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Confessions of faith: Mount

A man’s “before and after” spur him on to become a pastor and share the message of salvation. 

Julie K. Wietzke 

Nick Mount, a new pastor serving in Nebraska, loves to tell people about Jesus. 

Maybe that doesn’t surprise you. I mean, what pastor doesn’t love to share the good news of salvation? 

But Nick has a unique perspective: He didn’t always have faith. 

“Members say, ‘He’s so enthusiastic,’ says Diana Mount, Nick’s wife. “I say, ‘Of course he is. It’s because he has a before and an after.’ ” 

Nick adds, “I know what it’s like to be without faith, and I know how scary that can be.” 

But he also knows the peace and joy that came from learning about God’s undeserved love for sinners. And that’s a message he wants to share with everyone. 

“Something missing” 

Although he was baptized as a baby in the Lutheran church, Nick didn’t grow up going to church. His parents divorced when he was eight months old, and he lived with his mother. “My mom’s side of the family was Catholic, and there was no emphasis on going to church,” he says.  

Although his dad would take him and his brothers to worship and Sunday school when they visited, for the most part Nick grew up in a household where God’s Word wasn’t present. “My mother’s side of the family had a bigger influence on me because I lived with my mom,” he says. 

When Nick graduated from high school, he joined the military. After serving for five years, including two tours of duty overseas, he returned to Wisconsin where he grew up. 

Nick decided to live with his father and go back to college, but it was a struggle for him to acclimate to civilian life. “I remember feeling lonely and disconnected from the community. I was nearing depression,” he says. “The whole time there was always something missing.” 

His father continued to share God’s Word with him over the next two years, but Nick wasn’t quite ready to believe it. “Going to church wasn’t something that I was hostile to, but it wasn’t something I did,” he says. “Things were starting to make sense, but I didn’t know what to do with my life. I didn’t know what to do with my sin. I kept thinking, I’m a mess. What am I going to do about this?  

Finally, not knowing what else to do, he started praying. 

A captive audience” 

A few weeks later, Nick was out celebrating the end of the school year with his friends. As they were driving to a party, he was having an intense conversation with the driver about the existence of God. “Just as I was saying, ‘No, there has to be a God,’ right at that moment, we were hit by a drunk driver—a head-on collision,” he says. 

Nicholas woke up in the emergency room, not knowing what had happened. He had broken his tibia and fibula and had hit his head on the windshield. His dad nursed him back to health, the whole time sharing God’s Word with him. “I was a captive audience,” Nick jokes. 

But God worked through the Word, and Nick started going to church and Bible instruction class. 

“I had to be thrust back into the kingdom,” he says. “Ever since the car accident my life just went in a completely different trajectory. I can’t completely express what happened.” 

He continues, “You look back at the terrible things that happen in life and you realize that they can be the greatest blessings because my life completely changed at that point.” 

Besides going to church, he started getting involved at the Point of Grace, a WELS campus ministry for Milwaukee-area college studentsThere he met other believers—including his wife, Diana. “I look back and see how faithful God is,” he says. “The people I hung out with prior to the accident for the most part weren’t believers at all. But God just kept bringing people into my life who were believers so I was being nurtured.” 

“God’s grace” 

At that time, Nick still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. After he and Diana married in 2006, he even mentioned going to Martin Luther College to study for the ministry. But the couple dismissed the idea, and Nicolas finally decided to become a speech therapist. He began pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. 

But that path left him dissatisfied—especially in light of his newfound faith. “I wanted to help people [as a speech therapist], but [I felt] if I can’t tell them about Jesusam I really helping them?” he says. He began witnessing to people he met at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he worked as a security guard in the evenings. “Nick would look for every opportunity to share Jesus,” says Diana. “He would spend his shifts witnessing to people. I think that was his training ground.” 

Finally in 2012, Nick dropped out of his master’s program and again began talking about becoming a pastor. Things fell into place, and the couple decided to take a leap of faith and move their young family first to New Ulm and then to Milwaukee so Nick could study for the ministry. “We knew if we didn’t do this now, we would never do it,” says Diana. “Those six years were hard, but the Lord supplied all our needs.” Nick graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 2018. 

