Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SMR 1213

Smoky Mountain Reflections
December 2013

            Greetings in Christ and blessings on you and yours as we enjoy this wondrous season of Advent, anticipating the arrival of the Christ Child.  Last month I tried to briefly touch on two topics; hermeneutics and evangelism.  I was so wordy in discussing the first, I ran out of space to spend any time on the second. I know the word evangelism can cause some of you to break out in a cold sweat but it does not have to be that way.

            What I hope to do in this article is give you some easy pointers on how to share the Gospel in a way that is non-confrontational and lets you trust in God to do the heavy lifting. We do not have to be afraid to share our faith with others if we come at it from a well thought out simple process, so here we go.

            1. Follow the golden rule, if you treat others as you would like to be treated, then you are well on your way to sharing your faith. If you seek to love others (friends, neighbors, classmates, and/or coworkers) by being kind, caring, concerned, helpful, and respectful, you are laying a firm foundation for building relationships that will make you more comfortable sharing and your friends, neighbors, classmates, and/or coworkers more willing to listen.  It really is that simple. Good relationships with others create a positive environment for God's word and the Holy Spirit to do their faith creating work. God does not need you. He simply gives you the opportunity to be a part of spreading His good news.

            80% of the people who join churches do so because they were invited by a friend or family member. And 80% of our neighbors do not go to church. The field is ripe for harvest. We just need to be serious about living out our faith in the presence of others.

            2. Three simple questions, There is no reason for you to try to evangelize someone who goes to a Trinitarian Christian church. So the first question should be "Do you go to church?" If the answer is yes and they know the name of their pastor, the conversation can be one of comparing the basics of Christian faith, the 10 commandments, the Creeds, the Lord's prayer, Baptism, the Lords Supper, and Confession and Absolution. If the answer is no that leads to the second question, "What do you believe?" this can be asked in a kind and curious way, and be ready to listen....most people are ready to tell you what they believe. Once you have heard their explanation of what they believe, move to the third question "Would you mind if I shared with you what I believe and why I believe it?"      

            3. Do not argue. You cannot argue people into heaven. Arguing often leads to one or both of you becoming defensive, uncooperative, or stubborn, not to mention the possibility of hurt feelings and unloving comments. (see #1 above) This does not mean you cannot be passionate and enthusiastic about what you believe, but remember your body language or voice inflection reveal how you feel more than you realize. So if you hear yourself getting loud make sure it is out of love and concern and not anger and hostility.    

            4. Know what you believe. You do not have to be an expert but you should be able to clearly explain what you believe. God being all powerful reveals to us clearly all we need to know in His word, the 66 books of the Holy Bible. For example, possibly citing a text like "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16) would be helpful. Simple truths like the fact that we are all sinners and have fallen short (Rom 3:23) is another example. And certainly the fact that Jesus redeemed all of mankind on the Cross (John 3:16) can explain the basics of our Christian faith. We know the Holy Spirit is the one who does the work of creating faith through God’s word (Isaiah 55:11) but He blesses us to be the feet that carry our mouths to speak that good news.  Do not be afraid that you will be asked a question you cannot answer. Carry a pocket sized bible or a bible app on your phone and be ready to look it up together.  If you are still stumped you have 24/7 access to a trained theologian, your pastor, who is always ready to help you find biblical answers to difficult questions.   

            5. Pray. We all know that sharing our faith is easier said than done however if we take a few small steps we can be ready. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”  (1 Peter 3:15) Besides having a few scripture texts  ready to go, the best thing to always do before deliberately attempting to share your faith is pray. Pray to the author and perfecter of your faith that you might help him create faith in those to whom He has called you to witness. The Advent and Christmas season are great times to invite those you know who do not go to church to come and worship with you and see and hear all the great things God whats to give us all in His service.

Blessings on your anticipation
In Christ
Pastor Portier               

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

SMR 1113

Smoky Mountain Reflections
November 2013

            "That is your interpretation"... That was often the response I got when I would try to share God's truth with people in my many years as a parishioner.  I know it is frustrating when you try to tell people the truth as you have come to understand it through the help of your family and your church and especially the Holy Spirit.   When people reject God's truth you can't help but feel a little rejected yourself so, in this month of thanksgiving I would like to briefly touch on two topics that may help; Hermeneutics and Evangelism.  I know these two words will illicit one or both of two reactions among most Christians....confusion and/or fear. Let’s first deal with confusion, so we do not need to run in fear from the second.

            Hermeneutics: Biblical interpretation.  When you are discussing living out your faith with your neighbor, you may be using different methods of biblical interpretation. If so, you can and will come up with different conclusions. Using the metaphor of leaves, your discussion comparing two leaves may be confusing because you may be coming from the prospective of an oak tree while your neighbor is coming from the prospective of a maple tree. The ‘leaves’ or conclusions are different because they come from completely different trees.  It is the same with biblical interpretation. While there are many methods or lenses out there through which people look at God’s word, they really all fit into one of two categories; magisterial or ministerial. I know, two more big words to define but be patient with me as I define both of them for you and explain how these two lenses come up with different applications and conclusions about the unchangeable truth of God's word.           

