option in the Lutheran Pioneers, which provide many of the same benefits as Scouting, without the objectionable religious requirements.

“The religious principles of Scouting remain unchanged, but there has been one notable development. The increased vagueness of the Scouting literature and the fact that some Scout troops may make little use of the religious features make it more difficult for pastors and teachers to convincingly demonstrate from the Scout Handbook the false religious principles which underlie Scouting. This makes it more difficult to convince parents that their children should not belong to the Scouts. The Girl Scouts are a separate organization, but the same principles and observations apply to that group also.”

Hello. I was just confirmed last Sunday and was wondering where I should start with my offerings. How should I figure out what to give?

What a great question! Congratulations, first of all, on becoming a communicant member of your congregation. That membership status provides you with privileges and responsibilities. It is very encouraging to read of your desire to be a faithful manager of God’s possessions.

The June 2017 “Light for our path” column in Forward in Christ will address a question like yours, but let me give you a little preview.

This whole subject matter begins with the recognition that God is the owner of all things (Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8). God entrusts his possessions to people, who are to manage them faithfully.

Old Testament ceremonial laws gave God’s people specific instructions on what to give back to him. There were laws dealing with tithes (10% of income). New Testament followers of the Lord like us are free from those ceremonial laws (Colossians 2:16-17). While we welcome Christian freedom, we also welcome some guidance—as evidenced by your question.

God provides guidance. The application of the words in 1 Corinthians 16:2 is that we plan our offerings and we do so with a proportionate view toward our income. And so I would encourage you to give back to God first (the “firstfruits” principle in the Old Testament) and to plan your offerings based on a percentage of whatever income you might have.

What percentage? That’s where your Christian freedom enters the picture. For discussion’s sake, let’s say you earn money from babysitting or a newspaper delivery route. What would 5% of that money be? That could be your offering. What would 7% be? 10%? You get the idea. Nobody can tell another Christian what to give back to God. Essentially, the guidance from Scripture for our offerings is giving ___% of our income. You have freedom in filling in the blank. Recognizing how blessed we are through Christ provides every reason for filling in that blank with higher, rather than lower, numbers (Romans 12:1).

Again, congratulations on your Confirmation. I would say you are starting out well with the responsibilities and privileges that your communicant membership has given you. The apostle Paul’s sentiment toward the Christians in Philippi is mine for you—that God “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Is a "clique" within a congregation a problem? If we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, doesn't this destroy the fellowship we should share in a congregation? Should this person be confronted?

Cliques within congregations do war against the unity of the family of believers. Chapters 1 and 3 of 1 Corinthians address the divisions that existed among the believers in the congregation in Corinth. That part of Scripture would be good reading material in the context of your question.

If an individual is sinning by destroying the unity of a congregation, by all means speak to that person in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-20.

Ephesians 4:3 provides good encouragement for all Christians: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I am a member of a WELS congregation. I am considering going to work as a school secretary at a Missouri Synod school. Is there a potential conflict here? It sounds like they would not have a concern, but would it be a problem from the stance of the WELS church? I feel like I'm being paid to do a job but by working there and getting a paycheck, am I endorsing their actions and beliefs?

If the job description for your position is standard, there would not be religious fellowship issues involved. Our churches and schools sometimes employ non-members in similar positions.

Like so many areas of life, conscience is something to be considered. If you were to think that working in that position is wrong, then it would be wrong for you (Romans 14:14). Scripture directs us to act in faith not doubt (Romans 14:23). It sounds like this is not a problem for you. God’s blessings to you!

Our niece is getting married in a gay marriage ceremony very soon. Should we attend the ceremony and reception but continue to let her know that we and the Bible do not agree with her lifestyle? We are torn about attending because we continue to witness and let her know that these are sinful acts that are not being repented, however, we want to continue to show our love for her and continue to witness to her without her shutting us out of her life and not allowing us to witness to her.

Romans 14:14, 23 teaches us not to act contrary to our conscience. If you are convinced that it would be wrong for you even to attend the ceremony, then it would be wrong for you. On the other hand, you might be convinced that you can, in good conscience, attend the ceremony.

Your attendance or absence from the ceremony is not the most important matter here. More important is what you communicate to your niece about your presence or absence. If you choose to attend, you can explain that you came because you love her, not because you agree with the actions she has taken. If you choose not to attend, you can explain that you wrestled with how to show love to her and also how to stand up for the truths of Scripture, and you settled on not attending.

I agree with you that your niece needs your Christian witness in her life. She needs loving Christians pointing her to God’s law and gospel. She needs the truths of God’s word in her life, so that the Holy Spirit can bring about godly attitudes and actions.

As you can see from this response, the decision to accept or decline the invitation to attend the ceremony is entirely yours. Most important is what you communicate to your niece regarding your decision. Speak the truth in love to her (Ephesians 4:15), and remind her that she will continue to be in your prayers. God bless you.

Law of attraction - Have there been any conference papers or good reference books written to counter the very popular mindset of the law of attraction? Books such as "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill promote things such as: "You are the master of your destiny." A friend of mine believes what he has written in his two books is based on biblical principles, but far from it. In the account of Job, he writes that Job willed it to himself that all might be restored to him... In short the law of attraction turns our attention from our God and puts it on self.

I did not find resources from individuals from within our fellowship.

I did come across a video interview in which the individual offers a good critique of the subject matter you referenced. You can access the interview via this link.

You have the right idea about the law of attraction and its various forms: it definitely turns our attention away from God and puts people at the forefront of life. What we want to do is direct people to the message of the Bible—that God is the giver of all good things (James 1:17).

Please tell me if/when the new Martin Luther movie, "A Return to Grace," will be available to purchase on DVD. If so, would you provide me with a link? Thank you.

You can preorder the DVD from Northwestern Publishing House.

You will notice from the order form that the DVD will be released this November.

In the meantime, congregations can host a screening of the movie, “A Return to Grace,” at a local theater through this information.

Hosting a screening is a great way for your congregation to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—simultaneously edifying your members and creating a memorable impression in the broader community.

A movie screening is the perfect outreach opportunity—a chance to invite friends and neighbors to a fun event that also communicates Luther’s message.

Hello, sir. This is a question that's burning in my mind and actually causing problems in my family. An Anabaptist/evangelical/nondenominational relative of mine is saying that because of 1 Corinthians 10:31, we shouldn't listen to country music or drink pop. He says we should always be studying the Bible and doing godly things. I think he's missed all of the parts about grace and how we are justified by faith alone "not by works lest any man should boast." Am I wrong, or is he, or both of us? Thanks and God bless.

I would encourage you to remind your relative what the Bible teaches about Christian freedom. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”) teaches us that we can eat and drink—even soda/pop—to the glory of God when actions proceed from faith in and gratitude to God for all his gracious gifts. That passage informs us that Christians can do innumerable things in life to the glory of God.

God’s word tells us: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink…” (Colossians 2:16). While Old Testament ceremonial laws guided the dietary practices of God’s people before the coming of Christ, all those laws have been abolished; there are no New Testament ceremonial laws. The apostle Peter learned that lesson firsthand (Acts 10:15; 11:9). An individual’s personal opinion about soft drinks is just that: an opinion. It cannot bind the consciences of others (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Can a Christian listen to music to the glory of God? Certainly. Is some music inappropriate and ungodly? Yes. Country music with themes of illicit sex and the abuse of alcohol have no place in our lives, but what about country music that emphasizes patriotism and family values? Philippians 4:8 instructs us to be discerning about the content we put into our hearts and minds. That includes music. We want to avoid music of any genre that cannot flow through the filter of Philippians 4:8, but condemning an entire genre of music without regard to content is an attack on the freedom we enjoy as God’s people.

The book of Galatians would be a good read for you and your relative. It’s an epistle that underscores our Christian freedom.

I hope this response will be helpful to you. God bless you.

Hi, I am a WELS member and for months I have been thinking about serving others in other parts of the world. I understand WELS has mission work in all parts of Africa, and I have always wanted to go there to help serve. My question is, is there any way I could have information on looking into helping serve over in Africa? Thank you.

I commend you for your interest and willingness to serve the Lord and others in distant lands! What I can do is pass along to you a couple of web sites. You can then make contact and see if there are any possibilities for service.

The first site is WELS Kingdom Workers. Africa does not show up in their current opportunities for service, but you might want to contact them about future opportunities.

