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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» Is there a reason why we as the WELS don’t appear to emphasize fasting as a Christian discipline? (Or maybe we do, and it’s just been my experience to have not heard much about it?) If a believer is considering a fast as a means to draw closer to God in prayer, how would one go about it? Thank you!
Fasting falls in the area of Christian freedom, so an emphasis on that practice will vary from person to person. “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.” The paragraph above is from a February 2015 column in Forward in Christ. This link will take you to that column. It will address the subject of fasting with more detail than I can provide here.

» How does the WELS church minister to individual churchgoers suffering from mental illness?
WELS has a Commission on Special Ministries. Its mission statement explains that it “offers spiritual and practical guidance and training to congregations and individuals as they share God’s love to those with special needs or in special circumstances.” Mental health is included in those “special needs.” This link will take you to the Commission’s presence on our synod’s website.

» Generally speaking, how welcoming is the WELS church to visitors? Since the denomination shares minimal fellowship with other church bodies, can I expect to receive the cold shoulder or shunning? Lastly, why are sermons in the WELS church so brief? Relatively speaking,13-15 minutes is much shorter than other Reformed Churches I have visited. Additionally, the local WELS church I watched online did not use his Bible, during the sermon and all in all it seemed very simple and shallow in content. Lastly, if you had to pick just one, what would you identify as the biggest obstacle/challenge the WELS is currently confronting? Thank you!
Like other church bodies, each of our congregations can have a personality of its own. Tradition, culture and local leadership are some factors that can help shape a congregation’s personality. I would like to think that our congregations are welcoming to visitors. Could some of our congregations grow in that regard? Probably. Undoubtedly, there is room for growth in welcoming visitors in any gathering of Christians in any location. I would not expect you to receive the cold shoulder or be shunned if you visited one of our congregations. Do keep in mind though that the ways in which visitors and guests are acknowledged and welcomed can vary from congregation to congregation. Sermon length is also going to differ from one church to another. Even within a congregation, sermon length might vary from week to week. Factors such as Holy Communion distribution and special singing can impact sermon length. When it comes to the length of a sermon or a pastor’s use of the Bible, I would encourage you not to let an experience with a congregation describe an entire church body. What is our church body’s biggest obstacle or challenge? We do not have a list, so I can offer only a personal observation. Our challenge is to be faithful to God and his Word in the face of growing opposition to God and his Word (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Finally, you might be interested to know that WELS is in fellowship with over 30 church bodies throughout the world. This link will provide you with more information. I hope you do visit one of our churches and receive a warm welcome. God bless you.

» What is the second type of eating in the sacrament that Lutherans confess? I don't understand how there are "two" types of eating.
Questions regarding what Lutherans confess will lead to answers from the Lutheran Confessions. The following is from the Formula of Concord. Thorough Declaration. VII. Of the Holy Supper. “There is, therefore, a twofold eating of the flesh of Christ, one spiritual, of which Christ treats especially John 6:54, which occurs in no other way than with the Spirit and faith, in the preaching and meditation of the Gospel, as well as in the Lord’s Supper, and by itself is useful and salutary, and necessary at all times for salvation to all Christians; without which spiritual participation also the sacramental or oral eating in the Supper is not only not salutary, but even injurious and damning [a cause of condemnation]. “But this spiritual eating is nothing else than faith, namely, to hear God’s Word (wherein Christ, true God and man, is presented to us, together with all benefits which He has purchased for us by his flesh given into death for us, and by His blood shed for us, namely, God’s grace, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life), to receive it with faith and appropriate it to ourselves, and in all troubles and temptations firmly to rely, with sure confidence and trust, and to abide in the consolation that we have a gracious God, and eternal salvation on account of the Lord Jesus Christ. [He who hears these things related from the Word of God, and in faith receives and applies them to himself, and relies entirely upon this consolation (that we have God reconciled and life eternal on account of the Mediator, Jesus Christ), – he, I say, who with true confidence rests in the Word of the Gospel in all troubles and temptations, spiritually eats the body of Christ and drinks His blood.] “The other eating of the body of Christ is oral or sacramental, when the true, essential body and blood of Christ are also orally received and partaken of in the Holy Supper, by all who eat and drink the consecrated bread and wine in the Supper—by the believing as a certain pledge and assurance that their sins are surely forgiven them, and Christ dwells and is efficacious in them, but by the unbelieving for their judgment and condemnation, as the words of the institution by Christ expressly declare, when at the table and during the Supper He offers His disciples natural bread and natural wine, which He calls His true body and true blood, at the same time saying: Eat and drink. For in view of the circumstances this command evidently cannot be understood otherwise than of oral eating and drinking, however, not in a gross, carnal, Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, incomprehensible way; to which afterwards the other command adds still another and spiritual eating, when the Lord Christ says further: This do in remembrance of Me, where He requires faith [which is the spiritual partaking of Christ’s body].” [Concordia Triglotta. Page 995. Emphasis in the original] In short, one kind of “eating” (John 6:54) is receiving Jesus Christ in faith. Another kind of eating receives Jesus’ body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.