            Magisterial: There are actually many methods of interpretation that fall into this category but what they all have in common is an appeal to human reason over and above God's word. The most prominent among these methods is the Historical Critical method. The conclusions that are derived are based on the preconceived notions of those who use this method.  In other words, if God's word says something they do not like or agree with, then they simply use this method to say “I know what it says but it cannot mean that so if you look at it through ‘this’ lens I can decide the meaning for myself”. This method puts all the authority in human reason over and above the revealed truth of God’s word.  Some biblical scholars, atheists, and agnostics fall into this category and what they have in common is the idolatry of the human mind over God's reveled truth.  This method leads to a misapplication of biblical principles or just outright denial of any biblical authority at all. If your ultimate authority is the human mind then you can hold the rights of the individual over and above the rights of those you define as less than individuals...those of other races, those of other genders, those not yet born, those with a lifestyle you do not like, those with a quality of life you arbitrarily decide is not worth the status of individual with protected rights. You also have the freedom to depart from God's word completely and make new rules for yourself and your society. Society can make new rules and norms such as; "Anyone can be a pastor". (Call, education and gender have no bearing on who should fill that role.) "Marriage is for consenting adults of any gender". (Chastity, monogamy, heterosexuality, and fidelity are the products of a manipulative, medieval, patriarchal society and we have out grown these oppressive cultural norms of the past.) "Only God can forgive sins" (God’s biblical directive to the church through Peter to forgive sins does not mean what it says.) "Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are acts of obedience" (because it is not logical that water and word can save or that bread and wine can be flesh and blood.)

            Ministerial on the other hand, has one main method called the Historical Grammatical method. Many use this method until their ‘human’ reason pulls them back over into the ‘magisterial’ category. The Historical Grammatical method also employs human reason, but only as we finite beings acknowledge that we cannot fully comprehend the infinite and we let God's word have the final say even when God's word says things that are illogical. This method acknowledges that God is all powerful and can reveal His truth to us in any way he chooses.  He chooses to reveal His truth, clearly defined through history and grammar, in His word, the infallible, inerrant, 66 books of the Holy Bible.  As such, this method produces interpretations that are clear confessions of biblical truth only. If your ultimate authority is God's word then you will acknowledge that all human life is created in His image and is intrinsically valuable. All races, locations, sizes, and conditions of humans are therefore worthy of the highest respect and protection we can provide. We also have the freedom to function within the gifted order of His creation. He put ‘norms’ in place for our benefit and we let His word have the final say no matter how politically incorrect or illogical it may sound. "God gives men and woman different roles";  (mother, father, husband, wife, pastor - Scripture attaches genders to each of these roles. see: 1 Tim 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9, 1 Cor 14:33-35, Eph 5:21-26, Col 3:18-19, 1 Tim 2:9-13, 1 Cor 11:3-10, 1 Peter 3:1-5.) Yes, history and grammar can help us better understand these things but cannot redefine what the words mean. To be a pastor, one must be male, rightly called and ordained. Marriage is defined for us in Genesis, one man and one woman. Other truths in scripture are; chastity for the unmarried, and monogamy and fidelity for the married. These are the gifts of a loving God to us all regardless of our fallen sinful condition.
             "Only God can forgive sins"  This is most certainly true and He can do so however He wishes. To that end, He has established means through which forgiveness can be given. Forgiveness can be given through words spoken in His stead and by His command after confession, and through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, see: John 20:22-23
            "Baptism is a gift from God" This gift is not logical, water and word cannot normally save and give faith miraculously but scripture tells us that His word combined with water does just that. see: Matt 28:19; Mark 15:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13; Eph 5:26; Titus 3:5-6; Heb 10:22; John  3:5; Rom 6:3-6; Col 2:11-12, Gal 3:27-29 
             "The Lord’s Supper is a gift from God" This gift is not logical, bread and wine normally cannot  be flesh and blood and give forgiveness when consumed in faith, but scripture tells us that it is and it does. see Matt 26, Mark 14 Luke 22, and  I Cor 11.

            As you can see the ‘leaves’ on these two trees are very different. So the next time you are sharing your faith with someone and they say "well that is your interpretation", you can politely respond "yes and it is also the confession of the universal, historic, Christian faith so your disagreement is not with me but with a plain and clear exposition of God's truth". Or perhaps you can just say, "your disagreement is not with me but God's word" that might be simpler. It looks like I got a bit wordy for this month so I will address the topic of evangelism in December.

In Christ Pastor Portier     

Saturday, September 28, 2013

SMR 1013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
October 2013
            This is one of my favorite times of year, when the canopy of green that has filled out trees for the past six or seven months starts to burst into a sea of yellows, oranges, reds and even some dark purple.  As we in our neck of the woods prepare for the flock of leaf peeping tourists, we watch the leaves, as well as a few acorns, soon fall. The falling of such a seed on the head of a fictitious chicken is the source of a well-known fable warning us against worrying about things we have no control over. Scripture also warns us against worry, revealing it to be a lack of trust in God's provision for all our needs.

            We do sadly find so many ways to creatively worry, while calling it ‘concern’ for the kingdom of God. We ask questions like, ‘How do we as Christians determine what the best course of action is for our church?’ All concerned members of the body of Christ should prayerfully ask themselves what the wisest course of action should be, shouldn't they? While I am a big fan of responsible evaluation of our practices in light of scripture and our confessions, there is a big difference between ‘evaluation’ and ecclesiastical hand wringing. The business world has a lot of good information that can be very helpful in managing the business aspects of an organization with memberships, facilities and staff to maintain, but the world has little to offer in the way of helping the church to be ‘in’ while not ‘of’ the world.

            So what are we to do if we are to be conscientious Christians seeking to share the great news of the Gospel as best we can while not corrupting or causing offense to that same Gospel? I would say there is a big difference between damage control and honest biblical outreach.  We can honestly look around us and learn from the mistakes of others, identify our own warts, and press on doing what it is God has called us to do, trusting in Him to do His will in His church in His good time.

