The Book of Revelation: Part 12

Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 21 and 22 

Timothy J. Westendorf

It’s been 1,900 years since John recorded the words of Jesus in Revelation 22: “I am coming soon!” (vv. 7,12,20). Soon? Really? How are we to react to those words and this last chapter of the Bible?

I am coming soon

“I am coming soon!” If texted by the neighborhood bully, those words bring fear for the little kids. If written by a collections agency, they arouse panic and dread in the heart of the man buried in debt. But if those words are emailed by a loving husband and father who has been deployed for a year, they bring hope to a longing family. If promised on speaker phone by Grandma, they awaken excitement and anticipation to the grand kids. If yelled by a first responder at the scene of an accident, they bring a sense of relief to the driver trapped in the wreckage. Our relationship to the speaker makes all the difference in how we react to those words.

So what should we think when Jesus says, “I am coming soon”? If we think of who we are on our own and who Jesus truly is, we would have reason to be anxious, terrified, and full of dread. We are sinful mortals. We know the darkness of our own hearts and how far short we fall from God’s glory. This is the mighty and majestic King of kings! This is the holy and righteous Lord God! He is coming soon? Gulp.

If those are our thoughts when we think of Jesus’ promise, we won’t want to entertain them in our minds too often or for too much time.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

But that’s not how Jesus wants us to hear his promise! It’s not the way John heard those words of promise. He responded by saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (v. 20).

How? It wasn’t that John was any less aware of Jesus’ holiness and his own sinfulness. But he heard these words as a beautiful promise from his loving and gracious Savior. Jesus would have us hear them that way too.

The One who promises to return is the One who came once as a tiny infant to be our brother in the flesh. He is the One who took our place under the burden of God’s holy law to complete it fully on our behalf. He took all human sin and sinfulness on himself and suffered its curse, once for all. He has assured us in his Word and comforts us in Holy Communion with the promise that all is forgiven and completely forgotten in God’s eyes. His coming for his loved ones means only deliverance from this world of sadness and death.

So, when we hear him say he’s coming for us, we have every reason to feel hope, excitement, anticipation, and relief. In faith we can join our hearts with John and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” And we trust that soon really is soon in his time.

And as we patiently wait, we hold to his words of promise.


Reflect on Revelation chapters 21 and 22

  1. Read 2 Peter chapter 3. What insight do you gain into Jesus’ promise that he is coming soon?
  2. What does the return of Jesus mean for you? Why can you always say, “Amen. Come. Lord Jesus”?

Contributing editor Timothy Westendorf is pastor at Abiding Word, Highlands Ranch, Colorado. 


This is the final article in a 12-part series on the book of Revelation. Find the article and answers online after Nov. 5.


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Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide, who was supposedly a believer?

What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide, who was supposedly a believer?

James F. Pope

Your question addresses a very tragic situation. It is one that teaches us to be careful in our judgments and to exhibit loving concern for others.

Suicide in perspective

There was a time when Christians concluded that all those who took their lives were eternally lost because they had lost all hope, including faith in God’s care. With that thinking, there was simply an assumption that suicide automatically meant that the person died in unbelief and the soul went to hell.

More recently, there has been an increase in understanding the intricate makeup of human beings. As a result, people have recognized that some Christians might have taken their lives without losing their faith. A person who professed Christ as Savior might have committed suicide because of psychological or other mental health issues. Another person might have committed suicide as the result of a rash act or in a moment of weakness, while still possessing Christian faith. Taking one’s life is a sinful act, but there could be explanations for that action that do not presuppose the absence of faith.

Indeed, God alone knows what is in a person’s heart at death. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). You and I need to remember that we cannot look into the heart of anyone who has died, let alone someone who has committed suicide. The Bible teaches that Christian faith saves and unbelief condemns (Mark 16:16). The Bible instructs that it is vitally important to have Christian faith in the heart when life on earth comes to an end (Revelation 2:10). We leave the judgment of hearts to God (Hebrews 9:27).

Comfort in grief

So, does this mean that Christians cannot pass along any comfort from God’s Word to those impacted by suicide? Not at all. Consider the Bible’s message: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4). Christians have been comforted to comfort others.

We do want to offer genuine comfort and not false comfort. Because we are not aware of God’s judgment, there may be instances when we need to scale back the comfort associated with the deceased’s eternal welfare. Still, we can offer comfort to family and friends.

To the survivors of a loved one who has died in any way, we can give comfort from God’s Word. We can assure them that, in spite of troubling and confusing circumstances in their lives, God remains their refuge and strength (Psalm 46). We can comfort them with the reminder of God’s promise that he will never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). We can point them to God’s pledge that he will provide strength for daily living (Isaiah 41:10).

The news of another person’s death—no matter how it took place—is a clarion call for Christian vigilance. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). That verse answers the call.


Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.


James Pope also answers questions online at wels.net/questions. Submit your questions there or to fic@wels.net.


 

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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Grieving in hope

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Joel C. Seifert

Are we forgetting how to grieve? Maybe you’ve seen some subtle signs. Check your friends’ social media accounts, and it seems like no one is touched by sorrow. More and more, instead of gathering to grieve at funerals, we meet for “celebrations of life.”

Those things aren’t wrong in and of themselves—it’s good to share joys and celebrate the lives of those we love. But grief has an important role in our lives of faith too.

Grief reminds us that death isn’t normal

Christians in Thessalonica were hurting. They knew that Jesus would return to take them home, but while they waited for that day, some of their believing loved ones died. They worried that perhaps these believers who died before Jesus’ return would miss out on eternal life. They thought they might not see them again.

It’s what Paul doesn’t tell them that’s so striking. He doesn’t tell them, “Don’t be sad!” Grief is a fitting reaction to suffering and death. The Bible tells us of believing men and women who mourned and wept when their loved ones left this life.

That’s because true grief is an act of faith. It’s a recognition that death isn’t normal and that God didn’t design this world so that children should bury their parents or more heartbreaking yet, that parents should bury their children. In Eden, marriage didn’t include, “ ’Til death do us part.” Suffering and death were brought into this world through sin. When Christians grieve loss, it isn’t a weakness in their faith; it’s a faithful recognition that suffering and death are unnatural tragedies.

But the gospel gives an answer to our grief. The Thessalonians didn’t fully understand the answer yet, so Paul told them. Jesus’ victory over sin and death means the day is coming when he will take all believers—living and dead—home to be with him and each other in heaven.

In grief, we share the encouragement of the gospel

That doesn’t mean we no longer grieve. It means we grieve in hope. We grieve feeling the pain of someone missing from our lives but looking forward to the day we’ll see him or her again in heaven.

That godly grief is a rich blessing! It doesn’t just point us back to Jesus; it points us to each other too. Read Paul’s answer to those grieving Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and you’ll notice one word that’s repeated more than any other: we. We grieve. We believe in Jesus. We may live here without our loved ones for a while, but we will be caught up together in the air with Jesus one day. And we will be with the Lord forever. God wants us to share our grief and our hope with each other.

In November, many of our churches celebrate Saints Triumphant Sunday. On that Sunday we can remember loved ones who’ve died in faith. Yes, celebrate their lives! Grieve their absence, but look forward to the day your grief dissolves in the alleluias of heaven.

And as Christmas draws near, you’ll still feel some grief. Don’t hide it; don’t grieve alone. You need not be ashamed of your sadness. Share your pain and hurt with a fellow believer so they can bear it with you, grieve with you, and comfort you as you look forward to heaven.


Contributing editor Joel Seifert is pastor at Beautiful Savior, Marietta, Georgia.


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert 
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Walk by the Spirit: Part 7

Christians have dual citizenship. We are children of God and part of his kingdom, yet we still call this world home.

John A. Braun

We got off the plane and headed to the baggage carousel to pick up our luggage. The sun was shining through the windows after the long transatlantic flight, and we were ready to travel. But we were not free to travel yet. Our passports had to be checked before we could enter the country. The process is familiar to anyone who has traveled across an international border.

As I stood in line waiting to be admitted to another country, I remembered Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). He explained, “Flesh gives birth to flesh.” My parents gave me flesh and blood. Flesh gives birth to flesh. I couldn’t change my birth. I didn’t do anything to gain citizenship in the United States. I didn’t pass a test. I didn’t pick my parents, my ethnic origin, my language, or the culture or history that surrounded me. I had a passport, I thought, as I stood in line and waited.

I thought a little more about what Jesus told Nicodemus. I am a born a human. That’s a good thing, I am happy to be alive and enjoy life, but there’s a downside as well. Just because I was born doesn’t mean I can enter the kingdom of God. None of us can. On our own we’d stand in line outside the kingdom of God forever. God requires more than one birth certificate. Born again, Jesus said. There’s a checkpoint we must pass before we can enter into the kingdom of God.

Why? Birth here only allows us life and breath. The downside means that human birth pits every human against God. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” He also described us as “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Something must change. Jesus says it clearly. We must be “born of water and the Spirit”

By the gospel in Word and sacrament, we are forgiven and changed. God makes us his children and citizens of his kingdom. I didn’t do anything for that status any more than I did for my natural birth. Born again, baptized, and now a citizen of God’s kingdom, I have a second passport. This one is emblazoned with the cross of Christ and “kingdom of God” stamped on its cover. Jesus has secured our status as his children. Paul wrote about that too: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ” (Galatians 3:26,27).

More than a change in status

Jesus was crucified once and for all. When the Holy Spirit brought us to faith, we were changed. All that kept us out of the kingdom was nailed to the cross. We are children of God and citizens of God’s kingdom because Christ’s blood cleanses us of all sins and gives us eternal life.

We become drop-jawed sinners, awed by God’s love in rescuing us from our addiction to the sins of the flesh and the death that comes because of them. We hold the passport to his kingdom now and to the one to come. But it’s not just a status change. It’s the privilege of turning away from the passions and desires that come from our natural birth. We are no longer trapped by them or slaves to them. Within those who are citizens of God’s kingdom lives a desire to please the One who has rescued them and destined them for eternal life.

Like others before us, we leave sin behind and move forward to eternity with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—the fruits of the Spirit—showing the change in our lives. Now we live as foreigners, aliens, and exiles in the world in which we were born (1 Peter 2:11). We know we don’t belong here, so we turn away from sinful desires and act as citizens of heaven. Sins forgiven, we will walk through the gate clothed in the righteousness of our Savior.

Changed but still not perfect

That’s not a new thought to anyone who is a Christian, but here too there is a problem. If we use the analogy of the passports, we have two passports as long as we live here in this world. One of them belongs to the sinful world and the other to the kingdom of God. As long as we live here, we have a dual citizenship. We see and understand both. We know that the passport to the sinful world leads away from life and eventually will be stamped by Satan. He will greet those he welcomes to hell with a satisfied grin. We also know that the passport to the kingdom of God entitles us to forgiveness and life. Jesus will welcome us with open arms into his heavenly and eternal mansions.

While we are here, we have not surrendered the passport of the flesh. When we look back on the acts if the flesh, we discover a longing desire to return to their attractions. We are not alone in that pull backward. Lot’s wife had it, and so did the apostle Paul. He wrote, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). Like Paul, we sometimes stuff the passport of the kingdom of God out of sight and show our passport of the flesh instead.

You may have hidden your kingdom passport, but by God’s grace you can pull it out again and return to being a child of God. It’s called repentance, and it happens in all our lives. The longing to return to the pleasure of sin is in constant conflict with the desire to live in gratitude for all Jesus has given us.

The apostle says it so clearly in Galatians 5:24,25. We belong to Christ. By faith we are connected to him who was crucified for all our sinful passions and desires. That happened once just outside of Jerusalem, and it was for all people. All those sins were buried with him. Our record is wiped clean. We are heaven bound, but we are not there yet. In this life, conflict remains because of our dual citizenship.

That’s why Paul and the entire Bible continue to encourage us to avoid sin and live as children of God. “Let us keep in step with the Spirit,” Paul urges. The temptations along the way beckon us, so we need the reminders to stay on course. We dare not surrender our kingdom passport and be denied at the gate.

 


John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


This is the concluding article in a series on acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. 


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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Confessions of faith: Kalbach

A man shares how Jesus changed his life forever.

Steven H. Prahl

I first met Dave and Connie Kalbach when they walked in the doors for our Christmas Eve service. I introduced myself and welcomed them. Dave replied, “I don’t really go to church; I’m just here with them,” as he pointed to his family.

That’s how my relationship with Dave and Connie started. I didn’t know what to expect, but Jesus knew that this was part of a life-changing experience for them.

Christian influences

Dave would tell you that he always had a sense of a “higher power.” That really started when his father took his own life when Dave was 14 years old. Dave had gone out to find out why his dad wasn’t coming in from the car. Because the car doors were locked, Dave went back into the house, grabbed a flashlight, confirmed it worked, and went back into the night. But when he got to the car, the flashlight didn’t work. Today, Dave is convinced that God was looking out for him, protecting him from seeing his father’s body.

In 1991, Dave and Connie’s youngest son, Sean, met a family at the campground where he worked. This Lutheran pastor and his wife had five daughters, including Tanya, who two years later would become Sean’s wife. While dating Tanya, Sean attended a Bible information class at the church and became a member. As the years went by, Dave and Connie would visit their kids and grandkids every few months. On most of those visits, they would go to church with them, although Dave could not understand why they drove past other churches to go to the WELS church.

Tanya had a big impact on her in-laws. She and Connie began reading through the Bible together, discussing what they had read on the phone. Dave, though, wasn’t very interested, even admitting that he would hold those Bible studies against Connie when they would argue. But through the years, Dave said he and Tanya “would have conversations about the Bible, church, God, and heaven.” He continues, “During one of these conversations I told Tanya that one of us was in for a big surprise since I felt that the fact that I led an honorable life meant that I would go to heaven. Tanya stood by her conviction that I could not get to heaven like that.”

Dave was right that one of them was in for a big surprise—and by God’s grace it was before Dave stood before God.

An aha moment

As Dave tells it: “In 2017, Sean, Tanya, and their entire family decided to visit Colorado for Christmas. This would be the first time in many years we all would be together for Christmas. Tanya told us she wanted to go to Christmas Eve services. Sean and Tanya had been married at a WELS church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and it was the only WELS church I knew of, but it was on the other side of town from us. I thought, Just what I want to do on Christmas Eve—drive across town for church. This is where it gets interesting. A week or so before Christmas, a card for a Lutheran church arrived in our mailbox. The church was named Foundation, and it met in the elementary school three miles from our home. Christmas Eve came, and we all attended church [at Foundation]. Connie and I enjoyed the service and were made to feel welcome by the congregation.”