The Mounts are quick to thank all those who helped them along the way. “We would not be able to do this if we would not have had support from countless Christians, countless WELS members, people we met along the way and people we never knew,” says Diana. “We didn’t have to ask for anything; it’s just God using people to provide for us.” That support came through prayers, encouragement, and monetary gifts. 

Nick noticed that same community years ago when he first was coming to faith. “It wasn’t just one person; it was a patchwork of people helping me and sharing God’s Word with me,” he says. 

He says that support—and also his varied life experiences—helped prepare him for the ministry. “I’ve been prepared from so many different places in my life,” says Nicholas. The military gives you a lot of confidence to face the battle, but it doesn’t prepare you to deal with somebody as a loved child of God. I developed that compassion when working in the hospital. 

His firsthand knowledge of what it’s like living without faith also spurs him on to share God’s mercy and love with those who are struggling, including veterans. “These guys are coming out of the military with questions like, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ Or the guys in combat who think, Did I just murder somebody? . . . It’s so important to be there with God’s grace.” 

 That grace made an eternal difference in Nick’s life—a difference he is all too happy to share. 


Julie Wietzke is the managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine. 


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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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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Welcome Home: Part 2

A WELS member loves listening to the gospel regularly after coming back to church. 

Rachel Hartman 

Kristin Young grew up in Wisconsin and learned about Jesus at an early age. “I was in a WELS church since I was a baby,” she says.  

Hearing the old story  

In the mid-1990s, Kristin and her son Matthew joined St. Mark’sWatertown, Wis. Her son was confirmed there, and the two attended worship regularly for several years. As he grew older, however, Matthew stopped coming to church as consistently. “Like some young people, he fell away from the church,” notes Kristin. “He went through some rough times. I was still going to church and encouraging him to go as much as possible.” Despite her efforts, Kristin’s son didn’t return to the Lutheran church. 

As a young adult, Matthew began working at a restaurant in Watertown. While there, he became friends with a coworker who was associated with a Baptist church in the area. The friend invited Matthew to visit a Baptist service and see what it was like. Matthew accepted the invitation and soon after started attending services at the congregation. After getting to know the church, Matthew decided to join the Baptist congregation and asked Kristin to go there with him.  

“I started going to church with my son and discontinued going to St. Mark’s,” Kristin says. She didn’t always attend services at the Baptist church, as she worked night shifts as a nursing assistant at a nursing home in the area. “I would go to church when I could,” she says. “I never knew if that was the right decision in my heart.”  

A tragedy strikes  

During the next years, Matthew grew more involved with the local Baptist congregation. Kristin continued to go to church with her son when she could and watched him take on leadership roles. “He became very strong in the Baptist church and very strong religiously,” she says. “He went preaching in prisons in this area to the inmates.”  

In addition to taking on more duties at the Baptist church, Matthew continued working at a restaurant. At the age of 27, he appeared to be a healthy, active young adult. During the month of January 2014, he grew ill and suspected he had the flu or a cold. “It was more life threatening than he and I both thought,” Kristin says.  

Several days after developing flu-like symptoms, Matthew passed away. “He had a blood clot in his left lung that entered his heart, and he died from that,” says Kristin. “The autopsy revealed where the clot developed and how it developed.” Grief-stricken and heartbroken, Kristin decided not to pinpoint the exact cause of the blood clot. “I just left the death in God’s hands. This helped as I tried to find peace and acceptance with everything that happened.”  

A change of direction 

“After my son passed away, it wasn’t the same for me,” Kristin says of the Baptist congregation. She stopped attending. She then looked for a place where she could continue to learn and grow on a spiritual level. After time and thought, she decided to return to St. Mark’s. “I felt more comfortable at the WELS congregation setting, and I felt a strong need to come back to St. Mark’s. I was longing to get backI felt like a lost soul.” 

On her first Sunday back to St. Mark’s, the pastors welcomed her warmly. “Different members came up and said ‘Hello.’ The congregation had changed a little since I had been there, and there were some people whom I didn’t know. The ones I knew were happy that I came back to church, she says. 