            First visit some of the mistakes of others. The ‘seven sisters’ mainline Protestantism; The Methodist UMC, Lutheran ELCA, Presbyterian PCUSA, Baptist ABCUSA,  Episcopal, Church of Christ UCC, and the  DCC have a few things in common. One of the reasons they are so large is because of their liberal, historical, critical position on scripture. That position, while appealing to logic and public opinion, leads to poor theological decision making such as female clergy and support of the LGBT agenda. These departures from scriptural truth have led to them also experiencing the greatest declines in membership of all American Christian church bodies. The lord clearly warns us against such practices. (2 Peter 2:1-2) “There will be false teachers among you, who will surreptitiously introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful, licentious ways.” and in (1 Peter 1:14-15) “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you formerly had when you lived in ignorance.  Instead, just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” and finally in (Romans 12:2) “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

            Second we have to acknowledge the things that have caused our own church bodies decline. In the words of our synod president, Matthew Harrison "The people of the LCMS marry much later and are having far fewer children. Our outreach (conversion) has not been sufficient to stem that decline. So we need to look at how we encourage and support families and we need to invite our unchurched neighbors to church.  80% of people who join a church do so because they were invited by someone they know a friend of family member.”

            Finally while we diligently seek to share His truth in love we also must trust Him and His word and His sacraments to do His will in His good time. The responsibility to share His truth belongs to each and every one of us in our own daily vocations.

           Jesus will build, protect and sustain His church in accord with His words in Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock (his confession that Jesus is the Christ the son of the living God) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God grants the increase and sustains us through any difficult times. 1 Cor 3:6  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. .......9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. So be diligent, do not worry and enjoy the fall colors.

In Christ Pastor Portier

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Smoky Mountain Reflections
September 2013

            "In a Relationship" what does that mean? If you post it on social media it has a myriad of possibilities ranging from mildly attracted to someone to married.  ‘Going steady’ is no longer in vogue. We are surrounded by people who want to "keep their options open", in the words I once heard from a man who was in his 70's.  The word "relationship" gets thrown around in our fast food, disposable culture, not so much in the life long committed biblical model these days but more in the ‘this is how it is for now’  model. That works until you get bored with how things are and move on to something or someone else.  Our society’s concept of "relationship" is far removed from the selfless ‘love thy neighbor model’ that scripture gives us. I am not just talking about marital relationships, but all forms of ’relationship’.      

            The whole second table of the law is about how we are to act in relationships, and the building block for all relationships is the family. This is the anchor, the solid foundation, on which God decided to build the relational structure of His creation. It started when God noted the first "not good" thing in His very good creation. It is not good for man to be alone so God created a second person, out of the first, and created, at the same time, the first relationship.  That relationship contained all the God pleasing elements of selfless giving. The two would give themselves to each other in sacrificial, complementary ways that would also have creative elements, not the least of which was another relationship, that of parent and child. In this small model we can learn and exercise all of the relational skills we need to lead a God pleasing life.

            The lie that our world tells us is that we get to choose our relationships… However, they are a gift from God. Every person you come in contact with is, at some level, in a relationship with you.  We do not get to choose our parents, they are a gift from God and this relationship is designed to be life long in nature, though not always the primary relationship. Even the person we marry, regardless of the cultural method that brings us together, is a gift from God that is designed to be lifelong...”.till death do us part”.

            Another lie our world tells us is when we tire of relationships we can end them.  God has designed our relationships to form a web of love, comfort, support and protection. When we choose to end a marriage the whole web is disrupted. It is not just husband and wife who suffer.... children, siblings, parents, extended family and friends all suffer.  When we start to go ‘gender bending’ it does not just affect the "couple", the whole web of relationships is affected. Though we may agree or disagree with someone's life style, none of these sinful acts; divorce, cohabitation or "friends with benefits" make us any less directed by God to love our neighbor and seek to speak the truth in love.

            So as sin continues to break holes in the web of relationships, there is a web repair service of sorts available to us all. We pray in the Lord ’s Prayer "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". Forgiveness and reconciliation are at the core of what it means to be in a God pleasing relationship. Forgiveness is the glue that fixes and holds together broken relationships. True forgiveness does not ignore sin or its consequences. The source of true forgiveness is love. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love, in fact, acknowledges the pain and suffering caused by a wrong even if we think no one gets hurt because we do not get to say how other people feel.

            Relationships have priorities. Some relationships in our lives are more important than others. When we are children our first relationship is with our parents and this takes priority over all others. If I have to say no to someone because of a conflict of schedule or opinion, my sibling, teacher, friends or employer all take a back seat to my parents. This changes however when we get married and absolutely yes, young adults should not play house, they should get married. The marriage relationship becomes the new primary relationship. Your boss, your friends, your parents, your siblings and your children all take a back seat to your spouse. This is not an opinion up for debate. If we would follow the biblical model for relationships fewer of them would fail. Sin in this category hurts deeply.  There is one more issue of priority you want in your relationships. You want them to be God pleasing and by default pleasing to you and all whom you love and are concerned for. All earthly relationships are #2 relationships in a rightly ordered life. The #1 relationship in our lives must always be our relationship with the Son of God who redeemed us and regularly nurtures us in His Word and Sacraments.
In Christ

Pastor Portier

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
August 2013

            So as the summer winds down and comes to a close and we are getting ready for school to start again I find myself reflecting on ‘vocation’. As many of you know my daughter Elisa, with the help of Scott her husband, added a new definition to my vocation list about six weeks ago. I am now a Grandfather, or as they say in bayou country Paw Paw. Just about the time all the little people in my family grew up, God blessed me with another playmate :-). (Of course Harper has been giving me practice on how to be a good Paw Paw for the past two years now.) Besides the gift of my Grandson, what is this gift of vocation that God gives us?

