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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» 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!

» Is Matthew 28:19 considered a command?
Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19 (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”) form a general command to his followers of all time. Jesus’ words indicate what the mission of his church is to be.

» 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 often give in to the sin of watching porn and feel bad and pray to God apologizing and get Communion, then end up falling into temptation again and repeating. I know if you ask for forgiveness but repeat it then it's not being truly repentant. I want to stop and feel super bad if I don't take Communion, but know I will sooner or later fall back into my old ways. What should I do? I don't feel right talking to my pastor about it either.
If you do not feel that you can talk to your pastor about this, I would encourage you to check out the resources, including counselors, available through Conquerors Through Christ, an agency within WELS. This link will take you to their website, which offers many helpful resources. As with any sin, we confess our sins to God, we receive in faith God’s forgiveness of our sins and we resolve to fight all the more against sin and temptation. Your words indicate you recognize this. Your words also reflect the ongoing battle that goes on within Christians (Romans 7:15-25). The website can provide you with practical resources to assist you in your battle against temptation. What follows is one of their FAQs: “OK – so maybe I am addicted. Now what do I do? 1.Pray. Tell God about what you have been doing. It shouldn’t be all that hard, after all, He already knows. He’s just waiting for you to come to him so he can tell you that he loves you and has forgiven you. 2.Watch our videos and explore the web site— they summarize the steps to follow to get porn out of your life. 3.Take the hardest step—tell someone—your pastor, a trusted friend, your spouse, or a Christian counselor. This is a sin we can almost guarantee you will not be able to ‘fix’ on your own. You will need help. But the good news is there IS help available. But you must seek it out. Satan will seek to keep you isolated and weak. Don’t let him. 4.Seek ongoing support in the form of counseling and accountability. This is a battle and Satan will not let his grip on you go without a tremendous struggle. 5.Thank God for the victories and cry for mercy for any failures along the way.” God bless all your efforts in saying “No” to sin and “Yes” to godly living (Titus 2:12).

» I have a question on salvation. The Bible clearly says that that we are saved by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But isn’t belief itself a work? Isn’t believing something we have to do to be saved? This is connected to another question that I have: what is the least someone has to do to get to heaven? Where is the line drawn? Is it trust in God? Is it repentance? How much trust or repentance is needed to be saved? Thanks for any answers.
Christian faith is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:16). Faith is a work, but it is God’s work (1 Corinthians 6:11; 12:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9). In the Scripture verses you cited, we learn that faith is God’s gift to people (Ephesians 2:8). Saving faith is characterized by trust and reliance on Christ alone for salvation. Christian faith saves not because of the strength of faith on the part of the Christian, but because of the object of faith: Jesus Christ. Salvation is not a matter of having a certain level of faith. Christian faith, even the weakest of faith, saves. That is true because the object of faith is Jesus Christ, and Jesus did everything to live up to his name, which means “Savior.” I hope this response is helpful for you.

» 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!

» I just saw a video from a WELS pastor claiming the LCMS seminaries teach doctrine is not important. My entire experience says this is blatantly false. Agree?
I am not aware of which video you are referencing. I would agree with your assessment.

» Why does WELS not require their teachers (K-12) to have their state teaching licenses? Also, why does WELS call teachers for positions where their degree qualifications do not line up (for example, a teacher with a degree in physical education teaching science)?
Martin Luther College (MLC), where I presently serve, states this on its website: “Students who successfully complete program requirements and meet the Minnesota requirements for licensure are eligible for a Minnesota license. To ensure that all teacher graduates are assignable anywhere in our country, MLC requires all teacher graduates to be eligible for a Tier 3 Minnesota license.” Once MLC graduates receive their assignments, even though they have their Minnesota license, the state to which they are called may ask the graduates to also be licensed in that particular state. In addition, Martin Luther College conducts a Post-Baccalaureate Licensure Program to work with teachers who graduated from Dr. Martin Luther College or Martin Luther College before 2002 “to be eligible for their initial Minnesota teaching license or add-on to an existing Minnesota license” (MLC Website). Schools that extend calls for specific teaching responsibilities might consider the gifts, abilities and teaching experiences of individuals, along with their degree qualifications. It can also happen that a school is not able to find a “specialist” at a time a position needs to be filled and a person with other qualifications is called. As a recent answer explained: “Even though the Call is divine and from God, our process is a human one. That means that, while we try to do the best we can, the process itself might not always work as we intend it to work.”

» What are the differences in Calvinism and Lutheran teachings? My brother recently sent me a video from Truth or Tradition that speaks of how Christmas and Easter are based more on devil worship. And now he is stating that he will not go to any church unless it will not participate in either Christmas or Easter celebration. Early in the video John Calvin is quoted. I see that Calvinism teaches 5 principles: T.U.L.I.P. T: total depravity, U: unconditional election, L: limited atonement, I: irresistible grace, and P: perseverance of the Saints. I am particularly interested in unconditional election as several Scripture verses quote that God has chosen or predestined a few to be saved and not others. What Scripture verses refute these teachings?
This month’s “Light for our path” column addresses the concern about Easter celebrations. This link will take you to that column. The Bible does not teach double predestination; it teaches an election to salvation only (Ephesians 1:3-14). From the Bible we learn that God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). We learn from Scripture that people are responsible for their damnation (Jeremiah 15:6; Hosea 13:9; Matthew 23:37). The over-emphasis on human reason in Calvinism leads to the false teaching of double predestination. Another very important difference is that Calvinism denies the power of God in the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and considers them only “ordinances.”

» I have been suffering from a deteriorating disease. I feel this illness is taking away my faith in God. I cannot live with the guilt this has caused. I desperately call out to him and love him so much. Please, how can I strengthen my faith in God during this time? I feel like he does not love me.
I am sorry to hear about your health situation. Be assured that our physical health can be quite different from our spiritual health. Struggles in life, including diseases, do not mean that God’s love has diminished. The Bible’s promise to Christians is that nothing can separate them from God’s love in Christ: “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 8:38-39). Sickness and disease are among those items that cannot separate us from God’s love in Christ. Satan would love for us to conclude that problems in life are signs that God does not love us. Satan is a liar (John 8:44). As we tune out Satan’s voice, we want to listen to the voice of our God in Scripture. God always speaks the truth (Numbers 23:19). Consider some of the things God says to you in his word: “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). Your God assures you: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). God promises you: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). To strengthen your faith at this time and throughout life, continue to go to the means the Holy Spirit uses to deepen and nurture our faith: the gospel in word and sacraments. Remember your Baptism. Recognize that in Baptism God made you his own dear child. Read the Bible and other devotional materials you might have. Be a frequent guest at the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, God assures you of his forgiving, unending love. Finally, speak to your pastor or other trusted Christian friend about your situation in life. God bless you!