Once she made the initial return to the Lutheran congregation, Kristin was satisfied with her direction. The pastors of the congregation asked her to take a Bible information class to review the teachings of the Bible. “We met every Tuesday and went through different parts of the Bible,” Kristin says. “If you’ve been a member of the church for a while, it’s like a refresher course.” 

Kristin appreciated going through the different highlights of the Bible and reviewing the story of Jesus. She enjoyed taking another look at Jesus’ death on the cross and how his resurrection brings victory for us over our sins. She started attending weekly worship as often as her work schedule would allow. The Bible information class ended, and she was reinstated as a member. After that, she started coming to a different Bible study during the week.  

Gaining peace at heart 

Reflecting on her start at the Lutheran church, shift to a different congregation, and eventual return to WELS, Kristin is content with her path. “I feel in my heart that I made the right move to come back,” she says. “I think it was God’s will and God’s direction. I have peace of mind knowing that I made the right decision.” 

Young had long sensed a spiritual need, which she traces back to her childhood. “I’ve always felt a strong desire to be near God. I’ve always had a strong spiritual side since I’ve been a little girl, especially in the past few years. Losing my sonthe only thing I can say that has helped me gain the acceptance of the death and go on through my life is the strength that God has given me through the Holy Spirit. For household decisions and life decisions, I always lean on God.” 

Even though the congregation has around three thousand members, Kristin has made personal connections during her time there and feels a sense of community. “It’s a very close-knit group,” she says. “It’s nice to know that I truly belong. 

She also notes the spiritual concern the ministers show for the people they serve. “I’ve known some of the pastors here for a long time, and they care about their members,” she says. “Even though there are many people, they all know how to address the needs of the congregation and how to address everyone’s individual needs.  

Kristin continues to look forward to the Bible-based teachings, which focus on Jesus’ forgiveness and promise of eternal life in heaven with God. She will often send an e-mail or note to the pastors, referencing a message in a sermon that was especially meaningful to her or expressing her appreciation for the preaching of the gospel. 

To those who attended a WELS church at one time but no longer come, it’s worth taking the time to attend a service at a Lutheran congregation in your area, Kristin says. “If you’re uncertain, just talk to one of the pastors and say you’re thinking about coming back. Always pray, and God will lead you in the right direction. I’m so glad I made the switch.”  

And if you know someone who was once regularly present in a Lutheran congregation but now is not, consider reaching out to them. “Never tire of inviting back your family and friends who wander, says Karl Walther, pastor at St. Mark’s. “You might catch them at the right time.”  


Rachel Hartman is a member at Divine Savior, Doral, Florida. 


This is the second article in a three-part series on welcoming straying members back to church. 

 


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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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 most blessed freedom

Of all the freedoms we have, religious liberty is the one we cherish the most. 

Richard E. Lauersdorf 

She was crying. As she stood there in the row of communicants, Grandma Rebase was crying.  

A freedom to cherish 

The Russians, when their tanks had rumbled into Estonia, closed most of the churches. Even if Grandma Rebase had been able to attend one, her life would have been in danger. She was a high school teacher and as such was not allowed to pollute minds with religion.  

When she reached the age of 65 in 1965, the authorities allowed her to emigrate to Canada to join her daughter. She also joined our little mission congregation in Sault Ste. Marie. There at Our Saviour’s she was privileged to receive the Lord’s body and blood again after so many years. She didn’t miss a Communion service after that unless she was ill. To say that her newfound Christian freedom was precious to her would be an understatement. 

A most important freedom 

We can travel from sea to shining sea without once stopping at a checkpoint or showing a passport. We can work at whatever occupation we desire and use our paycheck, at least some of it, for our own desires. We can live in whatever part of the country we likewhether hot, cold, or inbetweenand move if we change our minds. We can speak our minds freely, even at times in criticism of our government, though always respectfully. And we can believe and worship whom, what, where, and how we desire.  

Of all those blessed freedoms, isn’t that last one—that freedom of religion—the one we cherish the most? 

The founders of the United States and of Canada wisely recognized how important the freedom of religion is. In the U.S., when they added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, their very First Amendment stated, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This important amendment forbids the government from establishing, preferring, prohibiting, or funding religion of any kind. It also protects citizens and institutions from governmental interference with the exercise of their religious beliefs.  