            The first thing we think of when we hear the word ‘vocation’ is work. What we do to earn a living is certainly part of our vocation but it is one small part of a very big picture. If we step back we see how blessed we are to have our identity wrapped up in every aspect of our vocation. Who we are in our relationships at work, in our family, in our community, in our church, all of these put together are what make us who we are in our relationship with God and our neighbor. Unfortunately we get things out of whack sometimes, messing up our priorities and spending too much time on one part of our vocation while neglecting other parts. We spend too much time at work or at play or with our family and our work or play or family suffer because of the imbalance. Another confusion may be that we take a role for ourselves that does not belong to us, or the reverse, we give our own responsibilities to another. Examples would be, trying to do our bosses’ job or our Pastor’s job or a government official’s job when it is not ours to do. Sometimes we completely abandon our work or our spouse or our community, leaving others to carry our responsibilities as well as their own.

            But God takes our broken sinful priorities and fixes them, washing off our feeble efforts and making them pleasing to God.

            He takes our sinful selfishness and works faith in our hearts helping us to see we are not the god we make ourselves out to be. Our desires are not the most important thing....He is.
            He takes our often poor efforts to represent Him and helps us to see how we can best reflect our love for Him by bearing His name with respect and honor.
            He takes our poor time management and leads us to be still and know that He is God. He does this in our daily lives with prayer, reading and devotions, and in our regular weekly time to receive the gifts he showers on us in word and sacrament, nurturing our souls to live out our vocations in the coming week.
            He takes our rebellion against authority and turns it into honor, obedience, and submission to our parents, leaders, spouses, and employers.
            He takes our murderous attitude which has no regard for all life created in His image and He turns it into the loving activities of family members and caretakers who nurture and serve the week and vulnerable among us.
            He takes our lust and fleshly desires and turns them into selfless giving of ourselves to our spouse. He blesses us with that already great gift, caring for our physical and emotional needs with the occasional arrival of a new family member.
            He takes our greedy desires and turns them into concern for our neighbors’ positions to the point that we would gladly sacrifice something of our own to prevent or restore a loss suffered by our neighbor.
            He takes our dishonest thoughts and deeds and converts them through a contrite heart that seeks truth and justice, encouraging peace and reconciliation, willing to sacrifice our own justice for the benefit of others.
            He takes our covetous hearts and minds and turns them into loving, caring souls that seek, with His help, to nip our sinful activities in the bud.  He deals with them when they are only desires and helps us prevent them from becoming actions.                      

            God takes our sinful thoughts and deeds and puts them into the gift of ‘vocation’ which converts sinful activity to God pleasing activity. Turning selfishness into selflessness, turning disobedience into standing for His truth, turning killing into defending family or nation, turning adultery into loving one’s spouse, turning theft into protecting someone from harming themselves, turning lies into words spoken that benefit others at our own expense. God's rules do not contradict themselves when we do something within our vocation as parent, employer, leader, child, worker or citizen which on the surface appears to be a violation but is a cost to our reputation. We gladly pay this in service and love for others. Then, and only then, we can see the smiling face of our Lord and Savior saying “Well done, my good and faithful servant, come into my presence and abide with me.”

Blessings on you all as you do your best to live out every aspect of your vocation in Christ
In His name
Pastor Portier       

Friday, June 28, 2013

July 2013...Where is Waldo?

Smoky Mountain Reflections
July 2013

            Where is Jesus??? In our world today, full of little churches and mega churches trying to sell you Jesus by saying ‘Come over here, we have the Jesus you didn't even know you needed or wanted’, how does one find the real Jesus? Well, first let’s make a typically Lutheran statement..."you do not find Jesus He finds you!" That is all fine and good and true but not very helpful in responding to the constant barrage of trendy Jesus marketing. So let’s briefly review the three main marketing tools used to sell you a Jesus that is really more about you than the Savior who came to save you. That is what marketing naturally does, appeals to the individual.   
            The first and most popular of the shallow self-centered versions of ‘marketing Jesus’ is the, "Look at how good I feel Jesus".  This version of marketing Jesus is easy to identify. Followers talk about Jesus but Jesus is not really ‘doing’ the verbs. This version is referenced when the one who shares Him with you does not talk about what Jesus does for you but about how Jesus makes you feel.  In truth, Jesus does not manipulate our emotions. How we feel is about us, not about Jesus.  Emotions are a gift from God and yes, when we sing His praises or listen to or read His words or share how He has blessed us, it can and should make us feel good.  But those feelings are not Jesus, they are not even an indication He is close to us. The one who bled and died for ours sins is Jesus. What if I do not feel good, if I am grieving, if I am hungry, if I am sick? Does that mean Jesus is not with me? Quite to the contrary! When we need Him the most, He is there providing the peace He promised. So if someone tries to sell you a "Look at how good I feel Jesus" say no thanks and politely run away

            The next version of marketing Jesus is the "Look at all my stuff Jesus". This version is also easy to identify. Followers tell you to ‘look at all the great stuff Jesus gave me because I am a hard worker for the kingdom and He clearly rewards those who follow His laws and do His will’. This of course does not tell you about Jesus and what He did for you, it tells you how good this "believer" thinks he is. What if I am poor, if my car gets repossessed, if I lose my job or my those cases, in this version, this false Jesus must not love you. The real Jesus came for, and loves and serves, all sinners and tax collectors. It does not matter what side of the track you come from.  You know you are living right not if you are blessed with material things but if your activities reflect a redeemed life that seeks to love God and neighbor as best you can with His help. So if you meet someone selling this Jesus tell them you can't afford to pay the entry dues!