Two weeks after that December 24 introduction, Dave and Connie came walking through the church’s doors on Sunday. Dave informed me, “In 51 years of marriage, we have never gone to church just the two of us, without our kids.” Dave knew that Connie was interested in going to church, but he had never seen a reason to attend. He thought he was just fine with God on his own. But because of something he heard on Christmas Eve and because he loved his wife, he asked her to go to church with him. Dave says, “You could have knocked Connie over with a feather.”

Dave and Connie started attending worship regularly and decided to go through our FaithBuilders classes. “It was during the section on works that I had an ‘aha!’ moment,” says Dave. “It became clear to me that I could not get to heaven by works. Tanya had been right all along. On that day I realized that the only way to heaven was through Jesus Christ.” Dave admits that this was eye-opening. It was both comforting and scary at the same time—comforting because Jesus had done it all for him and scary because what he had relied on and thought he knew didn’t matter for his salvation.

On May 6, 2018, Dave and Connie were baptized into the Christian faith and became members of Foundation. It was a special day for everyone there as we saw Dave and Connie’s joy as they were washed in the water of Baptism. It was especially exciting for Sean and Tanya, who flew to Colorado for the long-awaited occasion.

As Dave says, “A random postcard; Tanya, a true Christian who never gave up; an ‘aha!’ moment; and Jesus Christ changed my life forever. I have lots to learn, but I am ready for the trip.”

Infectious witness

Since becoming members of Foundation, Dave and Connie regularly help set up chairs and equipment before worship at the school we rent. They hosted one of our Bible study groups this summer. They drop off guest bags to people who have visited our church, because they know what it is like to be on the other side of that door. They aren’t shy about sharing that they are new to the church and they are excited to be here!

Their joy of knowing their Savior is infectious. This summer, they helped with our soccer Bible camp; Dave even did all the drills with the little kids. On the last day of camp, Dave was talking with one of the moms and invited her to church. He told her that he had always thought that he was fine with God and didn’t really need to go to church but now he learned what God had done for him. Her response: “I didn’t know other people felt like that too.” So, Dave invited her to meet “the friendliest group of people” and learn about what Jesus has done for her too.

It hasn’t all been easy. Dave had a health scare, and some of their family has pushed them away because they are now Christians. But Dave and Connie continue to cling to the peace that Jesus gives and hold on to the hope that if it wasn’t too late for them to come to faith in Jesus it isn’t too late for their family members either.

And it’s all because of “a random postcard; Tanya, a true Christian who never gave up; an “aha!” moment, and Jesus Christ.”

Two lives changed, and two souls saved forever.


Steven Prahl is pastor at Foundation, Peyton, Colorado.


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Author: Steven H. Prahl
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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God’s gifts, our giving: Part 3

Is my giving any of Jesus’ business?

Aaron L. Christie

When my great-aunt passed away several years ago, the family was surprised by the presence of a 70-year-old man at the funeral—a man that none of us knew existed. My aunt, who suffered from paralysis since age 4 from polio, had a child out of wedlock when she was 16. The baby boy was quickly, quietly, put up for adoption. Over the next 70 years, the older generation took this secret to their graves. The family simply didn’t talk about such things. . . .

I remember my dear grandma gently scolding me as a boy when I asked her how much money she made as a clerk in the local Kresge’s store. She told me that it wasn’t polite to ask questions about people’s money. “That is their business.”

Whether it was the family secret from the 1930s or the bottom line on Grandma’s paycheck in the 1970s, I was taught to mind my own business. Many people would like to apply my grandmother’s counsel to their pastors in the pulpit: my money—my business.

“My money is my business,” except that it isn’t. It’s God’s business. And we forget that significant fact far too often.

Do we trust God?

In Mark 12:41-44, we see Jesus do something that we would consider socially unacceptable in our day. He is not minding his own business. With the clock of Holy Week ticking, Jesus carved out precious time to take a seat in the temple courts. He picked a spot that gave him a line of sight so that he could watch the people as they gave their gifts! His eyes scanned the rich as they gave their significant sums. His attention shifted and then centered on a poor widow as she dropped in her two tiny coins, the sum total of all she had to live on. Jesus made money and giving his business.

If we were there, sitting in Jesus’ seat watching the widow give her offering, what would we have told her? “No, dearie! God’s knows your heart. He knows you don’t have two dimes to rub together. He knows you’ll give it someday—if you’ve got it.” In all likelihood, we would have done our best to talk her out of giving her offering. Could it be that we’ve become far too eager at making pious-sounding excuses NOT to give rather than encouraging each other in acts of joyful generosity?

Now go stand next to the widow as she makes her gift. What example does she give to you? When is the last time that we gave sacrificially, I mean, gave as if we really trusted in God and staked our future on his promises?

Why is it so easy to send thousands of dollars to Fidelity, Vanguard, or Charles Schwab every year? Because we trust that these companies will make our money grow. But have you noticed that they make no promises to us? The prospectus reads, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” God, on the other hand, is eager to make a promise: “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). Why then are we so tempted to trust Fidelity more than our heavenly Father, to take comfort in our investments but to fear giving as a net loss? Simply put: Do we trust God or don’t we?

God gave his all

So how do you think the widow’s story ends? St. Mark doesn’t tell us. But knowing what you know about the faithfulness of the Father and the sacrifice of the Son, do you think that Jesus commended the widow for her gift and then let her go home and starve to death? Do you get the impression that after taking the time to watch her giving, that Jesus then chose to remain blissfully ignorant of what she needed? The widow gave her all, trusting in the God who gave his all, his everything, his Son for her.

And God gave his all, his everything, his Son for us. He didn’t offer two coins for our salvation. He offered the double treasure of Jesus’ perfect life lived for us and his innocent death suffered for us!

Jesus knows all about coins! When Satan tempted him with the wealth of the world, he told Satan to go and pound sand. Jesus never once thought a greedy thought, but human greed for 30 silver coins led directly to his crucifixion. And on that cross, Jesus bled and died to forgive the very hearts that cherished copper more than Christ, silver more than the Savior, gold more than God. And to this day, he opens his crucified hands and fills our desires with good things.

In Christ, we have the forgiveness we crave and the motivation we need to open our hands and give in a way that glorifies God and cares for our neighbor as we rest our confidence, and even our futures, in the promises of our giving God!

Jesus is still watching his people’s wealth. What will he see? Take these truths to your heart’s bank. Be amazed as you watch the gift of giving grow!


Aaron Christie is pastor at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin. 


This is the final article in a three-part series on giving. This series follows the outline of the congregational stewardship program, 10 for 10. 


A sacrifice of thanksgiving

Her name was Lucille, and she was easily the most sacrificially giving saint I have personally met in my 27 years of ministry.

Lucille was 60 years old with advanced stages of rheumatoid arthritis when I was assigned as her pastor in Austin, Texas. She served as the church and school secretary for free. Her disability payments covered her expenses, so she donated her time to the church to advance the gospel and make it more affordable to do ministry. She worked with a pencil clutched tightly in a gnarled hand. Day after day, week after week, she served through pain and discomfort as she created all the worship folders for Sunday and special services, kept school records, wrote correspondence, answered the phone, and made calls to volunteers. It took her two hours every morning to get ready and drive herself to church.

Once when the congregation included her in the Christmas gifts, I was selected to beg her to take it. There I stood with her $250 check, asking her to accept it with grace. With tears welling up in her eyes, she said, “No, you will only rob me of the joy of serving if you make me take that!” I backed down and gave it back to the leaders just as she demanded.

Lucille served like this for over 25 years. We tallied up what we think we saved the church in wages and benefits. It came to over $500,000. What a sacrifice!

Well, actually, it was a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Some people think that sacrificial giving is giving until it hurts. Sacrificial giving is giving because Christ hurt for us. It’s what Paul talked about in Romans 12:1“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Thanks to Lucille, I have a vivid image of what that looks like in my world. Will you be the vivid image for your brothers and sisters in Christ?


Don Patterson, president of the South Central District, is pastor at Holy Word, Austin, Texas.


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Author: Aaron L. Christie 
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Gospel outreach opportunities in Africa

Opportunities for gospel connections are flourishing across Africa. Christian groups in Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique, and more are learning about WELS and Lutheran doctrine and reaching out for fellowship. One of these church bodies, Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for Christ in Kenya, reached out to WELS and was officially welcomed into fellowship at this summer’s synod convention. More small and scattered church bodies that hold true to confessional Lutheran doctrine are working toward that same possibility.  

The One Africa Team, working under WELS World Missions, assesses the teachings and validity of these groups and how WELS may help. They work closely with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) in Zambia and Malawi, which started as WELS world missions decades ago and are now independent church bodieson this process. 

“The One Africa Team appreciates the cultural insights that our brothers in the LCCA have,” says Missionary John Hartmann, member of the One Africa TeamComing from the United States, we may not so easily pick up on some nuance, or understanding, or misunderstanding, which comes naturally to them. When we are visiting new places and new groups of people, we appreciate taking a pastor from one of our established church bodies in Africa along so that we can more adequately assess the situation. To be honest, not all groups come because they want Gods Wordsome are only interested in social programs and money. African Christians help see through what is being said to help assess true motives. And in teaching, they might be able to share an African story that helps illustrate a point. 

Representatives from the One Africa Team and the Pastoral Studies Institute met with leaders from the two church bodies in Liberia earlier this year to offer training and to discuss how to combine the two church bodies into one group for training in the future.

The genesis of theschurch bodies and their initial contact with WELS differsbut mostly they are seeking a larger organization with which to partner to share in the truth of God’s Word and to gain insight beyond the training they have access to locally. 

I am sure there are a combination of factors that God is using to build his church,” says HartmannOne thing is the Internet, which makes communication so much easier than ever before. More interested people know about WELS and its insistence on holding onto the Bible as Gods Word as the basis for our faith and lives. There are so many Christian churches out there that do not offer the comfort and certainty of God’s love and forgiveness as we have in the Lutheran churchThese groups [that are contacting WELS] are looking for the truth and appreciate finding and fellowshipping with a like-minded church body that holds onto something sure and stable.” 

He continues, Along with that, many of these groups are new to good biblical teaching and want training for their pastors in the firm Bible foundation that we have and have had for so many years. 

From Uganda, Pastor Makisimu Musa of the Obadiah Lutheran Church first contacted WELS via the Internet in December 2017. WELS and LCCA representatives have visited twice, following e-mail and phone correspondence. They are planning a third visit this year. Obadiah Lutheran Church comprises more than 700 baptized members, 7 pastors, and 11 churches.  

Mozambique has an entirely different story. Over the years, pastors of the LCCAMalawi and LCCAZambia started mission churches across the border into Mozambique. However, since the start of these missions, the Mozambique government has demanded official registration for churches, and the mission work has been suspended until registration is completed. The One Africa Team is working with the LCCAMalawi to register as a church body in Mozambique so work can continue. 

Liberia also has its own unique beginning. Two men from Liberia immigrated to the United States almost 15 years ago. Over the years they joined WELS churches and then studied under the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI), a program of the Wisconsin Lutheran SeminaryMequon, Wis., to become pastors serving fellow immigrants in their local areas. In time, they were summoned by their own people in Liberia to bring God’s message back home. Since then, two Lutheran church bodies have been registered in Liberia, and numerous trips have been made in the past few years for trainingAbout 5,000 Liberian Lutherans worship in these two church bodies. 

Hartmann says that the One Africa Team and LCCA leaders hope to have three face-to-face visits a year with these emerging Lutheran groups if funding is available for travel. During these visits, they present the basic teachings of the Bible found in Luthers Catechism, which serves as the basis for fellowship discussions. 


Learn more about outreach work in Africa in this month’s edition of WELS Connection and at wels.net/africa. 


Working with refugees 

WELS has declared fellowship with two new African church bodies in the last two years: the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia in 2017 and the Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for ChristKenya in 2019.  

Left to right: Grace and Mark Onunda and Martha and Peter Bur

These connections are offering new opportunities to work with members of the Nuer tribe from South Sudan who live in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Five Nuer men from Gambella, Ethiopia, are studying with Dr. Kebede at Maor Theological Seminary in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, and Pastor Mark Onunda from LCMC–Kenya is assisting with visiting and training refugees living in Kakuma, KenyaThis ministry is being coordinated with the work being done by Pastor Peter Bur, a Pastoral Studies Institute graduate who serves as the South Sudanese ministry coordinator for the Joint Mission Council. 

Onunda and Bur were able to meet to talk about ministry plans at the 2019 synod convention in New Ulm this summer. 

Learn more about Sudanese ministry in North America and around the world at wels.net/sudanese.


Central Africa Medical Mission update 

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been operating a clinic in Mwembezhi, Zambia, for almost 60 years. Part of its mission is to turn much of the operations over to Zambians. CAMM recently hired Alisad Banda as clinic administrator, an important step in nationalizing the clinic.  

The Banda family

Banda first came to the clinic in 2005 in conjunction with work he did in health & development. He was impressed how the clinic worked so closely with the Lutheran church and enjoys knowing that Christians are showing compassion, care, charity, and integrity in a hospital and clinic setting. Both his mom and dad were Lutherans and instructed Alisad and his siblings in the teachings of the Lutheran church. Alisad lives in Lusaka with his wife, Cecilla, and their two children.  

Besides the clinic in Zambia, CAMM operates a mobile clinic in Malawi. Medical services include preventive health care for children and expectant women, as well as treatment of patients with illnesses such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis. The clinics in Zambia and Malawi serve over 80,000 patients a year.


Learn more about CAMM at wels.net/camm.


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Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Looking forward

The Scripture readings for the last Sundays of our church year help us look to the end of time.

Eric D. Schroeder

It’s the one appointment we all share—same place, same time—but it isn’t on any of our calendars. None of us are exempt, and no commitment or excuse will allow a single one of us to be anywhere else. We will all be present and accounted for, along with everyone we have ever met as well as all those we haven’t. We will all be there on the Last Day, when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, just as we confess in our creeds so many times. When is it? None of us knows.

