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What Luther Says

Catholic Charities Says To 'Find Good Within'

This is the kind of post that I'm sure will only perpetuate the myth that we Lutherans don't like to do any good works in service to our neighbor (or that we just like to be "divisive" all the time).

This is also the kind of post that clearly demonstrates why I'm not a Catholic (or an American Evangelical for that matter).

An organization in my neck of the woods, Catholic Charities, has historically done some very good things for this community and all the people living here (whether those people in need are Christians or not).

I mean, if the "Social Gospel" was what mattered most in this life, then they'd be the model for how to "preach" it the right way.

But it's not. Good works apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or those works that will fill a man's belly, but leave his soul empty and chained to sin is not a truly "loving" response from a Christian.

So, with that in mind, I have to take exception with this year's Catholic Charities campaign for reasons I hope will be quite apparent.

Here's the billboard I saw on my drive in to work today with a recent press release to explain it:

Catholic Charities Launches 2015 Appeal; Sets $10.9 Million Goal 
"Find Good Within" is the theme for this year's 91st annual Appeal 
The Most Reverend Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo, today announced a $10.9 million goal for the 2015 Appeal in support of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. Bishop Malone made the announcement at a kick-off event held at Catholic Charities' A Gathering Place, a daily social program for adults 60 years of age and older, 128 Wilson St., Buffalo. The theme for the 2015 Appeal is "Find Good Within" and the patron saint of the 91st annual Appeal is St. Francis of Assisi. The Appeal helps fund Catholic Charities' 70 programs across 61 sites in the eight counties of Western New York along with Bishop's Fund for the Faith. 
"This year's theme is about setting aside our preconceived notions, opening our hearts and looking inside ourselves, and others to find the good within," said Bishop Malone. "It's easy to look at the world in which we live and see the bad, the need; where we fall short. Sometimes, it's harder to find the good. At Catholic Charities, we believe there is abundant good in the world, and in each one of us, regardless of our circumstances." 

I guess that shouldn't surprise me. After all, we live in a world where the Catholic Pope can claim that atheists can do good worksto get to heaven.

Still, I wonder how Catholics can reconcile such beliefs with the clear teachings of Scripture.

Psalm 51:5 (ESV) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV) 10 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

Romans 3:23 (ESV) or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 John 1:8 (ESV) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

So, can we really "find good within" our world and ourselves?

Before you think I'm just over-reacting here, I want to say that I understand that this is a fundraising drive, and for fundraising drives of any kind (within any denomination or even of the secular kind), there has to be a "call to action" of sorts so why not make it a "Let's Be The Good People That We Are As Christians And Do Good Works For Others!" kind from a group like this?

Ok, fair enough. I get it.

But there is a way to do this sort of thing while remaining Biblical throughout the process. I mean, to say that there is "abundant good in the world" and "in each one of us" but then to NEVER mention the Person responsible for that "good" is absurd for any Christian!

Where was a single mention of Jesus Christ and His role and His work within the world and within our lives? Is He somehow too "controversial" to mention even for a so-called "Christian" Charity Drive perhaps?

On an even deeper (maybe more subconscious level) is the campaign logo itself. Of course, the generic "God" is used so as not to "offend" anyone (I shouldn't complain since I suppose they could've used Mary or one of the Saints for their campaign instead).

Even the "interlocking O's" in the graphic stand out and seem rather inappropriate. Why? What's the subtle message? That "God Is We" and "We Are God" and "God And We Are One" possibly? "Find Good Within" and then "Find God Within" is it?

You may think I'm being way too sensitive here, but I saw that billboard, and then read the comments from the press release, and the not-so-subtle implication is that by "looking within" and "doing good" you'll somehow be able to "find Jesus" too.

However, nothing can be further from the truth and I hate that this is the message being sent!