            The last version of marketing Jesus is the "Look at my degree Jesus". This version of marketing Jesus is again easy to identify. This group tells you that they can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is who He claims to be because they themselves are so learned. This is a ditch I often fall into because it sure would be nice to be able to prove God is who He claims to be. But you cannot prove God to anyone, only the Holy Spirit can create faith. And reason is but a maidservant to her mistress, faith. As long as the maidservant and the mistress sleep in their own beds they get along nicely. However if the maidservant tries to sleep in her mistresses bed....confusion and anarchy are sure to follow.  So when your pastor says he can prove to you God exists, remind him that he cannot:-)

            We have now identified the false Jesus marketing models.  They have been over simplified here but they all prove that the great deceiver does his best to disguise falsehoods in a myriad of ways. How is this helpful? Or is it helpful in identifying where Jesus is? While it is helpful to know where Jesus is not, it is more helpful to know where He is.  With the eyes of faith, it is as easy to see where He is as it is to find Waldo on a busy multicolored page. You know exactly what Waldo looks like. His candy cane shirt and hat, the glasses and blue jeans are unmistakable. The true Jesus might make you feel good, He will bless you but not necessarily with wealth, and science and history are His friend, but those things are not how you will know Him. You will know Him because He is where He says He will be in His word and sacraments. You can know with absolute certainty that you are a baptized child of God whom He loves more than His own life which He gave on a cross. He regularly nurtures you through His word proclaimed and His (body / bread) and (blood / wine) put in your mouth for your forgivness. Take comfort in His assurance "Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world" Amen.

In Christ Pastor Portier

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
June 2013

            Isn't it interesting that those who would call you intolerant for sharing the gospel will not tolerate the gospel being shared in our schools or in our military or any other place that God's truth might be deemed offensive by the politically correct ‘thought police’? Christians all over our nation are shamed into silence and not tolerated by those who claim to be the most tolerant.

            Isn't it interesting that young earth creationists are excluded from the sanctioned scientific community, being told that their views are too exclusive and not inclusive enough of all possible views?  Their view is excluded from the conversation. They are not even allowed a seat at the table because those who do not hold the scientific, old earth, big bang view are "persona non grata" in those discussions. Young earth creationists are excluded from the public discourse because their position has been deemed unscientific and is dismissed without even being considered.

            Isn't it interesting that those who would encourage Christians who hold a biblical worldview to be more open minded are themselves very closed minded if you try to share the Gospel with them?

            Isn't it interesting that Christians are so often judged by others as being judgmental, while at the same time those who make this determination have no problem being judgmental themselves toward Christians?

            Isn't it interesting how those who hold a biblical worldview are often accused of forcing their morals on others, while in the very same breath the one making that accusation condemns the Christian for not holding to the ‘other’ moral standards of  pro-choice & redefining marriage?

            You will notice in any dialogue you have with someone who disagrees with you on what God's word has to say on a given topic that they will not say ‘that is not what God's word says’. They will either attack you for holding the position or attack the authority of God’s word.  When they say ’that is your interpretation’, they are addressing you, not the text. No one is out there saying God’s word says it is ok to abort babies, or it is ok to marry your own gender. Because they know God’s word clearly condemns murder including the unborn "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" Jer 1:5a, and they know marriage is clearly defined while all other intimate relationship variants are condemned.  Rom 1:27 a "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men," Those who oppose God's truth actually affirm what it says when they attack the messenger or the authority of God's word. So at least we can be sure that they know what God’s word says and pray that the Holy  Spirit will work on their conscience helping them to come to a God pleasing contrite, reconciled relationship with God.

            In the meantime we will continue to plod on sharing His truth whenever given a chance, with His help and encouragement.  God never promised us that being a Christian would be fair, pleasant or easy but He does promise to be with us always unto the end of the age.

In Christ Pastor Portier        

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
May 2013

            I would love to wax eloquent on the wonders of spring or reflect on the busy nature of the summer that lies ahead of us all. However, a crucial decision is being made by the Boy Scouts of America on the 23rd of this month that has far reaching ramifications for our way of life here in America. I am not talking just about the Boy Scouts. As you may know, I wrote an open letter to the organization which I published widely.  Sadly, I just read the proposed resolution and if it passes, we will no longer be able to charter a troop here at Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Sevierville TN.
            The reason I feel the need to reflect on this is because it is just one more place where a battle between two different world views is playing out. If we do not stand with God's truth and speak the truth in love about what a biblical worldview is, we may soon find ourselves treated as second class citizens.  You may call me Chicken Little, but I am not saying the sky is falling. I am saying that if our society continues on its current course, it will go the way of all past civilizations that stopped making good bricks to build their society. By good bricks, I mean protecting the weak and innocent and fostering a strong natural family. If we continue to build with faulty bricks that dispose of the weak and innocent as costly, and sacrifice the natural family on the altar of self gratification, we will go the way of every failed civilization that has preceded us because faulty bricks build weak walls that eventually crumble.
            The American Family Association (AFA) is an organization that often does a very good job of speaking to these issues.  You may know them as the organization that produces those Christmas and Easter buttons we all love to wear so much. They also produce a number of other good resources for citizens to live out their Christian faith in a world that is growing more and more hostile towards the Gospel. They also produce a monthly Journal that highlighted the BSA issue.  The main article in the April issue by Ed Vitagliano made a number of good points and provided a good summary of this worldview conflict:         

           "It is Christianity versus secularism. Forget all pleasantries and appeals to fairness and tolerance and inclusivity, this is a war of ideologies – two mutually exclusive worldviews locked in a titanic struggle for supremacy.
           For the tolerance gurus there is a secular morality that is just as absolute as that preached by any Bible-thumper behind a pulpit. It is a pagan sexual ethic rooted in moral relativism with the taproot deeply embedded in Darwinian evolution. Its teachers have their own unbending laws cut into stone and pronounced from on high. Their prophets hurl jeremiads at the unrepentant, who are relegated to a this-worldly hell consisting of the drying up of corporate funding, the disdain and downright persecution of the civil state, banishment to the fringes on university campuses, and the sneering mockery of Hollywood.....
           First the humanists succeeded in routing religion out of the government sphere. Now they are attempting to drive it from the private sphere – by targeting an institution like BSA."