» 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 am a recovering alcoholic, so one verse that I remind myself of when I am feeling weak or unfulfilled is 2 Corinthians 12:9. I am curious if we have any idea what the thorn in Paul's side was.
The apostle Paul did not explain what the “thorn in his flesh” was. That has not stopped people from guessing. The guesses range from physical ailments to mental torments to an actual person who was disruptive to Paul’s ministry. Even though we do not know what Paul’s problem was, we do have information related to it. There was a good purpose behind Paul’s thorn in the flesh. In light of his otherworldly experience (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), the thorn in his flesh was intended to keep Paul humble. We also know that God heard Paul’s repeated prayers to remove his problem, but God’s loving and wise answer was a “no.” In his wisdom and love, God left the problem in Paul’s life but gave him the strength to carry out his ministry. God’s actions led Paul to understand better how a powerful God works through weak human beings (2 Corinthians 12:9). God grant you continued strength to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).

» 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).

» Hello! Planning for a wedding can be sometimes overwhelming and stressful. I am a very strong Christian and I believe that a marriage involves three people - God, husband, and wife. Having Christ at the center of your marriage keeps you strong in all circumstances. While planning a wedding, it can get crazy with remembering to get all the physical type things done and then we can tend to forget about the spiritual focus of a wedding. What would you recommend to make sure the spiritual focus of getting married isn’t lost when planning everything else for the wedding? Thank you!
I commend you for having such wonderful priorities when it comes to wedding planning. You recognize very well that wedding service and reception details are important, but a lifelong marriage is much more important. Pre-marital counseling from your pastor can help maintain your spiritual priorities during the busyness of wedding planning. In addition, reading and discussing the Bible with the one you will marry can help keep your spiritual focus. Besides Bible reading, you might consider the following books: Marriage and Family, Building the Christian Home, and Growing Together in Christ. All are available from Northwestern Publishing House. God bless you and your future marriage!

» What is WELS' position on transubstantiation? Bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ or, they are the body and blood because of God's omnipresence?
You will find these statements in This We Believe: a statement of belief of WELS: “We believe that all who join in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper receive the true body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine (1 Corinthians 10:16). This is true because, when the Lord instituted this sacrament, he said, ‘This is my body. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:26,28). We believe that Christ’s words of institution cause the real presence—not any human action. As believers receive his body and blood, they also receive the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28) and the comfort and assurance that they are truly his own. Unbelievers also receive Christ’s body and blood, but to their judgment (1 Corinthians 11:29). “We reject the doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the substance of the bread and wine are changed entirely into the body and blood of Christ. Scripture teaches that all communicants receive both the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).”

» I have been reading about antinatalism a lot lately, and have found many Christians who believe in it. I found this quite shocking. They say that it is a good thing not to have children because they would probably go to hell anyways. What is a Lutheran response to this?
A common definition for antinatalism is “a philosophy that assigns a negative value to birth.” People who hold to that philosophy believe that it is morally wrong to have children. A Lutheran response to this position is a scriptural response. The Bible clearly teaches that children are blessings from a loving God (Psalm 127, 128). As can happen with other blessings from God, sinful people reject what God says about children and replace his declaration with their own thoughts. The rationale for rejecting God’s blessings of children—“because they would probably go to hell anyways”—illustrates a dark view toward life. In Baptism, God has provided the means by which he can work in the hearts of little ones and bring them into his family. Through the gospel in word and sacrament, God can nurture and strengthen Christian faith so that people can finish this life in saving faith and enjoy his eternal love (Revelation 2:10). Christians certainly recognize the power of Satan (Ephesians 6:12), the corruptness of the sinful nature (Romans 7:18) and the ungodly influences of the sinful world (1 John 2:15-16), but they also recognize and trust in the power of God (Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:12). God grant you wisdom and strength to testify about the blessings of children as you have opportunity.