The second site is the Central Africa Medical Mission. Their opportunities for service include a non-medical position. Again, you can contact personnel there for further information.

God bless your efforts in service to the Lord and others!

Is it OK to look at half-naked people on television, in pictures, and in videos?

I would ask, “How do those images affect you?” Visuals affect our hearts and minds. The kind of images in your question are going to appeal to our sinful nature. That explains why Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Philippians 4:8 explains what we want to put into our hearts and minds: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

It is often true that the best button on the TV remote is labeled “Off.”

What is the church's position on living wills, as far as medical powers and especially on DNR, do not resuscitate? Is it murder to make a decision to remove medical devices? Thank you.

I can answer your questions best by re-directing you to the website of Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS. That organization provides very helpful information on the questions you asked and other life issues.

This first link will take you to the portion of their website where you will find information on end of life issues and medical directives.

This second link will take you to the portion of their web site where you can access a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – Christian Version document.

God’s blessings!

I grew up going to the same WELS church for most of my life, but now I have moved to a new area and there isn't really a WELS church close enough. I have tried many different Lutheran churches in my area, trying to find one that felt right, but the one I have liked the best was an ELCA church. Is it a good idea to go there? Is there a big difference between the two? Or would it be better for me to just listen to WELS sermons online and read daily devotions on my own for now?

When there is doctrinal unity between churches, the members of those churches can express their fellowship by worshiping together. Doctrinal unity does not exist between WELS and ELCA. The church bodies are not in fellowship with one another. We would not want to pretend that there is doctrinal unity or that fellowship exists by worshiping together.

The differences between the two church bodies are many and they are significant. A book like WELS & Other Lutherans spells out the differences in great detail (different views toward the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, abortion and homosexuality, ecumenism, roles of men and women, and Communion practices, just to name a few).

It sounds like you have inquired about a WELS congregation near you. If you have not tried the WELS Locator, this link will enable you to determine if there are WELS congregations close by. If there are no WELS congregations near your location, do contact the pastor of the WELS congregation to which you belonged. He could use your contact information to see if a WELS pastor might be able to serve you periodically or if there are other WELS individuals in your area. This is how new mission churches can get started.

Because it is not advisable to worship with people with whom we are not in fellowship, your personal devotional life becomes much more important at a time like this. You can supplement your devotional activities with resources from this link. God bless you.

I recently started dating a Jewish man. I grew up Lutheran and attend church often. If my relationship with this man continues, what options do we have to grow together in faith? If we were to marry and have children, is it possible to honor both religions? I have briefly discussed this with my family, and they are most concerned that he will not go to heaven. Is that entirely true?

If you are a Christian and the man you are dating is Jewish, there is no common bond of faith between the two of you. One of you acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah; the other—unless there is something I am unaware of regarding the man’s personal faith—belongs to a religion that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. It is not possible to “grow together in faith” when there is no common, true faith.

Children raised by Christian and Jewish parents can learn customs and practices of each faith, but they will receive conflicting and confusing biblical information.

When it comes to enjoying forgiveness now and life hereafter in heaven, faith in Jesus Christ is essential. The Bible states this about Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). People who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will not enjoy life with God in heaven (Mark 16:16).

When I conducted premarital counseling in the parishes I served, I explained to couples who enjoyed a common faith that they had a solid spiritual foundation for their future marriage. When I counseled couples who did not have a common faith, I laid out the challenges they could expect to encounter: very likely having a solitary worship and devotional life, determining how children—God willing—will be raised, coming to agreement on how part of a family budget will be used in support of the spouses’ places of worship—just to name a few. I imagine these are some of the things you are thinking about presently.

I would encourage you to speak to one of our pastors about the questions you have asked. A face-to-face conversation would provide you with more complete information. God bless you.

In today's political climate the hate groups such as the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists seem emboldened to publicly spew their hate. And the most concerning of it all to me is that they try to hide behind being Christians and that their way is ordained by the Bible and Jesus. So, can you please help me with Scripture to point out that they are not being Christians by what they believe? When I think of Jesus' example, he associated with people of all nationalities and sent his disciples out to all nations. I am just having a hard time putting my finger on some Bible verses to bring this message of treating all people with love regardless of their heritage.

The apostle Peter’s words in the home of Cornelius provide practical guidance to what you are asking. After receiving instruction from God that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were no longer in effect, Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35).

God does not show favoritism toward people (Romans 2:11), and he instructs his followers to be imitators of his boundless love. Here are some passages that reflect that. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism” (1 Timothy 5:21). “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) makes clear that our neighbor is our fellow human being.

Finally, I would direct you to one of the magnificent scenes the apostle John witnessed in one of his visions from God. He saw the church of God of all time in the presence of God. He described it this way: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). Christians want to recognize the diversity of the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. If God has shown love to all people of the world in Jesus his Son (John 3:16), we have so many reasons to do the same.

I was speaking with a Catholic friend of mine a while back about how Catholics view their priorities in life, and it made me think of several questions for WELS. This Catholic friend explained that Catholics believe that in a person's list of priorities, God is first, family is second, and the church is third. Additionally, this friend explained that God, family, and the church are intertwined, even with this list of priorities. I think it brings up several questions for us in the WELS. Should we consider WELS churches to take priority over our families? Or do our families take priority over our WELS churches? I think most people would say that their immediately family takes priority over a WELS church, which is essentially a collection of other people with common beliefs worshiping God. But I do think there are some in WELS who would argue that WELS takes priority over the family. How would you answer these questions?

I can reduce the tension that exists in trying to prioritize life’s events by recognizing that I serve God when I serve my family and others. Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-40) illustrates that service to others is service to him. The apostle Paul explained that love for others includes love for God (Galatians 5:14). The apostle John described how love for others and love for God go hand in hand (1 John 4:20-21). I recognize that there are “two tables” of the law, but when I arbitrarily draw a line that separates service to others from service to God, I lose sight of the unity of my Christian life of service.

Might I still have scheduling conflicts among events involving my personal life, family life and congregational life? Certainly. When those conflicts arise, I will attempt to make the best decision for the use of my time. I know I cannot be perfect in the use of my time, abilities and resources, so I ask God to forgive my shortcomings and empower me through his gospel for future, faithful Christian service.

Is it right to keep our faith secret or go against our convictions (taking vaccines made from the cells of aborted children, for example) if not doing so would put the lives of others, especially Christians, at risk? Or is it better to publicly profess our faith and accept the consequences? Church history suggests the former, but the Bible suggests the latter. The question arose when I watched the synod convention and the feed was cut off when the Chinese representatives took the floor; a friend of mine remarked that it would be "more Christian" to allow their identities to be revealed and let the Chinese government act against them, as "they would be going to heaven anyway." I argued that doing so would be reckless and a sin against the Fifth Commandment.

Like you, I would not categorize the scenario you referenced as one in which individuals kept their faith secret. There was a public confession of faith in a very large setting, but there was also a course of action that recognized and addressed their dangerous situation.

When the Lord sent out his disciples, he explained the dangers that awaited them, and he also instructed them, among other things, to be shrewd in their actions (Matthew 10:16).

Certainly, God’s will is that we display our faith in everyday life (Matthew 5:13-16). When Christians find themselves in hostile situations, they will prayerfully determine how they can best do that—taking into account any consequences that might result in their own lives and the lives (and ministries) of others who might be miles away from them.

What we do not want to do is disown our Lord (Matthew 10:33) or sin against our conscience (Romans 14:23).

If we lived in a perfect world, would accidents still occur?

I am not sure how you are defining “accidents.” My dictionary says that an accident is “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.” When Adam and Eve lived in a perfect world, they did not know the future; they did not know what good things were going to happen next. There were unforeseen and unplanned events or circumstances, but there was nothing bad about them.

That brings us to another definition of “accident” – “an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance.” The dictionary then supplements that definition with examples of accidents dealing with pain or loss of some kind.

Those kinds of accidents did not exist in Adam and Eve’s perfect world, nor will they be a part of ours. In the new heaven and new earth that will be our eternal home, the Bible says that “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

That perfect existence is not “unforeseen or unplanned.” It is God’s will for his children.