Lookin' For Jesus In All The Wrong Places? 
It is amazing to do a simple internet Google search on the topic of, “Where can I find Jesus?” All sorts of posts will pop up with all kinds of strategies to find Jesus. Furthermore, the vast amount of posts will not only present strategies on finding Jesus today, but will also guide and direct a person to specific places where Jesus can be found. Permit me to give two examples. 
Pope Francis recently stated that you and I won’t find Jesus by hanging out in a first-class lounge or in the library; we can’t find Jesus in peace and quietness, but rather we find Jesus by being out in the real world, be being involved with Him in the messy and noisy problems of the world.[1] 
On another website though, we are told that we need to leave the loud and busy world and go somewhere quiet where we can get on our knees. Then and only then we are told to go deeply into ourselves with quiet meditation and prayer. Once we have escaped the busyness of the world and the busyness of ourselves and are in deep peace and quietness, we can then wait and listen to hear Jesus talk to us in the inner caverns of our heart.[2] 
Now, these are just two examples that give us guidance where we can find Jesus. On the one hand we are told that Jesus is not found in the quietness and peace of a private setting, but in the busy noisy world. On the other hand, we are told that we need to leave the busyness of the world to go to an unobtrusive place to find Jesus in the quiet meditations of our heart. Which is it? Is Jesus found in the quietness of our heart or in the busyness of the world? 
Dear friends, like Mary and Joseph we can spend not only three days but up to three years and beyond trying to find Jesus in all the wrong places. In other words, if we fail to understand who Jesus is and what His mission was, we can end up like Mary and Joseph searching in all the wrong places. For example: 
We can attempt to find Jesus in the busyness of the world. 
We can attempt to find Jesus in the mystical caverns of our sinful heart. 
We can attempt to find Jesus in the successes of life. 
We can attempt to find Jesus in the popular spiritual fads of the day. 
We can attempt to find Jesus on a lake while fishing. 
The list can most certainly go on and on and on. 
The problem with all of these options is that none of these places are places where the Lord has promised to meet us. Truly, my dear friends, you do not need to wander aimlessly through life constantly trying to find Christ. You do not need to be distracted by every single new spiritual guru that comes out every two years on Oprah; those gurus that claim that they have found the secrets to finding God. You do not need withdraw from the church and look within the layers of complexity in your heart to find Jesus. You do not have to leave your present jobs and callings in order to venture out on hyper-spiritualized humanitarian objectives to find Jesus. No, none of this is necessary in seeking and finding Jesus, for although our Sovereign Lord is over all things, He has not promised to meet us with grace, forgiveness, and peace in any of these places. 
But where shall we find Christ? Where shall we find Christ when we need Him the most? The scriptures answer you and me saying, “He is on the cross, where you need him the most. There [on the Cross] Jesus fulfilled God’s promise for you: ‘Neither death, nor life … nor anything else … will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. There we discover ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.’”[3] Furthermore, despite all of the seeking for peace and assurance in all the wrong places, the Lord Christ has promised us that the benefits of Calvary’s Cross are with us. Yes, the benefits of the Cross—forgiveness, grace, peace, and assurance—are with us specifically in His Word and Sacraments. 
What does this all mean? It means that Jesus is right where one might expect to find Him. He is in the waters of your baptism. He is present in His precious Word—the Bible. He is present in-with-and-under the bread and wine that is given to and for you. 
Baptized Saints, as we think about this, I do confess that this may not sound flashy and exciting. In fact, to acknowledge and proclaim that Christ is present before you where He has promised to be in the Word and Sacraments, can take the fun out of the spiritual seeking game. Otherwise stated, as the world attempts to find Jesus and eternal peace in movements and fads, and as the world attempts to find Jesus and eternal peace in mystical meditations, you may be tempted to the thrill of their chase and the excitement of their trying to find the hidden location of the treasure of peace. Hold steadfast though dear Saints. Do not embark on a wild goose chase seeking for Jesus where He has not promised to be. 
My fellow redeemed, “Jesus Christ’s life-giving ministry of Word and Sacrament, which He has entrusted to us as His stewards, is what makes disciples of all nations and ages. This Word and Sacrament ministry of the very Word made flesh is the only thing that bestows true life, peace, and forgiveness.”[4] But we may say to ourselves, ‘”That isn’t too flashy or exciting or even successful according to today’s standards.” Baptized saints please keep in mind that, “Success in God’s eyes is not understood in terms of simply having more names on a roster, more bodies filling seats, or more dollars in the offering plate.”[5] Success in God’s eyes is not about seeking the Lord in vague happenings of culture or seeking Him in the inclinations of the sinful heart. But rather, “Success in God’s eyes is simply grounded in the faithful proclamation that we have all sinned and we have all rightfully earned death and damnation for our sin, but Jesus Christ Himself has already made full atonement for each and every sin by laying down His life on a bloody cross as an all-redeeming, all-forgiving sacrifice. Success in God’s eyes is simply understood in terms [of people being] where Christ is, [where He has promised to be for you and for me].”[6] 
As we look forward to 2015, what will 2015 bring for you and me? While you and I can't say for sure, I am fairly certain that we will all experience our fair share of heartaches, as well as joys. We will experience ups and down. We will take turns that we will never have expected and travel into unforeseen territory. In the midst of everything that 2015 will bring upon us though, I am happy to announce that the Lord and His Gifts will be here for you and for me, right where we can expect them to be. That is right, the Lord's Word and Sacraments, which have been that constant source of hope, sustenance, and strength over the past year, will also be present for you and for me in 2015. The reason why? The Lord has promised to neither leave us nor forsake us; He will be with us to the end of the age in this church, in our baptisms, in the Word, and in the Supper.

Notice the key difference between the kinds of things being peddled by the Catholic Church and those heard from the Lutheran Church? One asks you to "navel-gaze" or to look at yourself and also within, while the other instructs you to fix your eyes on "Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Friends, that's no small difference.

Catholic Charities might be "good" at raising money for "good" causes, but, last I checked, they don't have the power to raise anyone from death to eternal life. Sadly, they still haven't learned that we are only considered "good" because of Jesus Christ who rose from the dead since He was as "good" (a.k.a. sinless, righteous) as it gets, and it's that "goodness" that is imputed to us!

In a Lutheran layman's terms, contrary to the popular "Gospel of Self-Esteem" so prevalent these days, you cannot "find good within" yourself.

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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