            We as Lutherans believe and teach a doctrine of two kingdoms where the church is in the business of loving and serving God and neighbor, and the government is in the business of keeping the peace and maintaining public property.  However social engineers are trying to give a little too much authority to the government right now. We as citizens of both kingdoms must do our best to be good citizens in each place. Being in but not of the world is not an easy calling, but it is our calling. So we must be active in our vocation as citizens to make informed votes and speak out against injustice and champion the weak, the sick, the unborn and the natural family at every turn. We need to do this in our work place, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our churches. The church should remain silent on political issues that are matters of preference and opinion. But when the topic is morality and issues on which God's Word is clear, we must speak the truth in love. “Being in but not of the world” means being ready to take it on the chin when you speak this truth. It means publically standing by those who seek to reflect the last two words of the Scout Oath: "Morally Straight".  Lord willing, the decision from the 1400 delegates will be a God-pleasing one. Either way, He is in control of everything and works for the good of those who love Him. So be a good citizen of both kingdoms, do not worry, and have a blessed summer.
In Christ, Pastor Portier

Friday, March 29, 2013

SMR 413

Smoky Mountain Reflections
April 2013
            The Gospel is always under attack, such as "it is one among many", or "corrupted over time". These are two arguments that can be responded to with a simple examination of the mountains of ancient manuscript evidence.  This evidence affirms what the church has always held to be true, that Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are the Gospel.   

            The attack I would like to address this month is the claim that Christianity is a religious myth among many myths that have all evolved over time by sharing and plagiarizing ideas from each other.  This is actually a relatively young attack on the gospel. It did not even exist 150 years ago. It was first proposed by "The History of Religions School" in the 1800's. Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), one of the groups’ scholars, felt they were freeing Christianity from the tyranny of scholastic philosophy, but in so doing pulled the rug out from under scriptural authority. They did not care what the Bible said because in their minds Christianity was a product of religious evolution. Evidence of the weak nature of this particular argument is that there are no religious departments in any accredited institution of higher learning anywhere that are continuing the work of "The History of Religions School". However the group’s conclusions are sadly parroted in most comparative religion classes today. These conclusions are being stated as fact with no evidence to support such claims because there is no evidence.  Here are some clear reasons why no work is being done to assert these false claims:

1. Christianity pre-dates most of the "religions" it is supposed to have plagiarized or evolved from.

2. Ancient writings that pre-date Christianity are: the Old Testament, which is fulfilled in Christianity;   Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism which have no parallels from which to plagiarize.

3. There are however three examples, often sited, with parallels that do pre-date Christianity; the Baal-Mot epic, the Isis cult, and Mithraism. Here are some of the supposed parallels; Christ and (Mithras), Virgin birth (born from a rock), a teacher with 12 disciples (a leader with lots of followers), Crucifixion (sacrificed a bull), Resurrection (no record), logos (no record).  When you place these side by side they don't look very similar.

4. The nail in the coffin though is the faulty reasoning that parallels equal plagiarism and borrowing. This is known in the philosophical world as the "post hoc fallacy" also called false cause, coincidental correlation. It can be expressed this way: "A occurred, then B occurred. Therefore, A caused B." But correlation does not equal causation. You may ask yourself why scholars would use a method of argumentation that is so flawed.
Those who make these assertions do not care if it is logical because it suits their needs.  Here is a great example of how flawed this line of reasoning is. This example compares two well-known individuals, Lincoln & JFK. Both were: elected to the House in '46; to the presidency in '60; defeated the incumbent VP; their predecessors retired to Pennsylvania; their successors were Southern Democrats named Johnson born in '08. They both fought for civil rights, were shot in the head from behind on a Friday, a companion was wounded. Both had a son die during their presidency. Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre, Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln made by Ford, their last names have 7 letters, Booth ran from a theatre to a warehouse; Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theatre. This list proves nothing but, using this line of reasoning, in two thousand years someone could argue that JFK did not exist but was plagiarized from the historical accounts of Abraham Lincoln.

            The problem is there are a lot of people today who knew and witnessed all of the events that surrounded JFK's assassination. The same is true for the account of the crucifixion and the resurrection. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is an historical fact by all historical standards.  The empty tomb is an historical fact by all historical standards. There are post resurrection witness accounts by hundreds of individuals. The credibility of the witnesses and their accounts is without blemish. Most of the primary witnesses were martyred confessing Christ. They gave their lives as evidence of the truth of their claims. (people do not give their lives for what they know to be a lie) Christianity rose and grew in its first few hundred years in a hostile environment. The first witnesses to this truth were woman, in a society that did not value a woman's testimony. Some witnesses recorded these truths from outside the faith like Josephus, Suetonius and Tacitus. Why are so many things both good and bad in the record?...because that is the way it happened. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die and rise for you! Have a blessed Easter!
In Christ Pastor Portier
The bulk of this article is based on a lecture given by Dr. Adam Francisco Professor of History at Concordia University in Irvine CA. On the internet radio program "Fighting for the Faith" titled "Eyewitnesses accounts and myth" 8/3/12

Friday, March 1, 2013

SMR March 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
March 2013
            What is truth? Is there such a thing as truth? In a free and prosperous society, if there is a truth, does it really matter?  These are not questions one can answer in a simple little one page article.  However for the sake of brevity, let me start with Yes, Yes, and Yes to each of the three somewhat rhetorical questions I just asked. Take a little walk with me as I ponder and make assertions on each of these questions, but more importantly, as I consider how one might communicate these answers to a world that does not really care about truth. We live in a society that not only does not care about truth, it gladly sacrifices it on the altar of personal rights every day.