My wife is looking at working in a capacity that would promote a casino/resort. Initially, I thought it could be fine. The Bible does not explicitly forbid gambling. (That does not make it right, however.) The casino is one part of the resort's activities. One could run into a similar problem promoting a hospital that performs abortions (but "abortions" are not what one thinks when they hear the word "hospital," whereas when one hears "casino" they think "gambling") or owning a liquor store. What are your thoughts on such a situation? I understand that if one has doubts, one should not go against their conscience. That is another little wrinkle. My wife doesn't really have doubts, citing biblical examples of people who worked within sinful organizations, such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abedego, etc. I'm the one trying to clear my doubts. I've also consulted my pastor, but I am looking for further input. Thanks.

You are correct in putting this situation in the area of one’s conscience. While the Bible does not specifically address the subject of gambling, the Bible does warn against greed (Luke 12:15) and instruct us to look not only to our own interests but the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Against the backdrop of passages like those and others, Christians might arrive at different conclusions about the appropriateness of working at a casino/resort.

I am going to pursue one of the thoughts you passed along, and that is that “the casino is one part of the resort’s activities.” There certainly may be guests/customers who visit that place of business only to visit the casino because they are motivated by greed and concern only for their lives. There may be other guests/customers who visit that place of business for entertainment, recreational activities, meals or relaxation. An employee at such a business is bound to interact with some people with attitudes of greed or unselfishness. But that is true of some other—perhaps, unlikely—businesses.

An employee at a convenience store/gas station might ring up a lot of sales in gasoline, food and…lottery tickets. Perhaps there are regular customers who load up on lottery tickets on a predictable schedule. Those people are not going to casinos to gamble; they’re simply stopping at a gas station on the way home to gamble. The employee interacts with customers who have different attitudes toward money.

Another employee in a brokerage firm is part of a support team that provides services for conservative and savvy investors—and perhaps also for people who look upon day trading as sophisticated gambling. Those people take great financial risks to get more and more money. The employee is part of a company that serves people who have different attitudes toward money. Those are just a couple examples of employees who provide products that greedy people can abuse.

The biblical examples your wife cited do illustrate God-fearing people who were able to maintain their faith in and devotion to God while being in the employ of foreign, ungodly governments. Certainly, their involvement in those governments was not an endorsement of all the governments’ activities.

So where are we after all this? You and your wife need to sort out what the concerns of her possible employment are, how legitimate those concerns are and how serious they might be. You want to arrive at a consensus so that there is not a wedge of any kind between the two of you. Prayerfully determine how both of you can use life to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) by serving others (Galatians 6:10). I will offer similar prayer.

A close friend, Lutheran but not WELS, recently experienced tragedy in her family. Her brother and nephew were killed by another family member. She was a churchgoer and taught Sunday School at her church before, but now is at a point where she is angry at God that this happened and not going to church as often because of it. How do I spiritually support her through this without pressuring or pushing her away?

As it is with any tragedy, you want to do a lot of listening to your friend. Address her pain and anger as you can by pointing her to truths from God’s word. As it turns out, your situation has parallels to a question I will be answering in the February 2018 “Light for our path” column in Forward in Christ. Here is a little preview of it.

When tragic events take place, people can easily question God’s power and love. Could God have prevented your friend’s family members from being killed? Certainly. God can do anything (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27). God could have prevented sin from entering the world in the first place, but he did not do that. In the Bible God does not offer explanation for that—nor does he have to.

When tragic events take place, the truth remains that God is still in control of the world he created and preserves. God’s wisdom far surpasses ours (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36). We cannot pretend to know or understand completely God’s ways. What we can know—in faith—is the love of God.

What you can do is direct your friend to turn to Scripture where she can hear again the message of God’s love for her. The tragedies that take place in a sin-filled world do not negate the love of a gracious God who sacrificed his own Son for the sins of the world.

Hopefully, your friend’s pastor is aware of her situation and can provide spiritual counsel. Perhaps you could suggest that she receive grief counseling. Continue to pray for your friend. Continue encouraging her, by word and example, to trust in the Lord always and “not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). God bless your support of your friend.

I have a 30-year-old nephew who has decided to change his sex and has proceeded with changing birth certificate and all other legal changes. He is not a Lutheran and don't think he has any church affiliation at all. I am going to be in a family situation where he...she will be present. I am struggling as I feel that he is telling God "You made a mistake and I am a woman." I need some scriptural support here, please. And this falls under forgiving others for their sins? I am trying so hard not to judge. I am concerned for his/her salvation. Thank you for helping me out here. God bless.

I am going to direct you to a recent resource that offers some practical suggestions for your situation. This link will take you to that resource.

After you click on the link, look for “View/Open” on the left side of the page. Once you open the document, go to page 63. There you will find “Ideas for compassionate Christian friends and family.”

As you read through those ideas, do keep in mind that neither you nor anyone else can change your nephew’s thinking—but God can. So think what you might be able to do to put God’s word in your nephew’s life on a regular basis, and then pray that God work powerfully through his word to align your nephew’s mind with God’s mind.

God bless your testimony and expressions of Christian love.

I have a heavy decision to make, and I am struggling with it. I have a serious disease, and a bone marrow transplant is a high risk, possible treatment. The disease itself is high risk also. I am feeling like deciding to do the marrow transplant could possibly be a choice for death. The disease is possible death also. I have been doing a lot of praying for guidance, strength, healing, and an answer. How do I make a God pleasing decision? Which choice is right? What do I do?

You do have some weighty matters on your mind. Be assured that God stands ready to strengthen you through his powerful gospel, and to hear and answer your prayers for the sake of his Son, Jesus Christ.

First, I would encourage you to speak to your pastor about your questions. He is in a much better position than I to address your situation. Your pastor may also be able to direct you to other helpful resources.

One resource to which I can point you is the website of Christian Life Resources, an organization within WELS. I can pass along two articles that you might find valuable. This first link will take you to an article titled “Facing Eternity—Making Decisions.” You can find another article on this subject via this link. There is other information on the website that could have application to you. Perhaps you could utilize some of that information in a meeting with your pastor.

Be reminded that you are not alone as you think of the future. Your God promises you: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Scripture declares: “’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10). God bless you.

What is the biblical stance on self-defense that ends up in someone being killed/murdered in relation to the Fifth Commandment? Does God allow us to protect our family to that point, or are we charged to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us regardless of what harm they may be intending to inflict? An example would be a home invasion or something of that sort.

The Hebrew word in the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17) prohibits murder—the illegal and inappropriate taking of human life—and does not forbid all taking of life. So, for example, governments can rightly implement capital punishment (Romans 13:4) if they so choose.

What about individuals who want to protect themselves and their families, you wonder? Some Christians look to Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:17 as absolute directives not to resist physical threats. In their context though the verses advocate love toward others instead of seeking revenge.

Others look to sections of Scripture like Proverbs 24:11-12 and Luke 22:35-38 as the basis for defending oneself and one’s family from physical threats. John 18:10-11 describes Peter’s wrongful use of a weapon as he tried to interfere with the Lord’s humble submission to his Father’s will.

The positive emphasis of the Fifth Commandment “to help and befriend [our neighbor] in every bodily need” can find application in defending oneself and one’s family with a weapon.

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of veganism and have tried multiple times to come up with a more concrete answer. What I am wondering is if this type of diet is okay for me to consume on a daily basis. Would this type of diet be sinning against God and what he had intended for me to eat?

You will want a health care provider to answer your questions about any diet’s impact on your physical health. When it comes to the spiritual side of you question, Romans 14:1-8 makes it clear that dietary preferences lie in the realm of Christian freedom. The only sin that could be involved is if a person were to act against his or her conscience (Romans 14:23).

I am struggling with my two sisters with their lifestyles and decisions. One sister has chosen to marry a Muslim man. She told me she doesn't follow all of her husband's beliefs and she still likes to follow Christmas traditions and believes that Jesus existed but not the many things the Bible tells about his good works. My other sister commits many crimes, does not attend church but says she follows Jesus. I have tried many times to get my sisters to follow more of a Christian path, while I myself do not claim to be without sin and do not know how they feel in their heart about Jesus. Is it wrong for me to want to distance myself from them and also keep my two young children away from them so they do not see the lifestyles in which they lead ? Thank you.

You are rightly concerned about the influence your sisters’ examples might have on your children. Children can be very impressionable. But think of it this way: when your children do have contact with your sisters, you have an opportunity to talk to your children afterwards and correct any wrong ideas they might have heard or address any wrong actions they might have seen. It could also be the case that you have conversations with your children, preparing them for contact with your sisters. Contact of some kind with your sisters might help your children grow in Christian discernment and Christian witnessing.