At the same time, Last Judgment is on my calendar. Your congregation also may have a thematic worship plan on Sunday, Nov. 10, that will focus on the Last Judgment. It’s part of the season of End Times. The readings of the lectionary at the end of the church year remind us of the promises God has made for all of us. Beginning with Reformation, the season ends with the reminders of Christ’s rule of his church as King of all and includes one Sunday set aside as Last Judgment Sunday.

The wisdom of the church year

Our New Testament worship schedule isn’t nearly so clearly defined as the one God gave his Old Testament people, a calendar they were to keep from the time of Moses until the coming of the Savior. Back then God gave his people the days, times, and rituals they were to observe—not as a way of gaining favor with him, but as a powerful annual reminder of his plans for his people. Their church calendar told the same story every year—a story of sin and grace, of forgiveness through substitutionary sacrifice. It gave God’s people a reason to rejoice in victory now and forever as those who were graciously chosen and eternally saved through faith in the promised Messiah.

Now that Jesus has come as the fulfillment of every prophecy and has made the sin-cleansing sacrifice as the Lamb of God, many of our reminders throughout the church year look back on what our Savior has done for us. We find our Sabbath rest in the accomplished work of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and hell. We are no longer bound to the same festivals and rites of those who waited for Immanuel. Instead we rejoice to see God’s plan more fully than Abraham, Moses, David, or Isaiah ever did.

Even in our Christian freedom, many churches choose to retain the structure of a church year. Just like God’s Old Testament people had their harvest festivals that overflowed with the symbolism of salvation, we too find value in repeating the salvation story. Just as God’s watchful people celebrated a Festival of Trumpets, a great Day of Atonement, and a Festival of Tabernacles, so we still center our worship around harvest time on what is yet to come.

The Sundays of End Times

For us, the operative word is freedom. End Times is not a mandatory observance. Still, it is good for us to consider intently the plans that God has yet to fulfill but are no less certain than the promises he already kept. Here’s how Christian Worship lays out the Sundays of End Times.

The first Sunday is to celebrate the Reformation. It might seem odd that before we look ahead, we look back five hundred years. On the other hand, what better way to prepare for the end than to find peace in knowing that God has been working throughout history to see that the gospel message will not be silenced? How are we ready to stand before God? Only by grace alone, through faith alone—truths based on Scripture alone, which points us to Christ alone.

The second Sunday concentrates on the Last Judgment, that appointment we all share. My sinful nature still gets awfully nervous at the thought of being judged finally and eternally. Yet the One who will decide our fates has already determined them. Through his shed blood and his empty grave, the Good Shepherd will proclaim before the nations that we are his beloved sheep. Not a single one of us will be lost. We will not hesitate to bow on our knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Saints Triumphant, the next Sunday, points us to believers in heaven. If you are like me, the older we get, the more we look forward to living in glory. We peek into heaven through God’s Word and see Christian loved ones who have already been transferred from the church militant to the church triumphant. As much as we might miss them now, our hearts leap at the reminder that one day we will join them, because their Savior is our Savior too.

Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year, ends the church year on a high note, as we delight in the reminder that our Lord and King, the Alpha and the Omega, reigns now and forever. In our world, it’s easy to be distracted from the truths that all things are under his control, his plans for us are eternally wise, and he is ruling all things for the good of his church.

From looking ahead to looking around

To be sure, the lectionary readings throughout End Times urge us to look up longingly as we await our Savior’s return. Then he will bring about the new heaven and the new earth. Still, we ought to take away a practical encouragement to use the time that we have left. As we look at every list of signs of the end times that Jesus gave his disciples, we can’t help but realize that we are indeed living in the last times. I believe that one of the main reasons Jesus gave those signs was so that we would see them and get to work.

We don’t know how much time we have. As long as we remain in the faith that his Spirit has worked in us, our eternity is secure. But now look around. We all have people in our lives who do not have the same confidence. Some of them were raised in the church but have since wandered. Others feel like the here and now is enough. Still others never had a friend or family member who cared enough to share the hope that is ours.

That’s where we come in. When is the last time you had a real conversation with an unbeliever? When is the last time you invited an acquaintance or coworker to join you in church? When is the last time you reached out with a gentle nudge of biblical encouragement to a family member whose worship life has become lax or inconsistent?

The season of End Times, as much as any other, reminds us to use each day to pray for mission work and participate in it! God gathers his saints through the work of the church. That’s us! The end is near. We need to get busy.


Eric Schroeder is pastor at St. John’s, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.


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Author: Eric D. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Destinies

Our lives are in the hands of our God, who will cause everything to work out for our good.

Bill J. Tackmier

1945 was a pivotal year for our country and for my family.

My family’s history

That was the year my dad, Vernon Tackmier, was drafted into the US Army. Dad was 21 years old at the time. He was the typical Depression-era kid. When he graduated from grade school at the age of 12, he had to stay home and help on his parents’ farm instead of going to high school. When the attack on Pearl Harbor happened in 1941, he worked on many of his neighbors’ farms to help produce food for the war effort. But in 1945 his turn came to help overseas.

Earlier in that pivotal year, his grandfather had died. His grandpa, August Polzin, had come to America from Germany in 1881 at the age of 20. I don’t know what prompted him to come, but many young German men of his generation came to America to avoid service in the German army. He had grown up in the far eastern part of the German Empire in Pomerania. He came to America as an apprenticed shoemaker with his brother Franz. Franz died on Christmas Eve their first year in America. When August  arrived in the “land of opportunity,” he bought a farm in northern Wisconsin, got married, and raised a large family. After becoming a citizen in 1906, he watched the news with horror as World War I broke out and turned into a deadly stalemate. Trench warfare devastated the armies of both sides. New weapons of war destroyed his homeland and large sections of Europe. At the end of the war the dead numbered nearly 20 million people.

The 1930s Depression and a humiliating treaty for Germany after World War I contributed to events that turned into an even more desperate world conflict—World War II. My great-grandpa August must have had many moments when he thanked God for leading him to a place where his family had been able to plow, harvest, and grow in peace. But at the end of his life, he probably was not aware of what was happening in his homeland and the mounting death toll of American soldiers or even the signs of a coming victory in Europe and the Pacific.

My family’s destiny

He died at the advanced age of 84 in May of 1945, less than a month after Hitler committed suicide and a matter of days after the Germans surrendered to the Allies. In the winter and spring of 1945, the Russian army had swept through his home state of Pomerania on their way to capturing Berlin. Millions of Germans fled in front of the advancing Soviet army. Contemporary accounts describe how the country roads of Pomerania and Mecklenburg were jammed all day everyday with traffic the likes of which today’s big cities experience at rush hour—cars, trucks, and mostly horse-drawn wagons filled with families and possessions. The people were fleeing to the east in front of the advancing Soviet army, which was rumored to steal anything that was of value, to rape any women who were left behind, and to murder indiscriminately.

Little did my father and his family suspect the fate they would have experienced if his grandfather had not immigrated to America in 1881. If Dad’s Grandpa August and his other grandparents and great-grandparents had not immigrated to America, my father would no doubt have grown up under Nazism. He likely would have been drafted into the German army and become a casualty of Hitler’s desire for a Third German Reich. His family would have been displaced at the end of World War II. And I—if I had even been born—would most likely have grown up under communism in post-war East Germany.

But God did not only spare us this.

In October 1945, Dad was drafted into the Army and stationed on the island of Okinawa in the Pacific. The island, just south of Japan, had been secured by the US armed forces that summer at the cost of 12,500 American lives. Plans for the invasion of Japan estimated tragic death tolls for Americans. In August of 1945 President Truman decided to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. At the time, it was felt that it was the only way to keep the Japanese from continuing the war in the Pacific. Estimates for an amphibious assault and invasion of Japan would have cost the lives of one million American soldiers—in addition to an untold number of Japanese lives—if the atomic bombs had not been implemented. My father’s life would probably have been one of those casualties of war.

1945 was a pivotal year.

God’s hand in our lives

When we look back on history, it often takes our breath away. We see in hindsight how things could have turned out. It raises questions in our minds: Why are we the ones who are left alive after all the violence that sinful men have brought upon our world? Highly developed nations like Germany, Japan, and America with all their education, technology, and industrialization could not prevent getting into world conflicts that brought death to millions of their citizens.

The economic, educational, and social advances of modern nations have often complicated life for children of God. So often these advances inflicted more harm than the good they’ve promised. But amidst it all, God makes these developments work out for good—to accomplish his purposes.

It’s humbling to think that an all-knowing God has guided the destinies of individual people and families to survive the atrocities that were perpetrated in the 20th century. It’s disturbing to consider how human greed for power produced leaders who were so blind to the well-being of their own people that they were willing to sacrifice their young, promising next generation. As we look back, the most amazing thing of all is how God guides and directs the paths of individuals to maneuver through such dangerous historical events. While we mourn the dead, we know they too fit into God’s plans to change the world.

How comforting to know that we have a personal God who knows each of us by name, a God who has promised to work all things out for good to those who love him. This God speaks to us through his Word and says to us so intimately, “I know the plans that I have for you, . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). The God who guided his Son through the plotting of sinful human beings and their most evil purposes guided events so that all worked out for our eternal good.

With that in mind, we trust he will continue to guide us through the tortuous twists and turns of this life and bring us to the home of the Son he loves.


Bill Tackmier, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Thiensville, Wisconsin.


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Author: Bill J. Tackmier
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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A gospel-filled life: Part 9

Putting it all together

Jeffrey D. Enderle

Getting there. That’s the tricky part. Sitting in your aunt’s cozy home with delicious smells wafting past the expanded table, that’s the good part. Carving up turkey and dishing up stuffing, that’s the payoff. Sinking deeper into couch cushions after eating one too many slices of pie while football blares in the background and nieces giggle in the next room, that’s the sweet spot. All the effort just to get to that moment and be in that Thanksgiving environment, that’s the hard part.

Using God’s Word and prayer along the way

Christians live in this constant tension between where we are and where we want to go. There is tremendous terrain over which we travel in this Christian life. When life feels like we are cruising along at 70 miles per hour without obstacles, we don’t want to leave God’s Word behind. When the bumpy turbulence of life’s trials sends us into the ditch, we want to turn to God in prayer as our immediate response instead of our last resort. Getting there can be a challenge.

For Martin Luther, time in God’s Word and time spent in prayer were responses to the struggles he faced. Those perpetual and persistent attacks caused inner turmoil. The devil’s ploys drove him to deploy the weapons that God provides to his people.

Luther’s experience shows us how to respond wisely to our own personal struggles. Dive into Scripture. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Concentrate on the Bible as God’s living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12). Apply God’s Word in light of the trials and temptations we face. Pray in response to Scripture to bring that truth before God’s throne (Hebrews 10:19-23) and into our hearts.

At the conclusion of catechism instruction, I ask middle schoolers to come up with a spiritual growth plan. Often their plans involve reading through the entire Bible in the year after they are confirmed. Ambitious plans. As brash as a couch potato planning to run a marathon after buying a new pair of shoes.

God’s people can formulate bold plans for spiritual growth. But we are wise to be realistic. Start small. Consider your starting place. Determine the first steps to get you going in the right direction. Stretch out for a few minutes on a few verses from the Bible. Factor in other helpful habits. Schedule a time and pick a place. Mornings with a cup of coffee? Mid-day at the lunch break? Maybe at the end of a long day in a comfortable chair? Pray. Study. Meditate. Pray again.

Seeing God’s presence on our journey

For Christians, we don’t have to wonder about who we are. Through Christ we are holy in the sight of our God. We don’t have to struggle to become something we aren’t. The sacrifice of Jesus tells us everything is completed for our salvation. Our entire lives take place in the assurance of our righteous status because of Jesus. And still God’s people recognize we haven’t yet arrived at our ultimate destination.

You can’t control the events in the world any more than you can command the weather. But God’s people recognize the means of grace at our disposal. God has given us the gift of prayer and Bible study. God invites us to come to him in his Word. He promises his Spirit will work powerfully through his Word. We have God’s promise to deliver us from our struggles (Romans 8:32) in his way. God guarantees getting us to the destination and going along on the journey.


Contributing editor Jeffrey Enderle is pastor at Christ the Rock, Farmington, New Mexico.


This is the final article in a ten-part series on ways to enrich your personal devotional life.


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Author: Jeffrey D. Enderle
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Teen Talk: Jesus is our home

No matter how we feel about our home on this earth, we have an eternal home in heaven waiting for us.  

Lydia Buxa 

When I was younger, my dad was in the Coast Guard, so we moved around a lot. Every three years, he would be re-stationed to a different state, usually across the country. I lived in four different states and moved three times before fifth grade.  

One summer, my dad retired and, wanting to be closer to family, we moved from California to Wisconsin. It was our final cross-country move. But I found myself missing my old home, which was over 2,000 miles away.  

It took me a long time to accept my new house and school. For a while, I didn’t feel I belonged here. Every time I thought of going home, I thought of a completely different house. Some days, I still find myself wanting to go back to California.  

Yet I have grown to love my new house. It is my retreat. To me, it’s the most comforting place on earth. During school, what gets me through some days is the fact that I get to go home later. Sometimes trying to wait until the end of the day so I can leave is an excruciating wait. 

On earth, Christians stand out because of our faith, which leads us to act differently and can make us feel out of place. That’s when we feel a different kind of homesickness. It’s not for a house in a state thousands of miles away. It’s a homesickness for a place where we feel we really belong. We want to go to the perfect retreat that Jesus prepared for us. “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1). 

No matter how often or rarely our earthly home changes, we look forward to going to heaven, the place that is our eternal home. That’s where we will meet Jesus. In him, and him alone, we find complete rest. It’s the one place where we’ll never have to say goodbye again. We will be eternal residents. “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who . . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20,21). 

Even though heaven is waiting for us, there are still tough days to get through. We miss just being home, and it’s an excruciating wait to get there. Jesus is with us and helps us get through these days. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). 

 So, if you, like me, really miss your home or feel out of place, remember our real home is with Jesus. No matter how far away we live from the place we call “home,” Jesus is always right beside us, guiding and protecting us. And when Jesus takes us to heaven, we will confidently say, “I’m home.” I personally can’t wait to go. 

The words of the famous hymn perfectly capture this: 

“What though the tempest rage, Heav’n is my home.
Short is my pilgrimage; Heav’n is my home.
And time’s wild, wintry blast Soon shall be overpast;
I shall reach home at last; Heav’n is my home”
 (Christian Worship 417:2). 


Lydia Buxa, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at Immanuel, Farmington, Wisconsin.   


