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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» What Psalms are sung on Thanksgiving Day? What Bible passages are read in the church on Thanksgiving day?
You will find “lectionaries” on pages 163-166 in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. Those lectionaries contain Scripture readings, including Psalms, for worship services. Pastors might use those Scripture readings for Thanksgiving Day worship services, or they might use other sections of Scripture. We enjoy this kind of Christian freedom in planning and carrying out our worship services.

» What should we understand as "a baptism of repentance" for the remission of sins? Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3. Is repentance worked by baptism? People came "confessing their sins" and then were baptized. Did John's baptism convey the remission of sins? the gift of the Spirit (in light of Acts 19:1-7) Please expound. Thank you.
Through John the Baptist’s preaching, God changed the hearts of people. Sinners were led to confess their sins and acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God (John 1:29). The Baptism John performed sealed God’s forgiveness to people. The Baptism John performed provided the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit could produce and strengthen faith, and also repentance in people’s hearts. The Holy Spirit changes hearts through the gospel in word and sacrament. John’s Baptism was essentially the same as Christian Baptism. In Acts 19:1-7, the punctuation in our English Bibles has led to some questions over the years. Keep in mind that the biblical writers did not use quotation marks or other grammatical devices that are in our translations. With that in mind, translations like the NIV bring Paul’s words in verse four to a close before the beginning of verse five. They then have Paul re-baptizing the disciples in Ephesus. If Paul’s words in verse four extend to the end of verse five, then Paul was speaking of John the Baptist baptizing people, and Paul simply laid his hands on the disciples. Some translations and most Lutheran commentators understand Paul’s words and actions in that manner.

» Hi, I have some questions: In your site, it is said that the law isn't a means of grace. But I read some Reformed say it is, in the sense that the law is part of the word, and that the law shows us our need of Christ. In that sense, would the Synod agree that the law is a means of grace? Also, I am struggling with a lack of faith. What should I do? Hear and read the word until faith is created in me? And I have to try to keep the law as best as I can meanwhile? Also: the confessional Lutherans say that good works do not contribute to salvation (it's evidence, a consequence of salvation) but, at the same time, say that deliberate sin extinguishes faith. But, since the demands of the law are so hard, isn't not doing good works all the time a sin? Because if I am not helping my neighbor, but doing something for myself, I am not keeping the law intentionally. Thanks.
The law of God points out our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. It is through the gospel that God offers and gives us his grace, the forgiveness of sins. The means of grace is the gospel in Word and sacraments (Romans 1:16). God creates saving faith through the means of grace, and God strengthens saving faith through the means of grace (Romans 10:17). To grow in your faith, you will want to be faithful in using God’s word and in receiving the Lord’s Supper. You are correct in noting that our good works do not contribute to our salvation. That is very clear from Titus 3:4-7. Jesus alone is Savior. When it comes to our sins, we confess this in the Common Service: “Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions. I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good. For this I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity. But I am truly sorry for my sins, and trusting in my Savior Jesus Christ, I pray: Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” We confess our natural sinful condition, and we confess our sins of commission and sins of omission. There are sins of weakness, and there are willful, deliberate sins. You are correct in observing that willful, deliberate sins can cause a person to fall from faith. Recognizing who we are by nature and what we do every day explains why there is a need for contrition and repentance each day of our lives. At the same time, there is also reason to look in faith to Jesus and his salvation each day of life.

» Can you point to any literature or guidance for fellowship issues with a spouse of a different denomination? I'm specifically concerned with the practical aspects like giving thanks for a meal, or praying together as a family.
You could benefit from reading Church Fellowship: Working Together for the Truth. There is a short section on the application of scriptural fellowship principles to “Family and friends.” It is possible your pastor or church library has a copy of the book that you can borrow. If not, the book is available from Northwestern Publishing House. Your pastor may have other resources at his disposal. Do contact him as well.

» The Bible has 6 billion books in circulation. The book that is second place has about 930 million. What is it?
There are many “Top Ten” book lists available. One source I located suggests that Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung is in second place. Let’s do what we can to keep the Bible in first place.

» 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.