As far as you distancing yourself from your sisters, I always think of this: if Christians withdraw from people’s lives, who is going to be a positive Christian witness in their lives? Who will be a salt and a light (Matthew 5:13-16) to those people? Certainly, God can use the witness of other Christians for your sisters, but your witness is already one that is present in your sisters’ lives.

You will prayerfully determine how best to safeguard your children and show love to your sisters. God bless you and your family—your immediate and extended families.

Is lying ever acceptable (for example, Exodus 1:17-19 and Joshua 2:4, which are neither condoned or condemned)?

You have observed correctly that the Bible includes some narratives without any commentary on the appropriateness or sinfulness of people’s actions.

Regarding Exodus 1:17-19, the king of Egypt issued a decree (of killing baby boys) that directly opposed God’s moral law that forbids murder. When children of God encounter conflicting commands from people and God, they side with God (Acts 5:29).

In the case of Joshua 2:4, children of God may sometimes wrestle with the possibility that their truthful statements will be used for harmful and ungodly purposes. While not necessarily commenting on Rahab’s particular course of action in Joshua 2:4, the inspired writer to the Hebrews provides this description of her interaction with the spies: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Hebrews 11:31).

While Scripture alone is the source of our faith, explanations of our faith by fellow Christians can be helpful. So, in that way and within the context of your question, Martin Luther understood lying as withholding the truth from people who are entitled to it. We have to ask: was the king of Jericho entitled to the truth, since he was going to use the truth to oppose God’s plan and will? Christians might answer that question in different ways.

The People’s Bible Commentary for the book of Joshua lists (pages 35-36) some helpful truths to keep in mind regarding Rahab’s actions:

1) Her purpose and motive were in line with God’s revealed will.
2) All forms of deception are not necessarily immoral. (Cf. Exodus 1:17-19; 2:1-10)
3) The New Testament commends her faith and refers to her actions as fruits of faith. (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25)
4) She was new to the faith and needed to determine a godly course of action quickly.
5) The cultural practices of her day meant looking out for guests.
6) We could always do something better with the benefit of hindsight. If our course of action is wrong, we rejoice that we have a Savior who was perfect in our place and has paid the debt of our sin and guilt.

How do I handle a brother in Christ who continues putting other churches in our own denomination down because the worship setting is done differently than their own? Even though it’s doctrinally sound, confessional, and has the sacraments, he is constantly denouncing it. Thank you for your time.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). Jesus’ words tell us that it is appropriate, important and necessary that we speak to a fellow Christian who sins and needs rebuke. The rest of Jesus’ words (Matthew 18:16-18) provide a course of action for possible follow up.

Followers of the Lord in New Testament times enjoy a great amount of freedom when it comes to worshiping the Lord. There are no prescribed forms of worship. The general guidance that the Bible provides is that our worship of God be offered in a “fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Personal preferences for worship forms cannot be upheld as the will of God.

You can remind your brother in the faith to refrain from judgments and condemnations that are unwarranted. You can remind your brother in the faith to speak well of others and defend their good name.

I'm looking for Bible passages about contentment, specifically in what could be described as vocation. It seems all my life, I've been looking forward to another phase of life. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up and have a family, now, I want a time without small children. This general discontentment seems to go through everything. What are some Bible verses I can read when I need a good reminder that where I am is where I need to be?

How about if I refer you to an article that contains numerous Bible passages on vocation? The article is “Understanding our Calling: The Doctrine of Christian Vocation in the Holy Scriptures.” This link will take you to that article. The article will provide reasons for contentment.

Here is a preview: “Work that looks ordinary actually reflects the working hand of God that provides and cares for people. God loves work. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1). ‘By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested’ (Genesis 2:2). The joy of work is passed on to Adam, the crowning glory of his creation. ‘The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and care for it’ (Genesis 2:15)…The Christians who see their lives hidden in Christ and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Colossians 3:1-3) treasure their earthly callings in a real world of dirty diapers, freeway commutes, group meetings, customer complaints and spreadsheets.”

I've heard many times that Christians want to be cautious when purchasing things that could directly support the advancement of a false religion (e.g. Girl Scout cookies), especially if they are aware of where the proceeds are going to. Are there any concerns about that when seeking employment? Is there anything wrong if a WELS Christian served a non-denominational or ELCA church as a custodian, secretary, or groundskeeper?

Allow me to pass along a response provided to a similar question: A Christian may and often does seek or accept employment that in some indirect ways benefits heterodox groups as well as unbelieving communities. Seldom is this kind of activity an expression of doctrinal fellowship, nor is it perceived by people as that. A person’s conscience might factor into this, as we do not want to sin against conscience (Romans 14:23). Or if there are weak brothers and sisters who might be confused or misunderstand the arrangement, we want to be ready to explain and clarify and instruct — and possibly refrain from exercising our Christian freedom for a time for their sake. But we don’t want to unnecessarily limit our ability to love our neighbor and serve our neighbor as part of our vocation if we are able to do so without compromising the truth.

Why do some Christian families tend to suffer so much more than others? My best friend has gone through so much in losing family to cancer and accidents and now tonight just lost her son who just married a year ago and just became a father. Her family has lost her brother and sister. Does God make us suffer from our ancestors evil?

There is no question that God’s ways can be mysterious to us (Isaiah 55:9; Romans 11:33-34). For the child of God, God’s ways always have his or her good in mind (Romans 8:28).

The account of Job (especially chapters one and two) illustrates that the tragedies a child of God might encounter in life are not punishments for sin—neither ours nor our ancestors. Jesus was punished for our sins, and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“Does God make us suffer for our ancestors’ evil?” In the case of Christians, the answer is “no.” Exodus 20:5 (“I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”) speaks of the actions God can take in the case of families who reject him generation after generation.

Continue to keep your friend in your prayers. Be a good listener, and encourage your friend to utilize the spiritual resources available to her.  God bless you and her.

I’m reading a book about the women in the Bible: Sarah, Hannah, The book is about waiting patiently for God’s will. It says that God wants nothing more than for us to let go of our projects, our schemes, and our self-sufficiency and allow Him to work. So my question is, what is considered our own self-sufficiency? If I’m looking for a job and sending out my resume like crazy, am I acting on my own self-sufficiency? If I buy a lottery ticket, is that a scheme and not trusting the Lord to provide for my needs? Need clarification please.

It is always helpful—and fair to the author of a book—to consider a passage in its context, but I will work with what you have provided.

By definition and in the context of your question, self-sufficiency is the idea that we do not need God because we can fend for ourselves. That idea of course is completely untruthful. When it comes to our connection to God, the apostle Paul stated the truth when he said, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We would not have life—or anything in it—if it were not for God’s power and love.

As Christians, we reflect our reliance on God in ways that Scripture directs. In his epistle, James spoke of making plans but finally committing those plans to God’s wisdom and will (James 4:13-15). The book of Proverbs (3:5) directs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” In the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:31-33), Jesus instructed his followers to put him first in life and trust that he would provide for all their needs.

Seeking employment by sending out resumes does not necessarily demonstrate a lack of trust in God or a self-sufficient attitude. It is one matter if a person thinks that gaining employment is entirely up to him or her, but it is quite another matter if a person is diligent in making contacts for potential employment, while trusting in God to provide.

Regarding the purchase of a lottery ticket, the motive behind the action is important. Is the purchase prompted by greed, a lack of contentment or the thought that “I have to provide for myself because God is not doing a good job of doing that”? How does the purchase line up with being a faithful manager of God’s possessions? Those are questions to consider.

I hope these thoughts have provided some clarification. God bless.

When dating online on Christian Mingle and a man is not willing to provide you with proof that he is who he says he is, what should you do?

Honesty and openness are essential components of our relationships with one another. It is a character issue if someone on an online dating site lacks those qualities. It would be wise if you were to become more acquainted with someone who exhibited those qualities of honesty and openness.

Why is sin being viewed differently at churches, even in WELS churches, in today's world? It is accepted. God plainly states sin is sin and he hates it. The whole idea of adiophora has become for many pastors and religious leaders an excuse to sin. The Bible may not say anything about gambling being wrong, but it is an abuse of God's money, given as a gift and God wants that money to be managed properly. To say it is okay to gamble for whatever reason is to say that God doesn't care how we use his gifts.