 

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Author: Lydia Buxa 
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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The Avengers and two lions

John A. Braun

Captain America; Thor; Iron Man; and of course, Thanos. Along with a host of other comic book heroes, they have helped Marvel create one of the most successful and lucrative series of films. This year’s film Avengers: Endgame, with a production budget of $356 million, has taken in over $900 million. How many saw it is just a guess. When I finally went to see it, I paid $7—I get a senior discount—and there were only three of us in the theater.  

My take on the movie is a bit different from most. I was intrigued by the Thanos character. His name, Thanosmight be a shortened version of the Greek word for death, thanatosThat fits him since he plans to destroy enough humans to create a more reasonable, sustainable world. 

The Avengers oppose him and use their power to keep him from destroying so many people. After their defeat in Infinity Wars, the Avengers create a new strategy to overcome Thanos, the dispenser of death. Spoiler alert: One of the Avengers, Iron Man, succeeds in destroying death itself but in the process must die. Avengers: Endgame concludes with his funeral.  

It isn’t hard to see where I’m going. Almost all those who saw the movie have a yearning for a happy ending where all things lead to the hope of a better world and a brighter future. They also know the real world and see that it is in need of some kind of correction. But this movie is entertainment and not the real world. Once we leave the screen behind and come out of the theater, we step back into the world that hasn’t changed and still brings pain, misery, and heartache. 

We need these diversions. I know I do. The Avengers movies are only the latest versions that give us an escape from the pressing burden of our own life’s challenges and difficulties. We watch the news and are acutely aware of the surrounding uncertainty of politics, finances, and conflict around the world. With entertainment, we can forget about life for a while.  

What struck me about this particular distraction was the mythology it created. Death is defeated, but only digitallynot really. Ah, most viewers sigh, if it were only true. But I know that death actually has been defeated. Unfortunately, so many of those who left the theaters haven’t read about the real victory over death. They are left with only the illusion of victory and triumph. 

It is difficult for Christians to get an audience for the message of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the forces of darkness. Most people do not have time for the gospel or simply dismiss it as irrelevant for their busy lives. C. S. Lewis tried to get an audience when he created Aslan, a fictional lion, who died and rose again in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from The Chronicles of Narnia series. Aslan is the king of beasts, a lion of great power and wisdom. Lewis patterned his lion, in some ways, after the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  

This Lion of Judah, we know, is the Root of David, King of kings, and our Savior. He has triumphed over all that oppresses God’s people. In the new song choirs of heaven sing, they acclaim him worthy “for [he was] slain, and by [his] blood [he] ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9 English Standard Version).  

I’m glad I can leave the theater praising the One who has really overcome death and darkness. With him, I can face life’s trials. I wish more knew of him and could also praise him. 


John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.


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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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New partners in Christ through Convention

Representatives from church bodies in Kenya and Taiwan traveled a long way to be at the synod convention in Minnesota this summer—and not just in miles. 

Their journeys were very different but their destination the same—to work hand in hand with WELS in spreading the Word to their homelands. Delegates welcomed these two church bodies into confessional Lutheran fellowship at the convention. 

Kenya 

My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days,” said Mark Anariko Onundapastor and chairman of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for ChristKenya (LCMC) when addressing the delegates. “Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.” 

The LCMC–Kenya, a church body of 25 pastors, 46 congregations, and between 3,000 and 5,000 members, is relatively young. Registered as an independent church body in Kenya in 2013, it formed after several of its pastors and churches broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya because of false teachings. This fledging church body immediately began searching for like-minded confessional Lutherans. After they made contact with WELS World Missions in 2014, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, visited Onunda for the first time in Kenya in 2015. The Lutheran Church of Central AfricaZambia, WELS’ sister synod, declared fellowship with the LCMC–Kenya last September. 

“We are like youThat is why we are coming to you—so we can work together,” says Onunda. “With our blessed partnership in place, your brothers and sisters in Kenya can now attend to our most pressing challenges.” 

Onunda’s first goal is to work to restore confessional Lutheranism in Kenya through better and continued education of pastors and leaders. The LCMC–Kenya also wants to be aggressive in its outreach within Kenya. This includes providing physical and spiritual aid to South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya. 

But Onunda isn’t content with just focusing on Kenya. “Our partnership is going to give birth to more churches outside Kenya,” he says. He mentions Rwanda and Uganda and South Sudan—all areas WELS and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa, WELS’ sister synods in Africa, are working to reach.  

“This man will become our partner in expansion throughout the entire continent of Africa, so we’re gathering up church bodies and our team becomes larger and stronger,” says Sorum. 

Taiwan 

Pastor Peter Chen and Mr. Michael Lin attended the convention to represent the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church (CLEC) in Taiwan. The CLEC started as a mission of WELS, with missionaries serving there from 1979 through 2013. Now it is an independent church body.  

“We are happy to be united with WELS in faith,” said Chen to the delegates. “WELS is like a mother to us.” 

Chen notes that church members were unsure about what would happen to their church when the missionaries left. When I go back, I can let my members know WELS hasn’t left us!” he says. Now they declare we are in fellowship with each other so even if there are no missionaries in Taiwan, it doesn’t make a difference. We are one.” 

Chen was also impressed by the theme of the convention, “For the Generations to Come.” He is training Lin to be a leader in the CLEC. Lin will finish his training this year. “This is a good chance to pass on the whole idea of who we are and who we belong to for the next generation,” he says. 

This was Lin’s first trip to the United States. He was amazed by the opening worship service. “I will go back [to my congregation] with lots of pictures and stories. I can tell them this is the way our mother church is,” he says. 

The CLEC has four congregations, one pastor (Chen), and about 100 members. Three men, including Lin, are training to serve congregations as tent ministers. It is reaching out in a country of 23 million people, of which 5 percent are Christian. “Please pray for us,” says Chen.  


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Bringing Back Some Memories

Mark G. Schroeder

Twelve years ago, I was first given the privilege of serving as your synod president. And now, after serving three terms, you have given me that privilege again.  

I thought it would be interesting to dig out the first article that I wrote for Forward in Christ and share it with you. The following appeared in the October 2007, edition of Forward in Christentitled, “Faces Change; God’s Grace Doesn’t”: 

Remember how you felt on your first day of high school? Excited. Nervous. Self-conscious. Mildly confused. There was a thrilling sense that you had entered a new chapter in your life, a chapter whose pages were sure to bring new adventures, new experiences, new knowledge. At the same time there was also a lurking sense of dread and fear of the unknown. What will this be like? Will I make friends? Will I ever get a date? What will my teachers be like? Will I make the team? 

At our synod’s convention in August, you were led by God to call me as your synod president. It’s been a humbling and almost overwhelming experience. In many ways I feel like that kid starting high school. Thrilled and excited at the opportunity to serve God and you in this office, but at the same time recognizing that I have no idea of exactly what is waiting for me on the unopened pages of this next chapter of my life. 

What I do know is this: I am deeply grateful to you for the confidence that you have placed in me. I want to thank the thousands of people who sent expressions of encouragement and promises of continued prayer. I am thankful to God for giving this “chief of sinners” the opportunity to serve him and you in this office. And, most of all, I know that it is God’s grace, God’s power, and God’s unbreakable promises that will enable us all to serve him. 

This is the first time I have served in a calling where I will need to get to know the people I serve from a distance. So here are just a few things I would like you to know about me and my family. 

My parents were originally from a little town in southeastern Minnesota (Eitzen). My father was the first in his family of farmers to become a pastor. He spent most of his ministry as a professor of Latin and as the librarian at Northwestern College. My mother, still living in her own home at the age of 90, made our house a home. They had eight children (six boys and two girls). I’m the youngest of those eight, and when I received my first call into the pastoral ministry, I became the eighth of those eight to enter the pastoral or teaching ministry. 

I married Andrea Kuester, my high school sweetheart, in 1977. Thirty years later we’ve been blessed with four children and one grandchild. I can’t say enough about the blessings God has given me through my supportive wife and children. 

I began my ministry at Faith, Fond du Lac, Wis. After six years there, I served at King of Kings, Maitland, Fla. In 1989 I was called to serve as president of Northwestern Prep, and, since the amalgamation in 1995, of Luther Preparatory School, one of our synod’s two preparatory high schools. 

And now the Lord, through you, has given me a new task. While I don’t know the details of what God has in store for us as we work together to share the gospel, I do know this: the future is firmly in the hands of our gracious God. He has adopted is as his children in Christ. He has given is the gift of eternal life.  

He has called is to share with the world the precious news of a Savior. We can all look forward to the future—the future of our own individual lives and the future of the synod we love—and know, without any doubt, that God himself will guide us with his Word and will bless us with his grace. 

Some things have changed for me since I wrote that first article. One grandchild has become six. My mother and one brother have joined their Savior in heaven. My marriage to that high school sweetheart has now been a blessing for 42 years. My hair is thinner my face has a few more wrinkles, and I now know a little of what the work of synod president entails. But some things have not changed. God’s grace still amazes. 

God’s wisdom and power still overwhelms. I continue to marvel at the privilege of continuing to serve as your synod president. And, as I did in 2007, I ask again for your continued prayers for me and for our beloved synod. 


Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.


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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How involved should parents be in a child’s homework?

Are we modeling kindness for our children?

I dread my daughter’s homework more than she does. From the time she was little, it’s always been a struggle. She seems to sail through school with a great attitude, but by the time she gets home, all her patience and concentration have been used up. And honestly, by that time of day, mine have too. I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that my attitude about homework is just as bad as hers.  

Yet I’m continually trying to improve the process. So I’m going to take to heart some of the ideas shared by this month’s authors and try to incorporate them into my family’s homework routine.  

Do you have some tried and true homework tips? Please share them! Send your tips to fic@wels.net 

Nicole Balza


Homework can be a source of conflict between parents, children, and teachers if expectations and philosophy aren’t clear. Each teacher and school have a homework philosophy, and therefore, how much they want parents to participate in completing homework may be different from school to school or teacher to teacher. However, I have found that many educators feel that you should help in developmentally appropriate ways through the years and adjust the way you help your child as he or she grows.  

Children from 3K to first grade will need parent support if they have homework to complete. They will often need their parents to read directions for them, listen to them read, or do the homework with them. As soon as students can write, they are expected to write any answers by themselves but with parent support.  

When students in grades 2-4 have homework, they are now able to do most of it without any assistance. They may need parents to check in with them and problem solve if they don’t know what to do, and they may need parent reminders to do their homework and complete assignments on time.  

As students move into grades 5-8, they are now learning how to keep their assignment book on their own, plan how they will complete homework assignments, and study for tests and quizzes. Parents do not need to help very much with the homework itself but may need to help their child schedule his or her time, study for a test, or make sure that their child is asking his or her teacher for help when confused on a homework assignment.  

Some students will continue to need these parent supports in high school, while others take on full responsibility for their homework once in high school. This gradual release of responsibility looks slightly different for each child and should be adjusted to meet his or her needs. Our goal is always to help each child grow and learn more responsibility each year, while still supporting the child with his or her unique learning needs.  

God’s Word does not give advice on doing homework specifically; however, he does tell us how we should conduct ourselves in all situations. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This passage reminds us that as parents we have an important responsibility and opportunity to model for our children the perspective and attitude we should all have when completing tasks and working hard. Homework is no different . . . do it all for the glory of God!    


Rachel Blum and her husband, Matt, are raising their three children in the country in Bonduel, Wis. Rachel currently teaches at St. Paul, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


Are you familiar with the old song: Homework! Oh, homework! I hate you. You stink! I wish I could wash you away in the sink . . .?  

Somehow I can imagine my own kids turning to me and saying, Dad, if you hate homework so much, stop assigning it! Seriously, though, I remember my kids singing this little ditty when they were in school. Homework is probably nobody’s favorite. Nonetheless, homework is a reality for many families.  

I asked a pair of veteran teachers for their advice on how parents can best assist their children with the homework challenge. Here are some tips. 

  1. Establish a positive attitude about the value of school and homework.
    Create a family routine and an expectation that this is important and needs to be done to be prepared for the next day. Nothing is more anxiety-creating than not being prepared and wondering how teachers and classmates will react.
     
  2. Pray with your children about school and school work.
    God cares about it all. As anxiety and depression rates for children have increased to astounding rates, reinforcing that they have an almighty, loving heavenly Father is ultra-important. He cares . . . even about short quizzes or big.  

  3. Find a comfortable, inviting place for children to do homework where parents can oversee progress. Kids rooms today offer many distractions that can get in the way of the efficient use of homework time.

  4. Understand teacher expectations and communicate with your childs teacher(s). Take advantage of home visits or entrance conferences to talk about homework expectations. Teachers will be happy to share strategies they prefer or tools that can be used at home. Todays digital age gives parents and students amazing toolsemail, websites, online videos. Many curriculums include online videos and tips. This can help alleviate arguments about how to do tasks like multiplication and division correctly.

  5. Dont give up on the old triedandtrue methods.
    They have worked for generations and will continue to work. Strategies like making note cards, using flash cards for math facts, practicing spelling words, quizzing students on their reading assignment, listening to memory workthese all still are great ways to help your students to find success. Help your child to find ways that complement their learning style. 

  6. For uppergrade students, consider becoming a kind of accountability partner.
    At this level, sometimes the subject matter is getting difficult for parents
     . . . even well-educated ones. The homework belongs to the students. In a time when digital contacts are growing, having parents help face-to-face needs to be encouraged. Parents can be a big help by encouraging the student to transition into a self-advocate role. 

  7. Realize the change that has taken place.
    Teachers and parents are not so much the purveyors of knowledge but guides to unlocking and applying it. The information is more accessible than ever; parents can inspire their children’s curiosity on topics they arent naturally curious about. 

Maybe it’s time for a new tune: Homework! Oh, homework! You can be a pain. But at least you’re a way to exercise my brain!


Dave Payne and his wife, Joyce, have four adult children and two grandchildren. Dave serves as communications director at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wisconsin, and is a member at Eternal Love, Appleton. 


Moving beyond “How was school today?” 

What is the first question you ask when your child gets home from school? Most parents ask, “How was your day today?” Most children give a short or even one-word answer. Here are some questions you may want to ask to expand the answer. 

  • What was one thing you learned that was new?”
  • “Did you make your teacher smile today?”
  • “Did you help anyone today? How did you help?”
  • “What challenged you today?”
  • Did someone do something nice for you?”
  • How would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?”