» I've been having the fear of Judgement Day recently. What will it be like? Doesn't it say in the Bible that those living today will be judged more harshly than those who died in Sodom and Gomorrah? What does that mean? How will I be judged? Does that leave for a chance that I won't enter heaven?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describes what we can expect on Judgment Day. Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) informs us that the judgment that took place at people’s death will be made public, and those who are alive on the earth at the time of Jesus’ visible return on the last day will be judged as well. The basis for judgment is faith in Jesus Christ or unbelief (Mark 16:16). When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples on a preaching mission, he told them: “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Matthew 10:11-15). Jesus’ words in the closing verse tell us that the unbelieving people of Sodom and Gomorrah will face eternal suffering, but the people who rejected the Lord’s own apostles can expect even greater suffering. The Bible does teach degrees of suffering in hell. You and I will be judged like everyone else in the world: on the basis of what was in our hearts when life on earth came to an end. Because salvation is God’s work and because saving faith is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), you and I can have absolute confidence in God’s decree of “not guilty.” You and I can share in the apostle Paul’s attitude, as he thought about the last day: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). When we look to ourselves and remember some of our sins, we can have doubts about our status in God’s family and our future in God’s kingdom. On the other hand, when we look to Jesus—what he has done as our Savior and the sure promises he has made—those doubts can lessen and disappear. I encourage you to look more to Jesus. He lived up to his name, which means “Savior.” That brings certainty to our lives. God bless you.

» I respect WELS position on close(d) Communion, but don't fully understand the logic. In numerous posts you've stated that only God can look into a person's heart, that Christians of other denominations may have saving faith, and the like. Further, denominations other than WELS believe in the Real Presence of Christ in Communion. It only makes sense that people should be regularly communing in their own church. But why do you insist on complete doctrinal agreement on every point before you allow someone to commune? After all, at family reunions, not everyone gets along perfectly, but no one is denied the meal.
Perhaps it can be helpful if I build off your closing analogy. There is one family of believers, known only to God (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 1:23; 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:19). Because God alone knows who belongs to that church family, we call it the “invisible church.” You and I live in the world of “visible churches”—one in which we can see who belongs to which church. Whether or not people realize it or acknowledge it, their membership in a church states that their faith lines up with that church’s teaching. When it comes to the practice of close communion, it is a matter of comparing the teachings of people’s churches with the Bible’s teachings. “How many of the church’s teachings must line up with the Bible’s teachings for people to commune together?” you might ask. Nowhere does Scripture speak of anything that falls short of complete unity (John 8:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). In fact, the Bible speaks of the unity that is threatened by the spreading of any false doctrine (Galatians 5:9). The Bible calls upon Christians to be on the lookout for false doctrine, and to avoid it and those who persist in it (Romans 16:17). One of the purposes of close communion is to ensure that, as far as humanly possible, the unity that is expressed by those receiving the Sacrament is genuine and not contrived (1 Corinthians 10:17). It would not be an accurate picture of unity if the people receiving the Lord’s Supper together represented churches that teach doctrines—of any kind—that are contrary to Scripture. If there are visitors to our worship services who belong to churches whose teachings do not agree with biblical teaching, they are certainly welcome to stay and hear the word of God. The Lord directs us to share his gospel message with all people (Mark 16:15). On the other hand, there is no instruction in the Bible that authorizes an indiscriminate distribution of the Lord’s Supper. Visitors to our worship services who belong to churches whose teachings do not agree with biblical teaching may very well be part of the family of God by the saving faith that resides in their hearts. Again, God alone knows that. But if they received the sacrament in our churches, their actions would be saying they are united with our visible church family and its doctrines. Based on the different confessions of both churches, that would not be an accurate statement. Today, the family of God is scattered among visible churches. The day will come, of course, when sin and all of its effects—including false doctrine—will no longer exist. Then, the family of God will enjoy perfect peace and unity. And then we will all be guests at the same meal (Revelation 19:9). I hope this response is helpful for you.

» Do we have any connections or missions in Australia?
We do have a connection. WELS is in doctrinal fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia. WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

» I have a friend who invited me to their church (ELCA) to have my dog blessed. I have heard of other churches doing this, but is there any biblical reason for this type of blessing? I turned the invitation down because I'm not in fellowship with my friend's church and it seems strange to be blessing animals. What is the WELS view on blessing animals?
We do not have a practice of blessing animals, nor does the Bible lead us to establish such a practice. We recognize that animals are part of God’s creation (Genesis 1), and pets can provide wonderful companionship. Considering all of God’s creation leads us to praise him: “Lord God, open my eyes to the beauty of your created world. You made all things to nourish my life and to fill me with wonder and joy. Open my mouth to praise and thank you for your gifts.” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, page 134, a prayer “For God’s Creation.”)