When it comes to adiaphora (those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden), people might reach different, conscientious decisions on concluding whether something is right or wrong. The early Christians in Rome (diet and special days, Romans 14) and Corinth (meat sacrificed to idols, I Corinthians 8) illustrate that.

The Bible does not specifically address gambling, but does speak of greed and covetousness that can easily and often be associated with gambling. In addition, the Bible instructs us not to squander the resources that God has entrusted to us, but rather use them to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7), to give back to the Lord and his church (1 Corinthians 16:2) and to help those who have needs (1 John 3:17). “Gambling for whatever reason” is not a course of action we advocate.

Is skiing an acceptable hobby for a Christian? I heard someone say it is too dangerous for a Christian.

Unless we are talking about skiing blindfolded or taking other risks that might tempt God (Matthew 4:5-7), snow skiing or water skiing can be acceptable and enjoyable hobbies for a child of God. Certainly, for the novice, either sport can present dangers.

Hi, pastor. From a Christian point of view, is it OK for a person (man or woman) to have a friendly relationship (like texting or calling over the phone) with your former boyfriend/girlfriend after getting married? I personally feel like it would lead to sinning and never should have such a relationship behind the spouse's back which would lead to unnecessary suspicions. Kindly guide, and appreciate your response. Thank You!

I remember once reading a person’s humorous explanation as to why the bride and groom extinguish the two separate candles after lighting the unity candle during their wedding ceremony: “That is to signify that there are no old flames.”

When “two become one” in marriage (Matthew 19:5-6), they pledge their faithfulness to one another. I would have to ask what kind of faithfulness it is to maintain the level of contact with a former girlfriend or boyfriend that you describe in your questions. Such contact would present temptations for unfaithfulness and hurt the other spouse.

On a related matter, it is not a surprise to learn from studies that, when the kind of contact you describe occurs on social media, marriages suffer greatly.

When husbands and wives put each other first (Ephesians 5:21-33), a person could say to them, “Hand your cell phone over to your spouse,” and there would be no inappropriate communications on the device. Love for God and love for one’s spouse call for that kind of openness and honesty and faithfulness.

I hope this response addresses your concerns.

What are your thoughts on the book called “Two Books Against the Papacy” written by Nicolas Hunnius and Balthasar Meisner? I noticed that Northwestern Publishing House or Concordia Publishing House didn’t have this book. Is there a theological reason to this?

I am sorry, but this question and answer forum does not have the capability of providing book reviews.

I cannot speak for Concordia Publishing House, but Northwestern Publishing House has a review process that involves individuals who read books from other publishers and then pass along recommendations on whether or not such books can be offered for sale.

I have noticed that some Catholic families utilize a "holy water font" (i.e. a hanging vessel on the wall near the front door containing holy water to bless oneself with upon entering the home) in their homes. I am wondering if this is something Martin Luther did, and if the current leadership of the WELS church has any opinions about it. The concept of it seems appealing to me but I also don't want to be taking part in anything that is not biblical. I'd like some direction on this; thank you!

Water can certainly remind Christians of the waters of baptism, but the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding and usage of “holy water” goes far beyond that.

The Roman Catholic Church considers holy water to be a “sacramental.” That church’s Catechism defines sacramentals as “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” Their Catechism goes on to say: “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.”

Martin Luther wrote that “The pope invented holy water, extreme unction, and many similar things to which he has ascribed forgiveness of sins.”

What is the role of women in the WELS?

There is a long answer to your brief question. What I can do is point you to some resources that will address your question from Scripture. These resources speak of men’s and women’s roles in marriage, in the church and in society.

A section of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, addresses men’s and women’s roles in the church. This link will take you to that section of the document.

This next link will take you to a doctrinal statement on “Man and Woman Roles” found elsewhere on this website.

Finally, you might be interested in a book from Northwestern Publishing House: A Bible Study on Man and Woman In God’s World.

These resources will provide you with a well-rounded answer to your question.

What is the WELS stance on the text The Cloud of Unknowing?

I am sorry, but I am not able to provide reviews of books and texts. All I can say is that we need to beware of Christian mysticism—the idea that we can “experience” God apart from his Word. While God provides information about himself through his creation (Psalm 19:1; Hebrews 3:4) and our consciences (Romans 2:14-15), God reveals himself as a forgiving God in his word (2 Timothy 3:15). We want to focus our attention on Scripture (Luke 11:28).

What Christian apologetic books or resources would you recommend for a layperson that defend Scripture and the faith?

Not knowing what books might be of interest to you, you can follow this link <> to the category of “Apologetics” at the website of Northwestern Publishing House. You will find good reading there.

How does the Wisconsin Synod view the importance of Lent?

Along with many other Christians throughout the world, we consider the season of Lent to be important because it provides the opportunity—often through special, midweek worship services—to focus attention on the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Jesus saved us by being our perfect substitute in life (Romans 5:19) and our innocent substitute in death (2 Corinthians 5:21). Lent furnishes opportunities to marvel at the forgiving, sacrificial love of God (Isaiah 53). The emphasis of Lent is not what we might give up for God. The emphasis is on what God gave up for us: his only begotten Son (John 3:16).

We do recognize that the Christian Church developed the church calendar, including the season of Lent, in Christian freedom. That means that there is no command of God to celebrate Lent, but there are many good reasons to observe that season. In Christian freedom we use the forty days of Lent as a special time of repentance and a time to prepare our hearts to observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Do you offer any personal online counseling?

Christian Family Solutions, an agency within WELS, offers in-person and video counseling. You can receive more information about their services by contacting them directly:

As a senior I feel like nothing I do matters much and no one cares about me. I'm pretty much just making it through each day hoping tomorrow will be better. Please offer advice. Thank you.

As I do not have information about your physical or mental health, I do not know if all the suggestions that follow are appropriate for your situation.

“As a senior,” are you able to volunteer your time and abilities at your church or in your community? Your pastor would be a good resource pastor to ask about the possibilities for volunteer opportunities. At the very least, you could serve as a “prayer warrior,” praying for items or people suggested by your pastor.

I wonder if you would be able to participate in or benefit from the Organization of WELS Seniors (OWLS). This link will provide you with more information on that organization.

If you are led to think that “no one cares about me,” I would encourage you to read 1 Peter 5:7 and commit it to memory: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The one who cares for you is the only true God, the God of the Bible, the triune God. He cares for you so much that he gave up his only Son to be your Savior (John 3:16). He cares for you so much that he made you his child (1 John 3:1). He cares for you so much that he has promised to be with you always (Hebrews 13:5). He cares for you so much that he has promised to work for your eventual and eternal good in every situation in life (Romans 8:28). He cares for you so much that he has promised that you will be with him throughout eternity (John 10:27-30). God cares for you, and so do others. You just may not realize this ongoing care.

Again, do speak to your pastor and share your thoughts with him. He is in a position to offer you spiritual care and counsel. God bless you.

Can you simultaneously have fear and faith in the LORD?

Yes, and it comes down to how we understand “fear.” The fear that Christians have for God is “respect, awe and reverence” (Psalm 130:4). We trust in God, and we stand in awe of who he is and what he does.

How do I build faith and trust in God, rely on Him and not be afraid?

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). God creates saving faith through the gospel in word and sacrament. God strengthens and preserves saving faith through those same means.

God increases faith and trust in him as you use his word and receive the Lord’s Supper. This is why God instructs us: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly…” (Colossians 3:16) This is why Jesus invites us to partake of the Lord’s Supper often (1 Corinthians 11:25).

I encourage you to be faithful in your use of God’s word at home and in church, and to be a frequent guest at the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is not interested in snuffing out weak faith; he wants to fan it into flame (Matthew 12:20). God bless your faithful use of his word and sacrament.

My state just voted to approve recreational marijuana. I have two questions. One, is it legal for me to use it if my state says, "Yes," but my national law still says, "No"? And two, is it permissible for me to use it as a Christian knowing that God has called me to be "sober minded" and I will lose that when I get a high from it? Or, to ask it another way, is it possible to use this substance "in moderation"?

Since the Bible does not speak directly to your questions, we need to see how some broad scriptural principles apply.

For one thing, there is the matter of governmental authority. We are to obey the authorities whom God has established (Romans 13). We are to obey the laws they enact unless obedience to those laws puts us in conflict with God’s will (Acts 5:29). We recognize that governments may pass ungodly legislation (for example, abortion, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage), but the governmental freedom to commit sin does not give Christians the green light to sin.