This is reprinted by permission from christianfamilysolutions.org. The original article, “Strategies for a successful school year,” was written by Julie Educate, a licensed professional counselor with Christian Family Solutions. 


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Personal reformation

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1,2) 

Peter M. Prange 

Whata Christian’s highest calling? In Martin Luther’s day, Christians were taught that they could do no better than to live a life of self-denialThe most determined took monastic vows, like young Luther, or entered a nunnery. Others made long and grueling pilgrimages to see the relics of some long-dead saint. Once there, pilgrims offered devoted prayers to the honored saint for themselves and for others. Through difficult, self-chosen acts of personal sacrifice like thesemedieval Christians believed they could achieve a personal reformation and gain confidencebut never certaintyof an eternal place in heaven. 

Realizing that high means low 

Do we honestly believe any differently today? While the list of suggested, self-sacrificing acts may have changed—and become a bit easier!don’t we often presume that the best Christians are those who sacrifice lots of time at church, give the biggest offerings, get their names in the church bulletin most frequently, or dedicate themselves to fulltime ministry? Aren’t these people striving to meet a Christian’s highest calling? 

Don’t get me wrong, many outward acts of Christian self-sacrifice are God-given blessings to the church. But in Ephesians 4, St. Paul gives us the best answer to what a Christian’s highest calling is. He tells us to aim for humility and gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love. Think about that. Our highest calling is to be lowly and humble. Our highest calling is to bearto get underneath and carryone another in love. 

Since when does high mean low? Since Jesus became our perfect Savior, that’s when! 

Jesus preached to his disciples more than once about the radically different view we Christians are to have in this world, as he graciously brings about a personal reformation in us through the gentle whisper of the gospel. He said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25,26). While the people of this world will think that “high callings” result in power and prestige, honor and glory, Christians are to realize that their high calling ends with unmentioned humility. It displays undeserved gentleness, unlimited patience, and unnoticed bearing with one another in love. No showiness. No ovations. Just inward, personal reformation that doesn’t get thanked in the after-service announcements. 

Following Jesus’ high calling 

It’s hard because it usually means silently putting up with one another and recognizing that sometimes your Christian brothers and sisters are going to do things that annoy you, irritate you, frustrate you, and even anger you. How much easier it is to do things at church that get us noticed by others and end with a gratifying, self-satisfying pat on the back! 

But then Christians recall the gentle patience Jesus has for us and the lonely sacrifice he made for all sinners. Don’t you think we annoy, irritate, frustrate, and anger Jesus with our sins, mistakes, and foibles too? Of course! But Jesus bears with us quietly. He gently corrects, warmly encourages, lovingly forgives, and humbly serves without need for recognition. 

It was his calling to which he has called us (1 Peter 2:21). 

What a high and difficult calling it is, but Christians accept it to the glory of Jesusthe most fitting outcome to our personal reformation. 


Contributing editor Peter Prange is pastor at Bethany, Kenosha, Wisconsin. 


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange 
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Get busy living

Andrew Schroer 

In the 1997 movie The Shawshank Redemption, Tim Robbins played Andy Dufresne, a quiet banker wrongfully accused and convicted of killing his wife. After 20 years in Shawshank Prison, Dufresne had enough. In one of the most dramatic scenes of the movie, he turns to his friend Red and in exasperation says, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, reallyget busy living or get busy dying.” 

Those words often echo in my head and heart as I teach weekly Bible studies in our local nursing homes. Sadly, when many people move into the nursing home, they get busy dying. They give up. They feel like they have nothing left to give or contribute. So they sit sadly in their wheelchairs and rooms, waiting to die. 

Again and again, I find myself taking them back to one particular verse from the Bible: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). 

The apostle Paul wrote those words as he sat in the city of Rome, chained to a Roman soldier, awaiting his trial before the Roman Emperor. At the time, Paul didn’t know if he would be set free or put to death. Yet Paul writes it was actually a win/win situation. If he was set free, he would be able to share the good news of God’s love with more people. If they put him to death, even better. He would go to the heaven Jesus had won for him. 

For Paul, to live was Christ and to die is gain. He couldn’t lose. 

Usually as a preacher, I focus on the second part of that verse—that to die is gain. For those who believe in Jesuswe know that when we die, God will give us a home in heaven that is way better than anything we could ever experience here on earth. 

But when I am at the nursing home, many of the people tell me they don’t want to be here anymore. They want to go to heaven, but God just won’t take them. That’s when I have to remind them of the first part of the versethat to live is Christ. In other words, if we are here, it means God still has things for us to do.  

Our lives here on earth are our opportunities to live for Christ, who lived and died for us. Every life has a purpose and a meaning. The problem is that when we can’t do the things we used to be able to dowhen we can’t do the things we want to dothe devil tries to convince us that we can’t do anything, or at least anything worthwhile. 

The truth is that even when we can’t do what we used to be able to do, even when we are living in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, or bedridden, life still has purpose and meaning. God still has things for us to do. 

We can be an example of faith and love to those around us. We can tell other people of God’s love. And if we can do nothing else, we can pray. That seems so insignificant, and yet prayer can move mountains, as Jesus promisedIt shouldn’t take long to think of someone who needs our prayers.  

Then one day, we will die. When we do, through faith in Jesus, we will receive a home in the happiness of heaven. That is better by far. 

But we aren’t dead yet. So get busy living. 


Contributing editor Andrew Schroer is pastor at Redeemer, Edna/Victoria, Texas.  


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Author: Andrew Schroer
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Here I stand

The Word gave Martin Luther the strength to take his stand, and it continues to strengthen us today. 

Joshua E. Stahmann 

“Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”  

My first memory of these rousing words from Martin Luther comes from a Reformation skit during a fellowship night at church long ago. The Sunday school children acted out this famous scene of Luther standing up to Emperor Charles V. I was privileged to play Dr. Luther himself. I memorized and declared Luther’s words in front of the crowd as if I were the real Reformer (even though he probably didn’t actually dress in a brown bathrobe, like my costume). Though I was barely a teenager, the power of Luther’s conviction was obvious to me. He was willing to risk disgrace and death to stand up for God’s Word and its truth. 

Filled with self-doubt 

That’s the image we usually have of Luther, isn’t it? Confident and articulate, fiery and full of conviction—as if Luther was born being certain of the truth of the gospel and ready to proclaim it. However, Luther’s confidence in God’s Word didn’t just happen overnight. A brief survey of Luther’s own descriptions of the early days of the Reformation shows a man who was wrestling with self-doubt and who might just have been willing to negotiate an end to his career as a reformer before it even started. 

Luther states that in 1519 he actually had agreed to remain silent, as long as his opponents would also be silent. Two years later, he admits that he wondered how he alone could be right and all of the church leaders of his day be wrong. Had Luther backed down, he might be just a minor footnote in church history and the Reformation an unaccomplished dream. 

Strengthened by the Word 

What is it that strengthened and steeled Luther to take his stand? In his own words to the emperor, Luther said, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” It was the testimony of God that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for all sins (1 John 2:2) that convinced Luther. It was the truth of Scripture that we are justified by God’s grace through the redeeming work of Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24) that galvanized him. And it was the declaration of God that there is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ (Romans 8:1) that took Luther captive, making him willing to die rather than deny God’s revealed truth. 

As I recited Luther’s words decades ago, I think it’s fair to say that I wanted to be like him—strong, confident and secure. However, what I realize now—better than I did thenis that such conviction of faith does not come from the strength of my own character or the power of my own effort. No, it is truly as God declares: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 Evangelical Heritage Version). It was not Luther who was strong. It was the Word itself, which strengthened him and strengthens me. 

In that way, each of us is more like Luther than we might realize. We might be plagued by self-doubt, wishing that we were stronger in faith and frustrated that we’d rather shrink away from those who challenge us instead of declaring, “Here I stand.” At these times, remember that it is the Word that strengthens us and makes us stand. God’s clear and trustworthy promises of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ provided the backbone for Luther and the Reformation, and it does the same for us today. 


Joshua Stahmann is pastor at Salem, Scottsdale, Arizona. 


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Author: Joshua E. Stahmann    
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.

A friendly counselor shares what the message of the Reformation means to him and to those he serves in South Asia.

As soon as they opened the door of my plane, I could tell the air was different and that I was in a place I had never been. At one in the morning it was as warm and as humid as the hottest day of the summer back home. Hundreds of people—awake in the middle of the night—begged to carry my suitcases to a taxi. On the darkened streets I saw people sleeping on the sidewalks with their heads only a couple feet from the wheels of our car. Cows rummaged through garbage. At 3 in the morning in my hotel room I wondered, What am I doing here?

I could not drink the water. I had to close my eyes when I took a shower. The food tasted different. The lights worked only some of the time. The toilets were . . . well, that’s another story. Yes, what am I doing here?

Everything was different, except for one thing: “Sola gratia, sola fide, sola Scriptura.” “Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.” These are the great truths of the Reformation. I saw them for the first time in my life on the cornerstone of our seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin, as I prepared to change my field of study from a doctor to a pastor. As I looked at those words, I thought, This is something I can dedicate my life to.

From that time on, I appreciated those words. But they came to mean more to me during my years of service in foreign lands. I serve two countries in South Asia—one is a Hindu nation, and the other a Muslim nation. The circumstances of these two countries are infinitely different from the world in which Luther lived more than 500 years ago. But the message of “grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone” is the one thing the people of these countries need most of all.

God’s truth for all nations

Hinduism believes in reincarnation. According to Hinduism you must be reincarnated 8.4 million times before you can escape the cycle of life. You return to earth because you have not suffered enough for your sins in your past life.

How different—how comforting—is the message of the Lutheran Reformation! Only Jesus’ suffering will pay for your sins. He took the full punishment for your sins when he died on the cross. “There is now no condemnation [punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Not 8.4 million lives, but one life—the life of Jesus—will give you peace with God.

In Islam there is no certainty of salvation—unless one is a martyr for jihad. Young Muslims are sometimes told, “Abraham gave up what was most dear to him, his only son. If you truly love God, you will give up what is most dear to you.” When they explain what is most dear to them—a family member or their own life—they sometimes will be asked to sacrifice that person. Some young men have gone home and killed their mothers in order to show their loyalty to Allah. Others will strap on a suicide vest and detonate it in a crowd of innocent people. By dying for their faith, they believe they will enter paradise where they will have 72 virgins.

Again, how different is the message of Christianity, the message of the Reformation! It is not our sacrifice that gives us peace with God. It is Christ’s sacrifice for us. He was sacrificed once for all to take away all our sins (Hebrews 9:28). In him we are made perfect (Hebrews 10:14).
A Hindu Brahmin told me how a traditional wedding ceremony begins in the evening and then goes through the night and into the next day. When I asked him why, he said, “We want to invoke as many gods as possible to provide protection for the young couple.” Hinduism believes in 300 million gods (or in 1 god who manifests himself in 300 million ways).

The Lutheran Reformation shows that we do not gain God’s favor even by speaking endless words in prayer. God’s favor is a gift of his undeserved love. Jesus said, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7,8).

Hinduism believes in karma, which most define as “good for good and bad for bad.” Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. In South Asia those who are rich are sometimes told, “You were good in your past life, so you are being rewarded.” If you are poor—and the Hindu nation I serve is filled with people who are indescribably poor—you are told, “You were wicked in your past life. You deserve to suffer.” Karma is completely work-righteousness.

Now think of the message of the Reformation. God does not give us what we deserve. He gives us what we do not deserve—the gift of salvation in his Son. Whether you are rich or poor, high caste or low caste, male or female, through faith in Jesus you are God’s dear child. And when you die, you will not come back to this world with its suffering, you will be with God in glory.

The name of God in Islam is “Allah,” which means master. The name “Muslim” means “one who submits,” that is, a servant or a slave. The relationship between God and the sinner in Islam is that of a master and a servant or slave. Some teachers of Islam claim it is blasphemous for a Muslim to claim to have a personal relationship with Allah. Allah is too great, too holy, too distant, for a sinner to have a personal relationship with him.

In Christianity we are not simply servants; we are God’s dearly loved children. We dare to call him Father, yea, we are invited to call him Father (Romans 8:15).

Sharing God’s truth

In seminary classes in these countries we teach the Lutheran Confessions. At first it might seem that this will be dull and have little or nothing to do with the world of Hinduism or Islam. But the students often remark how the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in Luther’s day are surprisingly similar to some of the teachings of Hinduism and Islam today. The Lutheran Reformation restored the truth of God’s Word. The Confessions give maximum comfort to the sinner and maximum glory to God.

The people in South Asia hunger for these truths. They will travel for days by foot and by bus to attend a seminar where they will sit on the floor from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. to learn the truths of the Reformation.
“Why am I here?” They know the answer, and I do too: To know his love and to make his love known so that others will be brought out of darkness into his wonderful light. Even with the threat of imprisonment or death, they happily proclaim these truths: “Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.”


The author’s name is withheld to protect him and his work of sharing God’s truths.


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Author:  
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Lutheran Leadership Conference coming in 2020

WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. WELS Congregational Services works under the Conference of Presidents to help congregations assess, plan, and carry out gospel ministry.  

The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregationTwenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministryrural ministry, church governance practices, equipping people for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more.  

“I hope individuals walk away from this conference with three things,” says Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services. “First, I hope they are motivated to throw themselves into gospel ministry in every way: feeding the faithful, reaching the lost, and pursuing the straying. Second, I hope attendees better understand the massive challenges before our congregations but also realize that God will help us meet those challenges. Finally, I hope that they can take home some practical resources from the breakout sessions that they can immediately implement in their mission efforts. 

The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all: pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and even those without formal leadership positions within their organizations. Called workers and lay leaders, men and women, lifelong Lutherans and new congregants are all welcome.  

Congregations are encouraged to send multiple participants to the conference. “A church gets the most out of a conference like this when there is a critical mass of members attending,” Hein says. “They can divide up and hit every relevant breakout. They can present a united, excited voice when they go back to their congregation.” Travel rebates are available for congregations that send three or more individuals to the event. 


Registration is now open, with an early registration discount through Oct. 31. Register online at lutheranleadership.com. There you can also find free promotional materials—including a video, posters, social media graphics, and other digital images—to help build interest.  

 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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For the Lord’s glory

The new WELS hymnal is moving into production. 

Michael D. Schultz 

Something has been going on in Israel. It was no small thing.  