How to cherish this freedom 

The experts who do the counting tell us that Christians are oppressed in at least 60 countries. Nor is the demon from hell leaving our nations alone. The black clouds of atheism, skepticism, and intolerance are hovering over our land and trying their best to flood away our freedom.  

What’s the answer? Isn’t it to cherish the religious liberty we have? 

“LORD, I love the house where you live,” declared the psalmist (26:8). Is that also our reaction? Do we look forward to slipping into our familiar church bench on the weekend to have our soul refreshed and our strength renewed? 

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly,” Paul urged (Colossians 3:16). We don’t have to sneak away to some remote corner of our basement or hide our Bibles and devotional books. 

“Bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord,” Paul commanded (Ephesians 6:4). Gladly, sacrificially, freely we seek to use any means we can to bring and keep our children in the Savior’s arms. 

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” the Savior commissioned us (Mark 16:15). Lifting high the cross, we reach for sinners among us, around us, and far away from us. 

No one had to tell Grandma Rebase to cherish and use the religious liberty she had in her new home. How about us? Do we need to be reminded? 

 


Richard Lauersdorf is pastor at Good Shepherd, West Bend, Wisconsin.  


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Author: Richard E. Lauersdorf  
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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 8

Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 15 & 16

Timothy J. Westendorf 

Often in Revelation the seventh in a series serves as a springboard into a new seriesAfter the seven seals, we read about the angels with seven trumpets (8:1,2) and the seven trumpets bring us to the seven last plagues (15:1).   

Seven angels in heaven 

Chapter 15 brings John and his readers to a familiar place. It is God’s throne room While the place is the same as we saw in chapters 4 and 5, the mood is decidedly different. The Lord still reigns. The sea is still glassy. The faithful believers are still victorious. The redeemed are still singing praisesBut seven of God’s pure and holy angels are carrying the “last plagues.” They are then given “seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God” (15:7) by one of the four living creatureshigh-ranking angel 

God’s judgment is not an easy topic to talk about, even for believers. But God speaks about it plainly and often as a reminder and a warning. All those who cling by faith to Christ and his righteousness are spared from the wrath of God. By faith we hold on to God’s amazing gospel truth, that his justice was already satisfied by this world’s perfect Savior from sin! Those who fall under God’s judgment have only themselves to blame for stubbornly refusing the saving truth of the gospelBy faith, we are free from God’s wrath, but we also trust that his judgments are just and true for those who reject him.   

Seven bowls on the earth 

A loud and commanding voice introduces chapter 16 with instructions to the seven angels to pour out their bowls on the earth. There is a striking similarity between the vision of the seven bowls and the seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11). If you lay them alongside each other it is difficult to miss the parallel thoughts and themes. The latter seems to be a repetition and intensification of the earlier vision’s message.  

Recall that the trumpets point to the damage done to human hearts by the presence and preaching of false doctrine. Holding to such false teachings results in the further darkening of minds and obscuring of God’s truthhis law and gospelSatan and his allies work tirelessly to darken the counsel of God, depriving mankind of the one thing needful. Finally, God, in judgment, allows people to have more and more of what they show they want—something other than the gospel 

As this world draws to a close, we’ll expect to see God’s truth neglected and rejected. It will seem like the dragon and the two beasts are in total control. They’ll be allowed to inspire and orchestrate the gathering of evil forces to attempt a complete obliteration of God’s church. But the day of their choosing turns out to be the Lord’s day. And then the end comes, and the world is judged.  

Let fearful and anxious hearts find true comfort and calm in none other than Christ Jesus, who redeemed us and rules over all things for the good of his church!  


Reflect on Revelation chapters 15-16 

1. Read Matthew 24:22-25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. To whom does God send delusions? Explain why.  

2. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4.  

a. Create a list of things you can do to carry out Paul’s charge in verse 2. 

b. What kinds of false doctrine appeal to “itching ears”? List three.


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


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


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Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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 6

Meditating on God’s Word  

Jeffrey D. Enderle 

I’m a list person. I have to write things down or else I’ll completely forget about them. So I make check lists. Whatever has to get done goes on the list. And then there’s a sense of satisfaction in accomplishing important things.  