With some states now legally allowing the use of marijuana, Christians will have to ask themselves some questions in this regard: 1) If something is permissible, is it beneficial? (1 Corinthians 10:23.) 2) Is an activity beneficial for me—and others? The 1 Corinthians 10:23 passage occurs in the context of exercising our Christian freedom with a concern for how our actions might impact others—especially emboldening them to act against their conscience, and so to sin against their conscience. 3) Would the “recreational” use of marijuana lead a person to dull his/her senses and lose self-control? (Proverbs 31:4-5; Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18) 4) Would a “recreational” use of marijuana lead to addiction? The earlier usage of “everything is permissible for me” in 1 Corinthians occurs in chapter 6. There (verse 12) Paul explains that we do not want to “be mastered by anything.” 5) Might we be guilty of sin by acting in doubt? (Romans 14:23) 6) Will I be harming the body that God created, and which belongs to him? (This is a 5th commandment issue.)

No doubt, other questions may need to be addressed, but these are ones that come to mind at this time. Addressing questions like these can be helpful for Christians to understand how they can grow in pleasing, not themselves, but God (2 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1).

Is it correct for one member to make another member who hasn't attended church in a long time (for confidential and good reasons) to feel somehow inadequate or sinful by saying to them: "I know you don't care," when in fact the opposite is true?

Your question contains a context of which I am unaware. If someone has upset you with unkind or unfair words, you want to speak the truth in love to that person (Ephesians 4:15). If someone has sinned against you, rebuke is in order (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3).

When it comes to the actions of other people, the Bible instructs us not to judge hearts or motives (Matthew 7:1).

“The God of peace be with you all” (Romans 15:33).

Is lying always sinful?

The Bible does contain narratives of people’s actions without commenting on the appropriateness or sinfulness of their actions. Below are a couple of examples.

In Exodus 1:17-19, the king of Egypt issued a decree of killing baby boys that directly opposed God’s moral law that forbids murder. The Egyptian midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and were not honest with him. Christians know that if they encounter conflicting commands from people and God, they have every reason to side with God (Acts 5:29).

On the basis of Joshua 2, children of God may sometimes wrestle with the possibility that their truthful statements will be used for harmful and ungodly purposes. While not necessarily commenting on Rahab’s particular course of action in Joshua 2:4, the inspired writer to the Hebrews provides this description of her interaction with the spies: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Hebrews 11:31).

While Scripture alone is the source of our faith, explanations of our faith by fellow Christians can be helpful. So, in that way and within the context of your question, Martin Luther understood lying as withholding the truth from people who are entitled to it. We have to ask: were the kings of Egypt and Jericho entitled to the truth, since they were going to use the truth to oppose God’s will and plans? Christians might answer that question in different ways, but one of those answers is “no.”

In regard to Rahab’s actions, the People’s Bible Commentary for the book of Joshua lists (pages 35-36) some helpful truths to keep in mind about her:

1) Her purpose and motive were in line with God’s revealed will.
2) All forms of deception are not necessarily immoral. (Cf. Exodus 1:17-19; 2:1-10)
3) The New Testament commends her faith and refers to her actions as fruits of faith. (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25)
4) She was new to the faith and needed to determine a godly course of action quickly.
5) The cultural practices of her day meant looking out for guests.
6) We could always do something better with the benefit of hindsight. If our course of action is wrong, we rejoice that we have a Savior who was perfect in our place and has paid the debt of our sin and guilt.

Is it okay to drink coffee? A Mormon is telling me that it is a grave sin to drink coffee. Is wine a gift from God? Psalm 104:15 seems to suggest that it is.

There are no New Testament ceremonial laws. The Bible speaks of our Christian freedom in these areas: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Colossians 2:16). It is not a sin to drink coffee. The apostle Paul made it clear what God’s kingdom is all about: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 14:17)

Psalm 104:15 does speak of wine as one of God’s gifts. It is the abuse of that gift (or any other gift, for that matter) that constitutes sin.

Can Christians eat blood? I know the Old Testament ceremonial laws no longer need to be followed because Jesus came and fulfilled the law, and several places in the New Testament confirm that. But Acts 15:29 says we should abstain from eating blood. Given the context, this sounds like a command still applicable to post-resurrection Christians. But it doesn't seem to fit Christian freedom. Is it wrong to eat blood? (For example, coagulated blood is in some Chinese cuisine.) If so, why? Why does that apply when other rules about what we can eat were abolished?

The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) addressed the question of whether or not Gentile converts needed to observe any Old Testament ceremonial laws to become members of the Christian Church. The Council affirmed that faith in Jesus Christ alone saves.

At the same time the Council directed Gentile converts to abstain from items (“from blood” – Acts 15:29) that would have been offensive to Jewish Christians who were transitioning from Old Testament obligations to New Testament freedoms.

It is clear from the immediate context of Acts 15 that the directive had limited application and is not binding on all Christians of all time. The wider context of Scripture—sections like Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 and Colossians 2—speaks of the freedom Christians enjoy when it comes to diet.

The Bible makes it clear that there are no New Testament ceremonial laws.

What does it mean to share in the sufferings of Christ? Paul and Silas in prison "counted worthy"? Can you recommend a book?

To share in the sufferings of Christ is to experience difficulties and troubles in this life because of a connection to Jesus Christ in faith (Romans 8:17). You can think of these sufferings as “crosses” (Luke 9:23).

After the apostles received a flogging at the hands of the Sanhedrin and were released, they rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). That reaction on the part of the apostles illustrates the reaction Christians can have when they suffer for their faith. By nature, we are not worthy of receiving any blessings from God. In his grace, God provides one blessing after another—even the honor of suffering in his name.

Beyond books of the Bible like Acts and 2 Corinthians, you might benefit from reading The Theology of the Cross. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.

Is it okay to read for spiritual advice?

I would exercise caution. The website explains that its responders include “pastors, youth pastors, missionaries, biblical counselors, Bible/Christian college students, seminary students, and lay students of God’s Word.”

One of the descriptions of the organization is that it is non-denominational. False beliefs are evident in Sections 8 and 9 of their “Statement of Faith,” where they deny the means of grace (Baptism is simply an “ordinance,” and the Lord’s Supper is simply a memorial meal) and they teach the rapture and a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth.

There are more reliable sources for spiritual advice—including, and especially, your pastor. He is a source you can utilize.

What are the possible questions for social issues?

Questions are placed into categories like “social issues” and “marriage” after they are answered. Those submitting the questions do not designate a category for their questions. I hope this clarifies matters for you. (Since there really isn’t a category for this question, I put it in “Christian living”!)

Is God causing harm to me with cancer? Someone in church said that to me. I’m confused by it. I know sin causes all kinds of problems. But ultimately I feel God wants the very best for me. He loves me and has forgiven me. Doctors say I don’t have long to live. Am I missing something? I am a believer. I look forward to heaven. Is God causing me harm?

By identifying yourself as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, I can assure you that God is not looking to harm you by the cancer you are dealing with. God is not punishing you for your sins; he has already punished Jesus in your place (Isaiah 53:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He has forgiven you your sins, as you confessed.

While people certainly can bring physical sufferings on themselves by abusing substances, Christians can experience sickness and disease simply by living in a sin-filled world (Romans 8:18-23). The fall into sin brought death and disease, hardships and sorrows.

Thankfully, you and I have a God who did something about all our problems: both physical and spiritual. He sent Jesus into the world to be our perfect Savior. He lived the perfect life we are supposed to but can’t. He endured the punishment our sins deserved. Then, he rose triumphantly from the dead to prove that his life and death were accepted as the full payment for our sins.

God does want the very best for you. He has already given you his best, his Son, and he promises to give you whatever else you need in life (Romans 8:32). And the best is yet to come. The Lord is preparing for the time when you will meet him face-to-face (John 14:1-4). In the perfect life that awaits you and me and all Christians, there will be no more sin or sickness or disease or pain or death (Revelation 21:4). We look forward to that life, and we praise God for that life!

I do hope that your pastor knows of your situation and is visiting you. Through word and sacrament he can reassure you of God’s everlasting love (Isaiah 54:10). God be with you and bless you!