A noble cause 

King David established a huge endowment fund with his own money to build it.  Why? Why did he invite the citizens of his kingdom to make their own generous donations to this temple construction fund? Why did he painstakingly make all the arrangements for a massive construction project he would never use? Why did David’s son Solomon dive into the task of constructing the temple, an undertaking so expansive that 150,000 foreigners living in Israel were enlisted to do manual labor, while 3,600 more foreigners served as their foremen? Why did he devote seven years to raising this magnificent edifice that would come to be regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world? Why did he see to it that there were tons and tons of gold for the unimaginably lavish overlays? 

He overlaid the inside with pure gold. He paneled the main hall with juniper and covered it with fine gold and decorated it with palm tree and chain designs. . . . He overlaid the ceiling beams, door frames, walls and doors of the temple with gold, and he carved cherubim on the walls. He built the Most Holy Place, its length corresponding to the width of the temple—twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide. He overlaid the inside with six hundred talents [about 21 tons] of fine gold. The gold nails weighed fifty shekels. He also overlaid the upper parts with gold. 2 Chronicles 3:4-9 

What accounts for such great devotion to such a noble cause? It’s commonly called Solomon’s temple, but it wasn’t really Solomon’s. From the earth beneath it to its highest pinnacle along with everything in between, the temple was the Lord’s. The eternal God made himself known there as the God who would not only dwell with his people but who would deliver them from the curse of sin and the horror of hell. The temple was all for God—all about God. And God allowed his people to come there to learn about him, to be forgiven, to receive his blessing, and to honor and thank him with songs and psalms and prayers. 

The cause continues 

Something has been going on in our church body. It is no small thing.  

Though the new hymnal project will never approach the scale of the temple project, there are similarities. For a total of seven years now, roughly a dozen committees of men and women have devoted themselves to a noble cause. They have worked to bring together texts, music, psalms, songs, rites, readings, commentaries, manuals, and technology, all aimed at one thing—directing our eyes of faith to the Lord of the church, Jesus Christ our Savior. 

We’re at the point where the majority of the research has been concluded. Hymns and psalms and rites are being laid out and so is the accompaniment music. A digital service builder program, capable of outputting highquality service folders in minutes rather than hours, is being populated. Final chapters of manuals and commentaries are being written. For the next 18 months, the Hymnal Project committees will go back and forth with Northwestern Publishing House. No effort will be spared to make sure that proper nouns are capitalized, book titles italicized, and copyright holders recognized; to make sure that hymn number 430 is in fact followed by hymn number 431; to make sure that each note and syllable in the pew edition matches perfectly with its corresponding counterpart in the accompaniment edition. 

Closer than ever 

I have a confession to make. I already have a few new favorites, a few new psalms, hymns, and ritual songs that I really like. Will they be your favorites? Maybe. Maybe not. But as I continue to see materials come together and turn pages one after the other, I often pause and think, “Hmm, that’s going to be really nice.”  

What has been difficult is not being able to share any of those items quite yet. This has not been due to lack of requests. It has been wonderful to hear from pastors who would like to sample new liturgical materials at their conference worship services. It has been encouraging to hear from directors who would like to take their choirs through new psalms or hymns. It has been tremendous to hear from organists and keyboardists who are asking if they can get early copies of accompaniment materials so they can learn the new music and be ready to hit the ground running when the new hymnal and all its auxiliary resources launch, God-willing, in Advent of 2021. But the materials are not quite ready for prime time. All of that proofreading and final formatting has yet to be done. All of the important copyright contracts and permissions have yet to be completed.  

We are, however, closer now than ever when talking about a new hymnal will turn into holding a new hymnal. Additionally, there are no less than 17 actual books being produced, along with three digital products. I am excited about all of these items. 

The true glory of this project 

But just as the temple was certainly not Solomon’s, so the hymnal is certainly neither mine nor any committees. The image that will grace the cover of all those books and all the digital resources is one that points eyes of faith to the Lord of the church, Jesus Christ our Savior. 

It was tempting to drop a few hymn titles into this article and to talk about a few of those new, personal favorites. That day will come. For now, though, as the compilation of resources concludes and the production of resources commences, it’s time to be grateful for the team effort that has brought us to this point. It’s time to start letting congregations know the specifics of how they can plan for new worship materials. (Publication of a preview in early 2020 will help with that.) More than anything else, though, it’s time to remember what it’s all about. 

The glory of the new temple in Jerusalem came from our glorious Father in heaven, who met his people there and blessed them through the promise that his Son would bear their punishment and seat them on thrones in his eternal kingdom. New hymnal materials are not being produced so that we can get more songs out there that people will really like or that will somehow make church more enjoyable. Jesus never spoke very highly of expending effort or energy just to please people. He did speak very highly of directing all honor to God and of proclaiming God’s good news of forgiveness and life everlasting to all who will hear it.  

For new hymnal materials to do that would be truly golden. I am excited to know that they will.


Michael Schultz, director of the WELS Hymnal Project, is a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin. 


Learn more about the WELS Hymnal Project at welshymnal.com 


This is the first article in a three-part series on the new hymnal being released in Advent of 2021. Look for the next article on hymns in December.  


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Author: Michael D. Schultz
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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God’s gifts, our giving: Part 2

With what shall I come before the Lord? 

Aaron L. Christie 

Regardless of one’s political persuasionor lack thereofit seems that the American economy is booming. Unemployment is at a lifetime low. The stock market has had some hiccups, but it still is positive in the long run. Wages are up, but paradoxically, something is down: Personal giving to religious charities. 

A giving snapshot 

If statistics can be trusted, it seems that Christians gave less than 2 percent of their income to churches last yearBut what about WELS members? We are not much different from the rest of Christians in America. Here is a giving snapshot for the large church that I serve in the WELS heartland: 

  • 3 percent gave 30 percent of all offerings. 
  • 10 percent gave 31 percent of all offerings. 
  • 20 percent gave 26 percent of all offerings. 
  • 67 percent gave 12 percent of all offerings. 

Interestingly, the giving levels of my previous parish in metro Chicago lined up exactly with the giving levels of my current parishMy hunch is that your church’s giving analysis might look much the same. 

But what do those numbers really mean? Those numbers mean that two-thirds of our members gave less to the Creator of the human body than they did to the local gym to keep that body in shape. They also mean that 87 percent of our members give more to talk/text on cell phones than they give to the One who has spoken to us, once for all, by his Son. 

So how much faith does it take to pay for a gym membership or a cell phone bill? 

Answer: God knows. And we do too. 

Yet many Christians become animated when they hear preaching about money. We are guilty of a major words/deeds inconsistency! We say that we believe that God createdand therefore ownsthe world and everything in it. Yet we tip our server 15 percent and tip the Creator of food 2 percent? We need to repent of our self-centered greed, which is idolatry! 

Proportionate giving 

Last month’s article discussed the matter of giving first fruitsWhen we give first to the Lord, it helps us clarify our prioritiesplacing him first in our lives—not in theory, but in realityGiving first fruits takes aim at the attitude enclosed in our hearts rather than the amount enclosed in our envelopes. This month the biblical practice of proportionate giving begins the conversation of what “first and best” means for each of us as we decide in our hearts what to give. Proportionate giving means giving in proportion to how God has blessed us. It entails giving a fixed percentage of our incomes (1 Corinthians 16:2). Experience teaches and statistics show that giving amounts are not directly tied to tax brackets and bottom lines, but to the depth of our faith in the promises of our God. 

The Scriptures give us several examples of proportionate giving that provide us with an opportunity to ponder the percentage of our own gifts 

  • After victory on the field of battle,Abraham gave 10 percent of all his possessions to Melchizedek, the kingly-priest of Jerusalem (Genesis 14:20). He gave a tithe of his significant riches to thank God for the riches of his grace. God would direct his people to give various tithes later in the Law of Moses.  
  • Thousands of years later, Zacchaeus would give 50 percent of his significant wealth to the poor (Luke 19:1-10). He gave away half of his possessions because he was wholly possessed by gratitude for the salvation that Jesus brought to his house!  
  • We even hear of two women who gave 100 percent of their income to the Lord: The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16) gave her last meal to the prophet, and the widow at the temple (Luke 21:1-4) gave her last two small coins.  

All of these gifts were given out of gratitude, not under compulsion. 

These examples from Scripture lead us to consider proportionate giving from another angle: Proportionate giving is not so much about how much I give, but how much is left over to live on. Abraham offered the Lord a tithe but had 90 percent of a significant amount to live on. Zacchaeus offered 50 percent but had significant resources left over. The two widows gave 100 percent of their income to the Lord. All they had to live on was faith in the promises of a loving Father. And having those promises, they had everything. So how much of God’s gifts do we really need to live on? May God bless that ongoing, prayerful conversation with him! 

Like Abraham of old, many Christians find joy in giving 10 percent of their income still todayThey do so with a heart that is 100 percent free in Christ and not because they feel they must. For some in our congregations, giving 10 percent is a goal to which they aspire. For others, richly blessed, giving 10 percent may be just a starting point. 

No matter what percentagwe choosethe encouragement is the same: Give in such a way that demonstrates faith in the power of God’s promises. Take God at his Word. Stretch yourself. Give as a reflection of God’s gracious gifts to you in Christ! 

And then tell the devil to go and pinch his pennies! 


Aaron Christie is pastor at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin. 


This is the second article in a three-part series on giving. This series follows the outline of the congregational stewardship program, 10 for 10. 


Thinking proportionally 

Not long ago the Lord provided St. Paul in Green Bay, Wis., a golden opportunity to consider the matter of proportionate giving. After the funeral of one of our lifelong members, we were surprised to learn that St. Paul would receive about $1 million from her estate. What a blessing! 

As our church family gave thanks to the Lord, we began to feel the weight of responsibility: Now what? Our member did not designate how we should use the gift; she simply wanted the money to go to the Lord’s work. She trusted her congregation to make good decisions. We needed to figure some things out. How much of this gift should we save? How much should we spend?  

We established a committee to study short and longrange ministry goals in light of this gift and to bring a proposal to the congregation. Soon the committee wrestled with another question: Should we give a portion of this gift away? There is always plenty of work for our congregation to do close to home, but the riches of God’s love in Christ and the selfless gift of our sister in the faith helped us to remember the Lord’s work around the world. We eventually chose to give a portion of the gift to WELS, trusting that our leaders would use the money wherever it was most needed.  

But how much should we give? We wanted to think proportionately, to give in keeping with what we’d been given. In Christian freedom, we decided to use the Old Testament tithe as our example. So we gave WELS ten percent of what we had received, a gift in the amount of $100,000.  

Blessed though we were by the gift, it wasn’t easy to agree on what to do with that much money. Yet we gave in proportion to what we were given because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts through the gospel, the same Spirit who worked in the heart of our sister in the faith. To God alone be the glory! 

 

Jon Zabell is pastor at St. Paul, Green Bay, Wisconsin. 


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Author: Aaron L. Christie 
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Walk by the Spirit: Part 6

God warns us about being drunk and encourages us to practice self-control. 

John A. Braun 

Some say the Bible is ancient, out of touch, and old-fashioned, but they have not read Paul’s two lists in GalatiansRead the section again (Galatians 5:19-23), and you will see just how contemporary it is. Paul includes drunkenness as one of the acts of the flesh. Drunk drivers, shootings outside bars at 2:00 in the morning, or even loud arguments after a few beers testify that the Bible is not as old-fashioned as some want to believe. 

At the same time Paul’s list of fruits of the Spirit are just as contemporary. The virtues listed are as important today as they were in Paul’s day: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. As a concluding fruit of the Spirit, Paul lists self-control. What could be more contemporary in a world given to excesses?  

Acts of the flesh: Drunkenness and orgies 

Scotch, bourbon, gin, wine, beer. Do you have a favorite? Almost a century ago it was all illegal. In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution made it illegal to produce, import, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages. Prohibition attempted to eliminate the problems that comes in the wake of alcohol abuse. But instead bootleggers, organized crime, and speakeasies created more trouble for society and police. The amendment was repealed in 1933.  

Perhaps the Christian temperance movement of the 1920s took Paul’s inclusion of drunkenness in his list of acts of the flesh as justification for its efforts to remove alcohol from our society. No one would disagree that drunkenness belongs on the list, at least no one who pays any attention to the news today. For example, drunk drivers are a plague on our roads. They cause almost half of the accidents. DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) appear in many tragic stories of drivers killing children, mothers, friends, and police officers because they could not control themselves or their vehicles. Speeding, running red lights, failure to yieldand reckless and inattentive driving all mask the problem of drunk drivers. 

And there’s more. College age students pass out from drinking too much. Some wander away from the bar and stumble into the cold to die of exposure or ramble off and drown in nearby rivers and lakesAlcohol abuse defies age, race, and all social classifications. Persistent alcohol abuse traps many in an addiction that is difficult to escape and destroys lives, families, and futures.  

Paul combines drunkenness with another companion act of the flesh: orgies or carousing, as some translate the Greek word. The two go together, and in our world today carousing might be called simply, “drunken parties.” Too much alcohol often leads to the loss of inhibitions. The contemporary version of this dangerous combination comes disguised as just having fun. All too often “having fun” gets out of control and leads to abuse, addiction, brutality, or sexual exploitation, and leaves behind black-eyes, bruised bodies, and arrests for disorderly conduct or worse.  

Excess is the problem, not parties or responsible drinking. The sign at the edge of our Christian path beckons us to have fun and enjoy a few laughs. There is nothing wrong with that. But all too many follow the path; lose control; and bring trouble, pain, and disgrace to themselves and the Christian way. Sadly, some are also lost to those vices because they often breed other vicesThat’s why Paul warned against these acts of the flesh.  

Paul is not alone. Solomon also warned “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler: whoever is lead astray by them is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). 

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-control 

God’s Word suggests an alternative: selfcontrolLoss of control is the engine that pulls freight marked hatred, rage, jealousy, envy, and drunkenness. It sets aside the freight of the fruits of the Spirit: patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. Self-control through the power of Christ pulls those virtues, and it seems like an easy prescription for our Christian path at every crossroad. It could be a billboard with the words of Solomon, “Like a city whose walls are broken throughis a person who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). 

Like others in this worldself-control eludes Christians at times. Satan prowls looking for opportunities to bring misery into our lives (1 Peter 5:8), and at times we are willing accomplices. The failure to control ourselves in various situations is listed on the resume of more Christians than we want to admit. Perhaps it’s even on the record of our own personal behavior. 