            First what is truth? The word has many definitions, but for this discussion, let’s go with two:  the body of real things, and transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality.  There is really very little real modern debate on the first one. For example, gravity is a universally accepted truth. Truth of course is not subject to our acceptance of it, but the point is that there are truths that everyone accepts and on which there is no disagreement. The second definition is under a state of great debate. Transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality is a truth that is equally unaffected by our acceptance of it.  However many act as if it does not exist. If you identify yourself as a Christian, your understanding of transcendent truth is in conflict with over two thirds of the world’s population.  While within biblical Trinitarian Christianity, there is a great divergence of understandings of that truth, the truth is not divergent—sinful beings are.             

            Is there such a thing as truth? This is a philosophical question, so I will offer a philosophical answer. Plainly I would state that since truth is a concept that is definable and observable, and since definable and observable concepts exist, then it follows that truth exists.    

            In a free and prosperous society, if there is a truth, does it really matter? This is where the rubber meets the road. Truth matters, and more importantly, transcendent spiritual truth matters.  Any student of history can tell you that time and time again throughout history, every society that has ever existed which upheld and lived by the transcendent spiritual truths that are contained in God's word or even if their truths mirrored God's word, those societies enjoyed decades or even centuries of peace and prosperity. On the flip side of that reality, the clear decline of every society that has ever existed was accompanied by their denial of clear transcendent fundamental truths.  Truths, like all aspects of society, need to foster and support the family unit as the basic building block. Killing unborn babies and same gender relationships are an affront to that truth and are a reality that preceded and accompanied the fall of all societies in history.  When we choose to define truth to suit our own desires, this leads to departure from truth and is the sure road to destruction.           

            Communicating this truth and the fact that it matters is difficult in a post modern society that specializes in dismissal of truth, avoidance, diversion and appeasement at the cost of truth and reconciliation.  In our society, the rights of the individual trump all truth claims.  This leads to illogical statements that defeat themselves and positions in life that are known as happy inconsistencies.
            Judge not..................   Is not the one who says this making a judgment?
            Be tolerant of all......    except of course those who are not tolerant enough.
            There is no absolute truth......  except of course that statement.

            Here are some examples of happy inconsistencies: "You do not have to go to church to be a Christian"
even though that violates one of the commandments. Over 80% of Americans claim to be Christians and over 60% of Americans think Christ is one among many paths to God.  This means that at least 40% believe themselves to be Christian while not believing Christ when He clearly said, “I am the way the truth and the life; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME!” If I say I am a tree....that does not make me a tree?  The truth is that to be a tree you must have roots, a trunk, and leaves and you cannot talk.  In the same way, just saying you are a Christian does not make you a Christian. You must have saving faith in the Son of God, and if you have that faith, then your life will not be full of happy inconsistencies that ignore truth. Your life will reflect your appreciation of the free gift of Grace, and you will not hold on to your favorite sin and deny God's truth by saying it is not sin. You will love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and strength, not because you can or you have to.....but because through Grace, He equips and enables you to respond in the most God-pleasing way possible and where you fall short....Christ has you covered.  Have a blessed Lent.

In Christ, Pastor Portier            

Thursday, February 21, 2013

SMR 213

Smoky Mountain Reflections
February 2013

            In the month where we celebrate St. Valentine (so that the candy and flower companies can peddle their wares), I thought it might be interesting to discuss marriage...the basis and building block for natural families. When families are healthy, then the civilization they are a part of is also in good shape. This is not just my opinion—it is a clear truth that history, social sciences, and even those with an agenda to the contrary must acknowledge if they want to be heard as an intelligent voice in the conversation.

            That being said, one of the loudest voices in this conversation does not care about facts.  That voice would be the media and entertainment industries. They so often say they are just producing what sells, but even in this, they are dishonest. Because if they were concerned with the bottom line, not their message (which always contains something other than the traditional family), then they would produce more of the films and other products that are most popular. In 2011, only 18 G-rated films were produced even though G films make on average three to five times more than R-rated films.      

            We as Lutherans believe and teach that the sixth commandment is about fidelity in marriage.  These are two concepts that our society and many of us do not fully comprehend.  Adultery is sexual activity of any kind with anyone that is not your spouse. Marriage is and has always been defined by every major successful culture and religion to be one man and one woman. Scripture records bigamy, polygamy, and all other forms of amorous activity outside marriage. It also clearly condemns them all as a violation of God’s plan for sex.  Our society has separated this act from God’s plan for reproduction, and that leads to some of the crazy ways some are trying to define marriage today. How long will it be before people start trying to marry their pets, or children, or multiple people, or their favorite piece of interactive electronic entertainment?  If we redefine marriage...where will it stop? ....or will it ever stop?  If you call an apple an orange, does that really change it?       