My girlfriend and I are in our early 50s. We are both divorced and have grown children. We have been dating for a while and have decided until marriage to make love. We both are able to produce children. Is it wrong for either the woman to have her tubes tied or the man to have a vasectomy? We both love children but no longer want any children. There are many people who have strong opinions both ways. I am unable to find anything in the Bible that prohibits this. The only intent is to not have children after marriage.

Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS, would be a good resource for you. It addresses many different life issues from a biblical perspective. One article in its “Family Topics” category is “Is there a place within Christian marriage to use birth control?” The article emphasizes the blessings of God’s gift of children and also points out factors that may need to be kept in mind—including a woman’s physical and emotional capabilities in regard to having children.

This link will take you to the “Beginning of Life, Birth Control” section of the website, where you will find other worthwhile resources.

I was baptized WELS 29 years ago. My husband was not born WELS, but is a giant history buff, and there are things he sees and points out in out services, traditions, and symbols that even have me questioning why we do them. One such thing is the Christogram (XR) we use on our hymnals, among other things. I know this is a shortened version of "Christ" but not particularly Jesus Christ. I know that this was used in Catholicism. Also, more importantly, it was a sign used (even dreamed up?) by Constantine, to put on their shields and to "go forth and conquer" in this sign. My question is, aside from it being the first two letters of Christ, why is it still used in our Lutheran churches?

The copyright page of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal offers this information: “The logo for this hymnal is a version of the Chi-Rho, a symbol for Christ. In the Greek language these are the first letters of the name Christ. He is the center of our faith and worship, our prayers, our praise and thanksgiving. This hymnal reflects in its name, logo, liturgies, and hymns the story of God’s love and salvation in Christ.”

A similar Christogram that you often find in church art is “IHS.” Those letters represent the first three Greek letters of “Jesus.”

Christian art can make use of pictures, symbols or letters to focus our attention on God’s forgiving love in Christ. We do not need to avoid these pictures, symbols or letters because of how people in the past might have used them. If that were not true, then we would need to avoid the use of cross because the Crusaders who carried out their atrocities against Jews and Muslims wore the symbol of the cross, and some explorers who exploited indigenous peoples sailed under the banner of the Christian cross.

The historic Chi-Rho symbol is a good reminder to 21st century Christians that “Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).

I have a question regarding cigarette smoking. Is smoking cigarettes excessively gluttony?

“Gluttony” is usually defined as “excessive eating or drinking.” “Chain smoking” might approach what your question is addressing.

When it comes to the subject of smoking, Christians will want to keep in mind the fifth commandment issues of taking care of the body and health God has given them (along with being concerned about the welfare of others), and the seventh commandment matter of managing faithfully the resources God has entrusted to them.

Is it sinful to drink undiluted wine? A Baptist is telling me that it is sinful to drink wine that is not diluted with at least three parts water to one part wine. He claims all wine was diluted in biblical times. This seems strange since Isaiah 1:22 seems to speak of diluted wine in a negative sense.

Wine was often diluted in biblical times because water was not abundant in some places or of the best quality.

While Christians today can certainly follow an Old Testament custom or practice if they like, it is not sinful if they do not. There are no New Testament ceremonial laws. It is not sinful to drink undiluted wine.

You are correct in noting the negative sense of diluted wine in Isaiah 1:22. That verse uses figurative language to describe the spiritual unfaithfulness of the people of Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day.

Is killing (not murder) in self-defense justified?

God’s fifth commandment has the purpose of protecting life, a person’s time of grace (Isaiah 55:6). God allows his representatives in government to take life—by punishing criminals or protecting a country’s citizens in times of war (Romans 13:1-4). God’s fifth commandment prohibits murder, which is the illicit taking of human life.

Protecting our own life (self-defense) could result in the death of another person. That is not murder; the loss of life can be justified. Exodus 22:2-3 illustrates the law God gave his people of Israel regarding defending oneself from a thief.

How can I explain to my teenage son that watching movies like "The Dark Knight" is not God-pleasing or that he should avoid and turn away from watching movies with sex or bad language and violence. He just watches them and thinks it's okay--he thinks nothing is wrong with watching a movie for entertainment. It is corrupting your mind and can lead to thinking it's okay - can't it?

Watching a movie for entertainment is fine, but “entertainment” does not make objectionable content acceptable. Your concern for your son’s welfare is good and commendable.

You can explain to your son that sexual themes in movies can do much to degrade women, glamorize adultery and desensitize Christians to sexual sins. What may appear to be mere entertainment can definitely adversely affect a person’s thoughts and words and actions.

You can remind your son that the wrong kind of entertainment can fuel sins against the sixth commandment. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Similarly, being exposed to crude and vulgar language in entertainment can have an effect on Christians and the way they talk. God gives this directive: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4).

Recognizing that the images and sounds that reach our minds can affect us, it is no surprise that the Bible gives this instruction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). It would be helpful for Christians of all ages to ask themselves if the entertainment they are engaged in passes the “Philippians test.”

God bless you and your family as you seek to be salt and lights to others around you (Matthew 5:13-16).

How do I stop thinking like a legalist? I have been reading a lot of Baptist materials lately, and always seem to think like a legalist.

You do recognize that what you read affects your thought process. With that in mind, the answer to your question amounts to changing your reading material.

Legalism shows itself in different ways: trying to accomplish what only the gospel can, labeling things “sinful” when God has not done so and using the gospel as a club to change behavior.

In addition to reading the Bible, I encourage you to use materials that do not confuse law and gospel. For starters, you can consider reading Forward in Christ, our monthly magazine. God bless your reading!

Watching some of the coverage of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, I have heard that there is a crown of thorns there that they believe to be the crown worn by Jesus on the cross. I have never heard of this before. Could this be possible? Does our WELS have an opinion as to whether this could be the actual crown of thorns worn by Jesus?

Our church body does not an official opinion on this. I can offer only a personal observation. It is only church legend that the crown of thorns is authentic. Historical documentation for the relic is weak. In addition, more than twenty churches throughout the world claim to have some fragments of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

As Christians, we do not need artifacts that correspond with events in the Bible. God’s record of events in the Bible is sufficient. Christian faith needs no visible proof (John 20:29; Hebrews 11:1).

I have a relative who stopped going to Church (Baptist) and feels she does not have to go to church to be a Christian. I asked her about Communion and she said if she prays God will forgive her sins. What should I say to her?

The Bible certainly instructs Christians to assemble in God’s house and worship him. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). One of the blessings of corporate worship, as the Hebrews passage indicates, is mutual encouragement. Your presence at worship services is an encouragement to others, while you receive encouragement from the presence of fellow believers.

Other blessings of corporate worship, to name a few, are: hearing the good news from a fellow believer that our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ, listening to Scripture read and explained and applied to life, receiving the Lord’s Supper, joining our hearts and voices with fellow Christians in song and prayer, and giving back to God the money he has entrusted to us, for the worldwide work of the church. Corporate worship is a way of carrying out the Lord’s instruction: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). When we realize what blessings there are in corporate worship, the psalmist’s attitude becomes ours: “I rejoiced with those who said to me: ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1)

Finally, you can pass along to your relative that prayer is not a means of grace. Through prayer, Christians communicate with God. Through the gospel in word and sacrament, God delivers his message of forgiveness.

God bless your conversations!

I was baptized, and confirmed in WELS and had attended my local WELS church. Six years ago, my husband and I became foster parents to our great niece and eventually adopted her. She is now 8 1/2 years old and has multiple diagnoses. She has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, and OCD. Sensory Processing Disorder is also part of Tourette’s. The church I attended didn’t seem to grasp that she had special needs, and made things difficult for us to be there. I requested a release of membership and, after attending a local Baptist church for a few months, started watching live streams of a WELS church 40 miles away that we attend once a month. My daughter’s needs don’t seem to be such a huge thing for that congregation. My question is, what is your stance on special needs kids and their families? Do you offer accommodations for them or are the kids expected to just deal? I think leaders in the church ought to have education in supporting special needs families and including them. I don’t feel that WELS is all that accepting of them. This needs to change in my opinion. After all, Jesus loves all people. Shouldn’t WELS?

I am sorry to hear about your experiences. As a church body, we certainly do try to minister to special needs children and their families. Perhaps the most help I can offer is making you (more) aware of WELS Commission on Special Ministries. Its stated purpose is to offer “spiritual and other services to people whose needs are not adequately met by the regular ministries of WELS parishes, schools, and agencies.” Visiting the Commission’s part of our synod’s website will enable you to see what services are offered.