What of those who see our lapses? At times our failure to live as disciples of Jesus may keep others away from our Savior. How often have we heard that we are hypocrites who carouse and drink to excess on Saturday night and then show up in church with a hangover on Sunday. Those who see such behavior wonder because we have polluted the Christian confession of our lips with the confession of our actions. We place a barrier for non-Christians to overcome before they are ready to listen to the gospel and our witness. 

And there’s more. What we do affects those close to us: our families, our coworkers, and our fellow believers. And always, with every sin, we do not follow the will of our Savior. With each step we take along the path of sins of the flesh, we abandon the Christian way and chart a path away from Jesus. Yet as part of his family—his children by faith—we turn to him with shame and regret to beg for forgiveness: “Lord have mercy.”  

The Christian way is a way of repentance. We are children of God through Jesus, and yet we still are troubled by our sinful nature along our journey to heaven. So we find it necessary to repent often. We turn away from our failures and beg for forgiveness. In his love for us, Jesus forgives. With that forgiveness he gives us the will and ability to do his good pleasure (cf. Philippians 2:13).  

The Christian way is a way of repentance, but it is also a way of choices. Once we are free in Christ, we have a new spirit that wants to choose the fruits of the Spirit. Then three factors become important. First, we clarify what Jesus wants from us; his commands are always intended for our own good. Second, we think what our choices will mean for us personally, considering the consequences we may face because of our disobedience. Third, we think what our behavior also will mean to others—our spouses, our children, our fellow believers in Christ, and those who do not yet know Jesus. Then, by God’s gracious power, we choose the fruits of the Spirit and stay on the narrow way that leads us home. 

We are different in this world. We walk in the Spirit and turn away from the vices of the sinful nature. Jesus himself encourages us, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). 


John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


This is the final article in a six-part series on acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. 


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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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A gospel-filled life: Part 9

Devotional development  

Jeffrey D. Enderle 

A slight sadness seeps into my psyche every autumn. For some reason, I can’t help looking ahead and grieving the loss of the magnificent scenery and pleasant temperatures. While I should be content with evening walks requiring only a light jacket, my mind automatically begins to wander. Soon it will be cold. Soon after, it will grow colder still. Stormy and unpredictable seasons loom in the distance. Almost an entire year will pass before comfortable conditions make another migration, making the outdoors hospitable again.  

Some healthy habits develop over years of hard work and attention. We fall into some negative attitudes, on the other hand, without any intentional efforts. 

Dispelling negative tendencies 

In his short letter giving simple instructions on prayer to his friend Peter the Barber, Martin Luther acknowledged there were times when his life became “cool and joyless.” On those occasions he grabbed his book of Psalms or recalled familiar sections of Scripture and spent quiet time alone in meditation and prayer. Negative tendencies didn’t evaporate on their own. God’s powerful Word was required to address and combat doubts and disillusionment.  

Work turns monotonous. Family members fling constant conflict and crisis our way. Hobbies and leisure lose their satisfaction. Religious routines feel robotic in their repetitions. Life’s less-than-perfect circumstances make life less joyful. Plans of future greatness get grounded in ordinary turbulence. Things of this life won’t provide the sense of contentment we think they should. They can’t. They aren’t designed to do what only God can do.  

Augustine was an early Christian theologian who had a profound influence on Martin Luther. In prayer Augustine acknowledged the soul’s need for the peace that only God can give: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you” (Confessions 1.1.1). Augustine’s insight suggests that we might develop habits that reflect the necessity of our resting in God himself.  

Try reading through Psalms 111118 regularly. Praise in these Psalms can profoundly impact believers. Praise to God isn’t just based on emotions welling up inside believers but primarily flows from a reflection of God’s acts of rescue for his people. Praise doesn’t just depend on what we think about God but expresses our joy in God’s grace at work in our lives 

Developing healthy habits 

Let’s see how this could benefit believers. Martin Luther advocated devotional habits that turned to God’s Word regularly and let “prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night” (A Simple Way to Pray). When we turn to God soon after waking, we can begin our day remembering we are baptized children of God. Before we face stresses and responsibilities, we can find peace in God’s work claiming us as his own. As we retire for the night, we can unburden the fear of our failures with confidence in his grace. We can rest recognizing his blessings to us throughout the day.  

It takes time and effort to develop healthy habits. Following natural instincts in our physical lives is rarely the best policy. God’s people have a more refreshing motivation to develop routines revolving around God’s Word than the return of autumnal glories. With each morsel of God’s Word, God grows in us a dawning awareness of the greatness of our Savior. By Scripture and thankful response in prayer the Holy Spirit develops in us an awe for God’s grace at work in our lives.  


Contributing editor Jeffrey Enderle is pastor at Christ the Rock, Farmington, New Mexico. 


This is the ninth article in a ten-part series on ways to enrich your personal devotional life.


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Author: Jeffrey D. Enderle
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Confessions of faith: Bush

The message of Jesus finally starts to grow after years of neglect. 

John A. Braun 

“My family was not religious. We rarely, if ever, attended church,” Richard Bush remembers. Sundays meant something other than going to church. Yet Richard’s friend Harry was the exception. He and his family regularly attended a Baptist church. They invited Richard to come to church with them and provided regular transportation. At that time, it was something to do” Richard says. The Sundays in church with his friend’s family was a beginning. He was even baptized there with Harry. 

It was like the sower in the parable casting the seed on the ground (Matthew 13:1-23). As he looks back, Richard says, “It was like a seed on the shelf.”  

Sitting dormant 

Growth became difficult because Richard’s family moved to Louisiana. They rarely attended church, so the seed did not sprout and certainly did not mature. He confesses, “The seed just sat there and did not grow.”  

Those early lessons about Jesus grew distant and seemed to disappear as the years went by. Military service, marriage, and family took turns occupying Richard’s time and energy. The seed remained on the shelf. He and Shelly, his wife, had two children and a 36year marriagebefore they moved to Katy, Texas.  

Richard had a structured and organized mind. He is also a friendly spirit and makes friends easily. His focus in school was science, and he had a lot of questions about religion. The idea that God is triune and that he created the world didn’t make sense to Richard. But his skills helped him do well as a plant manager over the years.  

But difficulties intruded into their happy life. Shelly eventually died from cancer, but even in that tragedy the seed remained dormant. Richard says, “I didn’t point a finger at God and complain. I didn’t hate God. Shelly’s death was tough, but at that time I thought that dying was just what happened. You had to go onGod works in mysterious ways.” He and his children moved on with their lives. But God had not given up on Richard. He had not forgotten him and the little seed that still lay dormant. 

Moving on was not easy. After a time, a friend thought that Richard should begin to socialize. Richard didn’t know if he was ready to take that step, but his friend set up a blind date disguised as a birthday party. Richard reluctantly went, and when he discovered it was a blind date, he did his social obligation for dinner and concluded he was not ready yet. He left the date with no desire for another. Yet he went home with a telephone number from the “party” for Janet, the woman he met. It sat unused.  

Then six months later, he was ready and called her. They discovered mutual interests and began a friendship. Little did he know at the time that the friendship would blossom into marriage. 

Taking root 

But another development also was coming to pass. The seed on the shelf would finally begin to grow. Janet was a Lutheran and a member at a WELS church in Katy, Texas. She eventually asked, “Would you like to go to church?”  

Richard was a little apprehensive. He says he had a “bazillion questions.” One of the biggest was still, “How could God be triune, three in one?” But he went to church, and he liked what he heard. He says he went “again and again and again.” The seed began to stir. 

Slowly his question about the Trinity did not cause so much trouble for him. He began to think that millions of people believe it so there must be something to it. He was hearing the gospel, and the Holy Spirit was at work. He brought his question about the Trinity and the other questions he had to the Bible 101 class. When he asked questions, the pastor answered each one. The seed on the shelf had sprouted and began to take root. The idea of Father, Son, and Holy Spiritone God but three personsbegan to make sense. Richard says, “Faith in Christ isn’t something that you just turn on. It takes time.” 

The answers for Richard’s questions all came from the Bible. The pastor explained that it is important to read the Bible for what it means. He warned that you shouldn’t bring your own ideas on what the Bible means but you should let the Bible speak for itself. In the past, Richard had listened to other pastors give their own versions of what the Bible said, but now he heard what the Bible really said.  

What impresses Richard is how well WELS pastors are trained. They know the Bible and can share its teaching clearly. He lists six WELS pastors he had come to know and gives them all high marks for their teaching and spirit. He feels that they are the key to his spiritual growth and to the spiritual growth of others. 

Janet felt the need to be with her aging parents and care for them in Temple, Texas, about 150 miles northwest of Katy. The Temple congregation made them both feel welcome. There the seed that had sprouted in Katy continued to grow. Richard’s questions continued, but “it gets better and better as you sort things out, learn, and grow.”  

Growing tall 

As he looks back over the course of his life, Richard marvels at the way God took the seed from the shelf and caused it to grow after so many years. Even when it seemed to him and to others that God had forgotten him, now he sees that God had a plan all along.  

Yet there’s a sad note that Jesus was left out of his life all those years. Those days have all gone by. They cannot be redone, and Richard regrets that he did not help his children to learn about Jesus. Yet he is happy now knowing Jesus and his blessings. He is active in his church and served as a delegate to the 2019 WELS convention. 

When they moved to Temple, Richard bought a sailboat to sail on nearby Belton Lake. Janet was surprised by his impulsive purchase. Sailing on the large reservoir gives him time to think. In the quiet of the wind and the water, he thinks about the blessings God has given himincluding the beautiful creation he has given us all. 

Richard’s story comes with a lesson. He says it this way, “When you have a chance to witness, remember you are throwing seed on the ground. It may take 50 years for the seed to grow. Don’t give up. God always has plans that sometimes we don’t see or understand. There’s no limitation on when you can come to Christ.” 


John Braun is the executive editor of Forward in Christ. 


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Author: John A. Braun 
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 12

Providing a witnessing support system 

Mark J. Cares 

After a day of witnessing, we heard comments like these: “My favorite part of the week was the nightly debrief. Not only did we hear some neat stories, we also discussed how to respond in various situations.” Or, “I was dragging by the end of the day because I didn’t get into many in-depth conversations. But it was so refreshing to hear some of the wonderful experiences others had.” Gathering together to debrief provided everyone with encouragement, support, and advice. These sessions were great ways to cap off each day. 

“I don’t know if I could have done it without your ongoing support and advice. Honestly, I doubt if I would have even tried.” We hear such comments regularly from people who participate in our program of witnessing to Mormon missionaries called Please Open the Door. Participants can request a mentor who communicates with them regularly to review their previous visit and plan the next visit. 

Our ministry, Truth in Love Ministry, is dedicated to reaching out to Mormons. A large part of what we do is support Christians around the world who are sharing their faith with Mormons. This ongoing support is one of the keys to our having helped thousands of Christians get excited about witnessing—and not just to Mormons either. 

Unfortunately, such support systems for those sharing their faith are missing in many congregations. Members are encouraged to witness. Classes are taught on how to witness. But far too often it ends thereMany times, people are left to put their training into practice all on their own. 

In most important endeavors, receiving feedback and support is critical to success. Witnessing is no exception. Not only did Jesus send out his disciples two by two, but when they returned, he also gathered them together to talk about their experiences.  

Witnessing feedback and support 

The two ways our ministry furnishes support could easily be adapted to a congregational setting.  

Each year Truth in Love Ministry sponsors a mission trip for people to participate in door-to-door outreach to Mormons. Every night there is a debrief session of the day’s witnessing opportunities. This session could be duplicated in a congregation by forming an ongoing witnessing support groupSuch a group works best if each attendee is presently witnessing or is intending to begin witnessing in the near futureIt also works best if the group meets at least twice a month. 

Meetings can look something like this. Begin with a half-hour Bible study about witnessing. Then have each person report on his or her witnessing activity over the past couple of weeks. People can share ideas that worked or ask for suggestions on how to do something differently.  

Before moving on to the next person, take time to pray for both the witness and the people to whom he or she is witnessing. Talk about creating intimacy and giving support! Those prayers often aren’t just one-time occurrences. Frequently people will continue to pray for every person in the coming week. I have seen more than one person leave such a meeting with a notebook filled with prayer requests. 

Of course, there will be times when some people fail to witness at all. That won’t be a problem if a climate of loving accountability exists. Instead of feeling guilty, they will leave encouraged to witness in the next week. In fact, when someone fails, isn’t loving accountability the secret to success for many support groups? 

Over a period of time, as group members study the Bible from an outreach perspective and discusses various scenarios and individuals, they become increasingly confident and excited to share their faith. 

And their excitement is infectious. Some congregations have started with one small group, only to have it multiply. Eventually, the entire congregation becomes much more outreach focused 

Mentoring 

Another way to provide witnessing support is to offer a mentoring system. One key is having mentors with some experience in witnessing. They surely don’t have to be experts, but they need to have some practical experience. 

The other key is supplying sufficient resources. In our case, we created an entire website with resources dedicated to witnessing to Mormon missionaries. Many resources would work in a congregational setting. 

You can imagine that many people are pretty nervous as they begin witnessing to Mormon missionaries. This is especially true because we tell people not to wait until the missionaries knock on their door. Instead, we have them contact the Mormon church and request a visit by the missionaries. This means a mentor frequently needs to do a lot of encouraging just to have people take that first step of requesting a visit. 

In addition, most people, in the beginning, need detailed instructions. What to expect when the missionaries come, what to talk about, and how to begin establishing a relationship with them are all questions people have. So the second thing a mentor does is remove many of the unknowns. The mentor explains what points the missionaries most likely will make and how people can respond. We even go so far as to talk about such things as where you want the missionaries to sit, what Bible translation to use, how to address them, etc. The more specific the instructions, the more a person’s nerves are calmed. 

After the first visit, the mentor continues to talk with the witnesses. The mentor asks them to send a written summary of the meeting. This is a tremendous help when they chat again by phone or video-conference. The mentor can ask questions for clarification and discuss any questions they might have. After they have reviewed the previous meeting, they then plan the witness for the next meeting. Often the mentor can point witnesses to a specific article on the website detailing how to use a specific passage and approach. The mentor ends the call with a prayer for both the mentee and the missionaries. 