            Oh how I would love to say yes all the time! Any good parent knows that saying no is unpopular and will often be responded to with great rebellion and anger.  But we as the church, as Christ’s bride, must speak the truth in love to our neighbor and that sadly means telling unrepentant sinners no, you must not do things that God forbids.  It is not healthy for you. We don't do any favors for those who say their favorite sin is not sin, if we just smile and nod. We must smile and say let me help you deal with this in a God-pleasing way. It would be great if all the people I know and love would be on the same page with regard to this topic, but the truth is we all know and love people who are on the wrong side of this discussion either in word or deed.  If we all were of one mind, and agreed about important things like the intrinsic value of life, then the womb would be a safe place to live. If we all were of one mind and agreed about the importance of providing for and protecting natural marriage, then this most important building block of civilization would be safe. But the truth is this institution is under attack.  The sad truth is we are not all on the same page and in agreement on these and other important topics and out of respect and concern for all the people in our lives that are at risk, it is best to be honest and upfront about who you are, what you stand for, what you believe, and why you believe it.

            Now if you start speaking the truth in love, many will dismiss "your truth" as one among many, and tell you to be tolerant of their position while they are being intolerant of yours. We should seek to avoid conflict or confrontation, but it is also important for us to share the truth and seek to reconcile ourselves and others to God’s will.  Our modern world, with our nation at the center, worships at the altar of the rights of the individual. All other positions, philosophies, and world views must take second seat to the self-determined wants and needs of the individual. When proclaiming His truth, we will sometimes have to point out that sometimes people want what is not good for them or others. For asserting such a truth, you can expect to be called a "bigot" which according to Webster is a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.  With this name calling, they are seeking to marginalize you and the truth you stand for, while completely avoiding the topic at hand.  We do not and should not hatefully fight for our opinions but, we must stand with and for God’s truth no matter how angrily the word "no" is is still sometimes the most loving and concerned caring thing to say.
In Christ, Pastor Portier  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
January 2013

            Happy New Year......I guess we do not need the existence of a Mayan calendar because you are reading this, and the last date on that calendar passed weeks ago. As we enter the year of 2013, we do come upon a gloomy anniversary. For the past 40 years, we as a nation have been allowing for the legal murder of unborn children.  I can hear you saying it now...."Come on Pastor, not that topic is so depressing."  I agree.  It is a depressing topic, but if we do not speak the truth in love to our neighbors on this topic....who will speak for the weak and vulnerable who cannot speak for themselves?

            It would be great if all the people we know and love could be on the same page on this topic, but the truth is we all know and love people who are on the wrong side of this discussion.  If we all were of one mind and agreed about the intrinsic value of life, then the womb would be a safe place to live. But the truth is we are not, and out of respect and concern for all those people and the lives that are at risk, it is best to be honest and upfront about who you are, what you believe, and why you believe it.

            This is important for two reasons.  First—life is a blessing and as such should be nurtured and cared for. We as a society must work to protect and care for the weak, and those who are in a position to protect them best—their mothers. Secondly, a whole generation of women have been lied to and told that their child was not a life, and so 30 to 40 percent of our society is suffering the physical and emotional scars of abortion.  We as the body of Christ must do everything in our power to communicate God’s love and forgiveness for these hurting men and woman who either directly or indirectly suffer from post-abortion issues.  

            It saddens me that we cannot get the truth from our media outlets, our government, our health care system, or any other public organization, because the "lifestyle left" has its hooks in all these places, keeping the public message in line with their abortion-on-demand agenda. Abortion is the most unregulated and most unreported medical procedure taking place in our country. The pro-choice propaganda machine says it is fighting for women.  What about all the future women that are aborted? What about the women who die because of botched abortions? What about those who suffer from post-abortion physical and emotional scars? What about the women who are coerced into making the choice for abortion by organizations that make money off that decision?  These organizations lobby against simple legislation including licensing and regulating abortion clinics, parental consent requirements for minors, 24-hour waiting periods and ultrasound provisions. The reason they fight all these things is because they know that when women are given all the information, women overwhelming decide against abortion and that cuts into their business. 

            There is another thing that puzzles me.  I noticed in the last election that the pro-life candidates have to clarify their position for the media: “What, if any, are the exceptions in your position?”  Being pro-choice also has many different positions, but the media asked no such question of those with a pro-choice position. You could almost put all these positions on a Life vs Choice scale and find that people and even leaders all lean heavily to the LIFE side of this scale. Here is a summary of those positions as I understand them:
            - Full Pro-Life no exceptions.
                        However even in this position, most would make exception to protect the life of the mother,                                 leaving that decision in the hands of the mother.
            - Pro-Life with the exception of rape and incest (The Romney / Ryan Position)
            - Pro-Life with the exception of rape, incest, and health of mother.
            - Pro-Choice (rare and legal) first trimester only.
            - Pro-Choice with all above exceptions plus welfare of the mother.
            - Pro-Choice abortion on demand for any reason but only in the first trimester.
            - Pro-Choice abortion on demand for any reason up to the day of birth (The Obama / Biden Position)
            - Extreme Pro-Choice if a child was intended to be aborted but is born alive.....let it die.

            There are even more extreme positions that would allow for euthanizing infants if there is anything wrong             with them that would give them a poor quality of life.  We must be well informed on these issues and as such, should take the time to educate ourselves.  So that we can be well informed members of the body of Christ, the human race, and as citizens.

            What can you do? Well, you can stay informed by visiting some of the following websites:;;;  Listen to Issues Etc. online ( as they often cover this topic.  You can also pray for and give of your time and resources to the Women's Care Center, and our county’s Right to Life chapter that is having a rally at Country Tonight on the 13th @ 2 PM.  See you there, and have a great new year!!

In Christ,