The Commission has resources that may prove helpful for you and your family. In addition, you might be in a position someday to alert one of our congregations to these resources.

John 3:16 certainly states the boundless love of God. As Christians united in faith, we strive to display that same love to others. Because of sin, we all fall short in doing that. With believing and repentant hearts we seek God’s forgiveness. Renewed and refreshed by his forgiving love, we seek to grow in our love to God and others. God bless you and your family.

How would you comfort a member who confessed to having an abortion before she came to faith? She feels that she is responsible for sending her child to hell.

Scripture is silent on the eternal outcome of babies who die through abortion. We can tell others what the Bible says about sin, faith and forgiveness, but we cannot speak for God in matters God himself has not spoken in the Bible.

Sin is serious and, as your friend has confessed her sin, you want to share the comforting message of the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. “The blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sins” (1 John 1:7). “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

You can tell your friend that we cannot undo our sinful past, but then you can assure your friend that with God there is no sinful past. God says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). Your friend may never be able to forget what she has done, but God forgives and forgets. And if God has forgiven us, we can and need to forgive ourselves.

I would encourage you to direct your friend to the resources of Christian Life Resources. This link will take you to the website’s “Post-Abortion” section, where there are good articles you and your friend can read.

Be a good listener to your friend. Continue to point her to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be ready to encourage her to seek counseling. You can recommend Christian Family Solutions. God bless you both.

If I enjoy watching TV and movies that contain sinful ideas (sex scenes, drug and alcohol use, violence, etc.), am I also sinning? Should I be repenting for watching and being entertained by this?

Repentance is called for when we think of our natural sinful condition and when we sin in thought, word or deed. Repentance is called for when “entertainment” leads us to lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:28).

What we read, watch and listen to does have a positive or negative effect on us. So, when it comes to entertainment choices, we all do well to follow this instruction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

I have forgiven a person, but because of a toxic situation, I don’t want anything to do with them. Is that wrong?

With limited information, I can offer only a general response.

It is good that you forgave someone who sinned against you. That is what we are to do (Colossians 3:13).

Managing potential conflicts with another person can be a wise course of action. Without knowing the situation, I would simply encourage anyone in a situation like yours to make sure that avoiding a person is not a substitute for resolving an issue. Scripture instructs us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). That is something we want and need to do—with or without interaction of other people.

God bless your efforts to carry out God’s will: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

I recently started dating someone and was hoping to find a book on the topic of Christian dating. Are there any books you would recommend?

I have not been successful in locating books available from Northwestern Publishing House on the subject of dating. Perhaps you want to contact them.

You may find helpful books on dating from this source.

Your church library or your pastor’s library might also be good resources for you. God bless you as you seek to apply God’s word to this important part of life.

Do you happen to have a list of WELS books that I can read aside from the Bible?

You will find WELS-produced books and books available from other publishers at Northwestern Publishing House.

There are many books in different categories. You can also search for titles.

A popular series is The People’s Bible. The series offers commentary on all the books of the Bible.

You will find a toll-free phone number on the website if you have further questions.

A current WELS pastor admitted to me four years ago that he does not accept the biblical teaching of close communion. What should I do about this?

It would have been good to continue the conversation with the pastor at that time. Now, years later, you could speak to the pastor and reference that conversation. Returning to that conversation could tell you whether the pastor is holding to a personal false belief and whether that translates into an open communion practice. If there were an open communion practice, nearby sister congregations and pastors would likely be aware of it and appropriate action would be taken.

Speaking to the pastor one-on-one would be in line with biblical principles (Exodus 20:16; Matthew 18:15). The content of that private conversation would determine what, if anything, you would do next.

Hi, I'm dating a girl who will be visiting me for a weekend because she lives far away. She asked if she could sleep in the same bed with me, and I told her that I believe couples shouldn't sleep together outside of marriage. She responded by saying that only applies to sex in bed, which she said she isn't interested in doing. I wasn't sure to how to respond, and was hoping for your thoughts on this question: Is a couple sleeping in the same bed outside of marriage wrong if they don't have sex?

It is wrong on several counts. For starters, rather than distancing yourself from temptations to engage in sexual activity (1 Corinthians 6:18), you would be putting temptation right in front of you and your friend. Additionally, if you think you would be able to withstand those temptations, Scripture offers a warning (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Secondly, the Bible teaches: “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3). Two people of the opposite sex sharing a bed creates more than a hint.

Next, the Bible warns us about causing offense to others (Matthew 18:6-7) and emboldening them to sin against God’s will or their consciences.

It would be good for you to find different accommodations for your friend when she visits you. That way you can both honor and glorify God with your lives (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Where do I now find locations at? I travel for work. I liked this option in the other app.

If you are using the WELS App on your mobile device and are looking for the “Find a Church/School” tool that is available on the website, go to “Sections” at the bottom of your screen and then tap on “Yearbook” under the “Synod” heading. You can search for locations there.

What does respect for leaders mean when some of them act like King Herod and Pontius Pilate? I think it means more to be afraid of them. God put them there, but they became corrupt all on their own.

Respect for leaders means that we render obedience to the laws of the government, unless governmental laws command us to go against God’s word (Acts 5:29).

It is interesting to note the historical context when the apostle Paul wrote Romans 13:1-2 (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”) and the apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter 2:13-14, 17 (“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors… honor the emperor”).

When those apostles wrote, Nero reigned as Roman emperor. He was definitely no friend of Christians; his atrocities against them are well documented. Yet, the directives of “be subject” and “honor” applied even to him—not because his life or actions generated respect, but because he filled a seat of authority God had established.

Today, as always, there is a need to do what the apostle Paul wrote in another inspired letter: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

What is the appropriate Christian response to a friend or family member who is pregnant outside of marriage (whether planned or unplanned)? The friend/family member intends to raise the child, and is by all accounts excited to have this baby. I know this child is a gift and blessing, but I'm having a difficult time knowing exactly how to respond in a loving way that doesn't condone the premarital relations.

Your words demonstrate well that you have appropriate concern for the situation. You are seeking to differentiate between the mother and her actions, and the baby.

What I do not know—and perhaps you do not know either—is whether there has been pastoral care involved in this situation. Have confession and absolution taken place? If they have, that can make your conversation more comfortable in the sense that you do not need to initiate subjects of sin and forgiveness in your conversation with the mother.

In all situations, we do want to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). With this situation, you would do well by spending a good deal of time listening to this friend/family member. Her words will give you direction for your own. Baptism plans for the baby would be an important part of a conversation with the mother. God bless your words and actions.

I am attempting to ease back into my (unwillingly) interrupted education via the Hillsdale online courses. Are you familiar with these, and, if so, are you aware of anything specific for which one needs to watch out? Given that it was founded by Baptists, its theological lectures I am approaching with caution, and will be referring back to WELS doctrine through such resources as the WLS Essay Files, to counteract the influence of false teaching. I would skip them altogether but for the fact that some of its alumni are amongst those influencing national life, and it is useful to know why they think what they think. But its theology understandably permeates its other courses, and there its influence is more difficult to detect. A liberal alternative, assuming one existed, would not suit my purposes. I wouldn't trust its accuracy, for one thing, and, last I looked, neither the WELS nor the ELS offer anything comparable. Any advice you can give me would be very much appreciated. Thank you!

I cannot say that I am familiar with that college’s offering of online theology courses. It looks like you have the right approach if you were to enroll in some of their courses: to be aware of the college’s historical, religious background, to view and read materials as one “testing the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and to utilize the resources available from your church and church body.

Another good resource from your church would be your pastor. He could be in a position to help you sort out biblical teaching from error.

On the college’s website, there is information like this: “As a nonsectarian Christian institution, Hillsdale College maintains ‘by precept and example’ the immemorial teachings and practices of the Christian faith.” “We don’t have mandatory chapel, faith statement, or an affiliation with a particular denomination.” With general statements like those, you would probably want to be on the lookout for items like decision theology, legalism, a denial of the sacraments and a watering down of biblical fellowship principles.

I do not know which theology courses are of interest you, but I do want to make you aware that Martin Luther College offers three Bible courses and three doctrine courses online. All courses are offered every summer. All courses are also offered during the academic school year on a rotational basis. This link will take you to the Continuing Education section of Martin Luther College’s website, where you can find more information about these courses.

I wish you well!