It’s not difficult to see how this can work in a congregation—and how mentors will face many of the same obstacles. Mentors may first have to encourage people to witness and then give them detailed instructions how to witnessespecially in the beginning of the process. But it’s also easy to see how momentum and excitement can quickly spread throughout the congregation. 

Why does God leave people on earth after he brings them to faith? The Bible is pretty clear. Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are his ambassadors, proclaiming the tremendous news that eternal life is his gift to us through Jesus Christ. God keeps us on earth so we can go and make disciples of all nations. 

In this series we have looked at many different aspects of the wonderful mission Christ has entrusted to usEach aspect is important. Bur don’t shortchange the importance of building a support system for witnessing. It is well worth it to take the time and make the effort to give adequate support to each other as we share the good news. 

May God richly bless you as you serve as his ambassadors. 

 


Mark Cares, president of Truth in Love Ministry, is a member at Messiah, Nampa, Idaho. 


This is the finalarticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.  


Learn more about Truth in Love Ministry at tilm.org.


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Author: Mark J. Cares 
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?

What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like? 

James F. Pope

While Scripture provides the definitive answer, I also will be passing along excerpts—in quotation marks—from wives who gave me real-world insights. These wives had ties to courses I taught at Martin Luther College last summer. 

Biblical perspective 

“I don’t really think of myself as submissive’ because today’s society puts a bad spin on being submissive. I like to think of myself as a ‘suitable helper.’ I need to support my husband as the Christian leader of our family.”  

To many people today, “submissive” means “a willingness to be controlled by other people” (The Cambridge Dictionary). Many view any form of submissiveness in strictly negative sense that pits one person in authority against another who merely yields to the authoritarian. 

That is not the Bible’s meaning of submissiveness. When the Bible instructs Christian women to “submit yourselves to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22), there is a context that removes anything that might be demeaning, degrading, or insulting to women. That instruction follows this command that God gave to Christian men and women: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Also, Christian women are to “submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22,24). How the Christian church submits to Christ is the pattern for Christian women interacting with their husbands  

Practical perspectives 

Christian wives explained what that pattern looks like in their marriages:  

  • “Look for ways to encourage your husband, in private and in public, and build him up.” 
  • “A submissive wife in a Christian marriage is a supportive wife.You work together with your spouse, and respect and support him in your marriage.”  
  • “Within a Christian marriage, a wife freely expresses her thoughts, trusting her husband’s response will lovingly support her and look out after her best interests.” 
  • “A Christian wife happily submits to her Christian husband because she knows every decision he makes will be done selflessly for her happiness and the good of their marriage.”

Final perspectives 

To provide balance, I also asked husbands who were on campus for courses last summer for their responses to your question:  

  • “She serves the Lord before she serves me.” 
  • “Because people are different,that submission on the part of wives will look different from one marriage to another.”  
  • “1 Corinthians 13 describes the kind of love husbands are to have for their wives.” 

That last comment puts the instruction of wives submitting to their husbands in the proper context. While wives are to submit to their husbands “as the church submits to Christ” (Ephesians 5:24), husbands are to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Just as Christ is the pattern for a wife’s relationship to her husband, so Christ is the pattern for the husband’s relationship with his wife. Husbands are to love their wives with self-sacrificial love. It is to a loving leader (Ephesians 5:33) that a Christian wife submits.  

A wife like that said: Although my sinful pride can get in the way at times, it is not hard to agree with the authority of my husband as he demonstrates love for me in everyday life.” That wife describes Christian submission and Christian love well.  


Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.


James Pope also answers questions online at wels.net/questions. Submit your questions there or to fic@wels.net.


 

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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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The Book of Revelation: Part 11

Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 21 to 22:5

Timothy J. Westendorf 

Blessed with milk and honey. A sight that refreshes. Full of unknown joy. Radiant in glory. Bliss beyond compare. Jubilant with song. Bright with angels. Serene daylight. Rich, green pasture.  

Wow! That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Those are some of the words and phrases used by 12th-century monk Bernard of Cluny in his hymn Jerusalem the Golden to describe the eternal home of rest that awaits God’s redeemed children. His words are extremely comforting and encouraging for the church militant, which is so often weary and oppressed in this world. The words seem to be drawn, at least in part, from Revelation 2122:5. 

New heaven and earth 

After writing of the final judgment of Satan and the world, John witnesses a breathtaking and glorious scene. He sees a new heaven and a new earth in place of the familiar ones.  

We are not given details about how this will happen and what, exactly, this new heaven and earth will look like. However, there are some important things to note. God himself is there, dwelling with his people in the most complete and permanent way. Sin and its effects are gone. Sighing, crying, and dying are things of the past and not found there. This new home with all the peace and plenty is a free gift, given as an inheritance by the Lord to his believing and victorious children in Christ.  

New Jerusalem 

John sees something else (v. 2). It is the Holy City, the new Jerusalem.  

What, or more to the point, who is the new Jerusalem? While it is quite natural to equate Jerusalem with a place where the saints dwell, a careful reading of this chapter (and Galatians 4:21-31) indicates that the new Jerusalem is a name for the saints themselves. It’s personal.  

This is especially evident when that Holy City is referred to as the Lamb’s beautifully dressed bride in several placesWedding and marriage imagery are used to describe the Lord’s covenant people in both the Old and New Testaments. The repeated use of the number 12 (symbolizing all believers in Christ) and its multiples is another indication that here John sees the church triumphant. Her sparkling and stunning beauty is given to her by God himself through her relationship with Jesus. The Lord is fully and constantly present with his people there. They have no need for a special place of worship (temple) or any outside sources of light (sun, moon, lamps). His special and intimate presence in the city makes the whole place one of worship and light. Those who dwell there are completely safe and secure. No enemies can ever enter.  

The vision continues into the next chapter with a scene that reminds us of the Garden of Eden. Paradise is fully and wonderfully restored. God is the fountain of life and source of light for his people. They are able to see him clearly and serve him fully. They live and reign with him forevermore. It’s the way it’s supposed to be—the way it will one day be.  


Reflect on Revelation chapter 20 

  1. How might you use this section to encourage a Christian friend who is struggling in the fight of faith?

    When we face the struggles of life and the challenges to live as faithful believers, we often grow weary and may wish to give up. In those times we are encouraged to look up and ahead. Jesus promises no more death, crying, mourning, or pain. All our troubles are gone; “the old order of things has passed away. When we look up through the eyes God grants us in this prophecy, we see splendor, beauty, light, and glory for those “whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Here we see trouble, ugliness, darkness, human sin, and corruption, but there . . .. Remain faithful to the Lord Jesus.

  2. How will focusing on your identity in Christ (his beautiful bride, the new Jerusalem, the Holy City) help in your daily Christian living?

    Believers are different. We are children of God destined for eternal life. Daily we focus on our Lord and Savior, and we live for him and for others. We follow the Lord’s will in this life because we belong to him, even though we endure hardships, weariness, and doubts.  

    After telling the Corinthians about the glorious resurrection of Jesus and its meaning for his people, Paul concludes, “Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Keep in mind what God reveals for all his faithful people in Revelation 21.  


Contributing editor Timothy Westendorf is pastor at Abiding Word, Highlands Ranch, Colorado.


This is the eleventh article in as 12-part series on the book of Revelation. Find the article and answers online after Oct.5.


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Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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The Lord, our shield

Glenn L. Schwanke

August 15–17, 1969. Woodstock. Over a half million people flocked to Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in upstate New York. There they rocked to Joan Baez; the Grateful Dead; Janis Joplin; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; and many more. Jimmy Hendrix’ electrifying guitar work wrapped up the event.

But Woodstock is remembered more for the shocking scenes captured in a 1970 Academy Award-winning documentary: sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. The three-day event became little more than a warped respite from the violent protests that were sweeping our nation—protests demanding an end to the war in Vietnam and unfair treatment of blacks as well as demanding full equality for women.

Many of the most violent protests were on college campuses. On May 15, 1969, at the University of California, Berkley, police and 2,700 National Guard troops used tear gas and shotguns in an effort to control the rioters. Then came May 4, 1970. Kent State. Four students were killed and another nine were injured while protesting the bombing of Cambodia by US forces.

Our nation was ripping apart. Yet, in the midst of this chaos, something incredible took place at Michigan Technological University (MTU).

At the beginning of the 1969 fall semester, a Michigan Tech freshman, Martin Jones of Woodruff, Wisconsin, reached out to Dr. J. Michael Skaates, a faculty member at Tech. Jones did not want to organize a protest but rather to get a group started for Bible study and worship. Jones knew that Dr. Skaates was a member of the National Church in Calumet and that Skaates had connections with the Wisconsin Synod.

Jones and Skaates received permission to check the religious preference cards on file in the Dean of Students’ Office. They identified 12 students as Wisconsin Synod members. Then they contacted and invited those students to an initial meeting on Oct. 14, 1969. Seven students came and arranged to meet regularly for Bible study. They organized as a chapter of “Lutheran Collegians,” the national WELS Student organization. Several months later, the Michigan Tech Dean of Students granted a charter to the group recognizing them as a student organization.

In the fledgling years of this campus ministry, communion services were held once a month in a Seventh-day Adventist building in Houghton. On other Sundays, students took a taxi up to Calumet for worship. Later, communion services were conducted in the front room of the Baptist Student Center in Houghton. By 1973, weekly worship

services were held on Sunday evenings at the Christian Science Building. Then on Dec. 3, 1978, the first worship service was held at the University Chapel, the campus ministry’s new home thanks to the efforts of the WELS General Board for Home Missions.

So much has changed since then! Yet, just like 1969, 2019 is rocked by protests in our nation. Today’s protests are over migrant issues, border protection, gender identity, or anger over “white privilege.” Our college campuses remain tinderboxes where issues explode, catching students in the cross-fire.

Thank God we still have campus ministries to serve students living through these turbulent times! Here in Houghton, we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary with the theme, “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage.” We’ll have special services on Sept. 1, 2019; Oct. 27, 2019; and Feb. 9, 2020. We’d love to have you join us!

Whether you join us or not, please keep praying for WELS Campus Ministry, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Perhaps your prayer can mirror mine. “Father, steel Christians on campus with a faith that joyfully shouts David’s confession. ‘This God—his way is blameless. The speech of the LORD is pure. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him’ ” (Psalm 18:30 Evangelical Heritage Version).


Contributing editor Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, also serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.


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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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A summer of faith, fellowship and fun

This summer, WELS members have been blessed with countless opportunities to connect with others in fellowship and faithEnjoy these photos and takeaways from some of the synod’s biggest summertime events!


WELS EdTechLead SummitJune 25-27 

About the event: 

The WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit (EdTechLead) brought more than 400 teachers, pastors, and other synod leaders together at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., to explore ministry tools, techniques, and best practices. 

A unique moment: 

John McHugh, director of Corporate Communications, Leadership, Development, and Training at Kwik Trip, Inc., La Crosse, Wis., was the EdTechLead keynote speaker on June 26. He encouraged attendees to promote and participate in a mission-driven culture at their organization. 

An attendee’s thoughts: 

I think at times you can work within your little bubble, just teaching a certain subject or working at a certain school. Here you can meet others in related fields. By learning from their experiences, you can implement what they’re doing. You can share your own stories as well.”Mr. Dan Albrecht, teacher at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Jackson, Wis. 

Learn more at welsedtechlead.com.


Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society conventionJune 27-30 

About the event: 

The Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) welcomed nearly 950 attendees from 821 WELS congregations to Des Moines, Iowa, to praise God and show their support for WELS mission work. 

A unique moment: 

Pastor Titus Tse and members of the Southeast Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) traveled from Hong Kong to join Rob Siirila of Asia Lutheran Seminary onstage for a special keynote presentation. 

A first-time attendee’s thoughts:

“It was so exciting to see all of the amazing things happening at home and around the world. The fellowship and support are so encouragingI can’t wait to go back to my home congregation to share what our synod is doing around the world and hopefully encourage even more outreach into our community.”Betty Schwede 

Learn more at lwms.org.


WELS Night at Miller ParkJuly 12 

About the event: 

More than 2,400 WELS members enjoyed a beautiful summer evening of baseball and fellowship at the sixth annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Despite the Brewers’ loss to the San Francisco Giants, WELS members were able to have plenty of fun taking part in the festivities. WELS First Vice President Jim Huebner threw out the ceremonial first pitch, while eight-year-old Addison Bauer, from Good News, Mt. Horeb, Wis., was chosen as a junior announcer. 

A unique moment: 

Recent Wisconsin Lutheran High School graduate Fernanda Rocha led over 41,000 people at the game in singing the national anthem. 

A leader’s thoughts: 

The hundreds of WELS members wearing their bright blue WELS shirts really stood out in the near-capacity crowd, and it was great to greet them as I passed them in the concourse. Many of them suggested dates for me to consider when I schedule next year’s seventh annual WELS Night event.”— Lee Hitter, WELS communications director 

Find videos and photos at wels.net/wels-night-a-hit/


Taste of MissionsJuly 13 

About the event: 

WELS Missions hosted more than 400 people at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., for the first Taste of Missions event. At the gathering, attendees enjoyed connecting with missionaries, sampling international foods, and participating in a special worship service. 

A unique moment: 

Three new world missionaries—Bounkeo Lor, Abram Degner, and Dan Witte—were commissioned during the worship service. 

A leader’s thoughts: 

“God’s people walked away feeling ignited for the mission work that’s taking place both in the United States and around the world! I felt that the atmosphere was electric from the start and just kept building.”Sean Young, director of WELS Missions Operations 

Learn more at wels.net/missions.


Women’s Ministry ConferenceJuly 18-20 

About the event: 

More than 300 WELS women from 17 different states gathered at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., for the Women’s Ministry Conference. The event’s theme—“Living Stones: Positioned to Thrive”—explores God’s design and purpose for Christian women. A dozen breakout sessions and four keynote addresses discussed additional topics such as teamwork, evangelism, family, and more. 

A unique moment: 

Jenna Keller, Kayla Priebe, and Delaney Leffel hosted a panel to discuss witnessing for Christ and encouraging Christian leadership on secular college campuses. As recent college graduates or as current students, they were able to share unique anecdotes and insights about their challenges and successes. 

An attendee’s thoughts: 

“I loved everything about the conference. It was an emotional experience for me and gave me insight into my personal gifts. I never realized I had any before this.”Anonymous 

Learn more at wels.net/womens-ministry. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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