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Men Alive in Christ

                Without a doubt our behavior is influenced by the company we keep.  A number of years ago, more than I care to admit, I became involved with a group of really bad scumbags.  At first I felt awkward hanging around these guys, not knowing what to expect.  They were fun-loving dudes all right, but I just didn’t seem to fit in.  Oh I could easily identify with them, for you see, I too was a scumbag.  I did not feel intimidated by them because I knew I was more of a scumbag than the worst of them.  From a Christian point of view there was not very much in my life to be proud of.  Early in my Lutheran up-bringing I had learned Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  I could easily relate to the first half of the verse, but the second half seemed somewhat distant.  The old German Lutheran pastor who confirmed me was a strict believer in teaching Law and Gospel, but I had heard mostly Law.  His sermons condemned me week after week, and now I was hanging out with these bad dudes who referred to themselves as “scumbags.”  They had invited me to join them for a weekend in the woods, carousing around a campfire, competing in games of skill and chance, and oh yes, shooting guns.  My life had been a little more stressful as of late, so in spite of mixed emotions I made the decision to go.  It was not what I expected from a men’s group at church, especially a group that holds Bible studies and has named themselves “Men Alive in Christ”. 

                What I thought would probably be a boring weekend, actually turned out to be quite fun.  It also gave me time to reflect upon my miserable condition.   As I got to know these guys more personally, I began to understand their “scumbag doctrine”.  Their moniker, “scumbag”, was not a bragging right, or a badge to wear.  It did not make you cool in James Dean fashion.  (If you don’t know who James Dean was… Google it.)  Instead it was actually a confession of Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”   It was the humbling realization that we can do nothing to save ourselves.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.  Then it began to register.  By God’s law we are all scumbags, saved only by the undeserved love and sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Although I had heard these passages all my life, I still wasn’t sure.  Could it really be this easy?  Slowly the second half of Romans 6:23 sunk in and became the sweetest words I have ever heard.  I realized that I did not have to change my life to receive grace, but by receiving grace, my life would be changed.  The more I studied His word, the closer I became to Him.   I began to live with confidence that Christ has done for me what, as a scumbag, I cannot do for myself.

                The OSL Men Alive in Christ hosts an annual men’s retreat.  Please consider attending for a weekend of Bible study, fellowship, games and entertainment.  You do not have to be an OSL member to join in and non-members are encouraged to attend.  If you have a friend or relative who is a scumbag like you, please invite them to come along.  Learn what it means to be a Lutheran in today’s world and walk in the light of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Please join our group of scumbags.  You will fit right in.  For more information or to reserve your spot please contact us via the form on this web site.                  Russ Wernli

James Dean (1931-1955): “Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today”