Checking it off the list 

Christians understand the value of God’s Word. If there is one to-do most of us have in common, it’s to spend more time in God’s Word.  

Here’s the problem with putting personal Bible study and prayer on a list. It develops into something I am supposed to do, but might not. Something I should do, but probably won’t. It can even become something I feel like I have to do.  

And what happens once I’ve checked off my devotion time? Move on to the next task? Progress to the next project?  

That’s a very different sense than what’s expressed in Psalm 1. Instead of obligation to be in God’s Word, we hear eagerness. Instead of getting through God’s Word and then moving on, the psalmist encourages us to spend time in God’s Word. To savor it. To enjoy it.  

So much depends on our attitude toward the things we do every day. Your morning cup of coffee can be something you slug down to fuel your day. Or it can be something you sip and savor as you take time out from the chaos of your day. Your favorite novel or TV show can be something you consume and blast through to get to the end. Or you can relax and enjoy your escape as a good story transports you to a different time and place. You can wolf down that last slice of chocolate cake to make sure it doesn’t disappear. Or you can relish every bite, making sure not a crumb gets wasted.  

Savoring every word 

God gives you his Word to enjoy. The psalmist describes this attitude“Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night” (Psalm 1:2 Christian Standard Bible). Every bite-sized verse. Every chapter-length slice. 

You can savor it by asking yourself a series of questions from a section of Scripture just like you would when breaking news gets broadcast across your screen. What does it say? What does it mean? How does it affect me? What difference does it make in my world? How can I celebrate this good news? You can relish it by holding onto a simple verse or phrase from Scripture as you would a carefully crafted piece of art. You can turn it around and gaze at its beauty. You can enjoy it as you repeat the section of Scripture, rephrase it in your own words, or commit it to memory the way you would a catchy new song.  

Psalm 1 tells us God’s Word benefits our faith. God’s Word provides spiritual nutrients for souls withering and wilting under doubts and confusion. It changes us. God’s Word gives life when feelings of inadequacy crush us. It gives the refreshment of forgiveness when past sins resurface to torment us. God’s Word takes us back to the hope we have in Jesus. 

Before you check off devotion time, take time to enjoy your time in God’s Word and prayer. Let your mind marinate in God’s truth. Let it flavor and add seasoning to your life. Give opportunity for the Holy Spirit to get it into your heart so it affects how you feel about yourself, your relationships, and your world. Get into God’s Word and get satisfaction from the blessings God is giving you and the fruit he brings into your life. 


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


This is the sixth 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 7
Issue: July 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 should we handle it when people undermine our parenting decisions?

How should we handle it when people undermine our parenting decisions? 

I think that parenting is often like an ice cream sundae bar. No two people make exactly the same choices as they go through the line. That doesn’t mean that one person will criticize the choices of the other. One sundae is not right and the other wrong. They simply made different choices.  

Of course, this analogy breaks down when a parent knowingly disobeys God’s will, but in general, I believe that most Christian parents are trying to be the best parents they can be. God gives us some general guidelines for how to raise our children so they walk in his path, but much of what we do is a judgment call. We pray for guidance and that God will bless our decisions. Being criticized for those decisions can hurt. Our authors this month offer three viewpoints on how we can handle it when people undermine, question, or criticize our parenting decisions. 

Nicole Balza


You’ve decided not to give your children any sugar until age three. Your friends get it, but your parents—not so much: “Is this a millennial thing? You ate sugar when you were little, and you turned out all right.”  

You chuckle at the teasing, but you give a gentle reminder when you leave little Garrett with his grands one afternoon: “No sugar, remember?” 

Still, Grandma gave Garrett a sucker. Sugar on a stick. The telltale artificial coloring is still on his lips when you get back. Now what?  

You could blow up on the spot: “What did you do?”  

You could go all passive-aggressive: Say nothing and never ask the grands to babysit again.  

Or you could wait a couple days and then have a little talk, having the spouse whose parents did the deed take the lead. (If that spouse is afraid to stand up to Mom and Dad, you might have bigger problems than Garrett’s sugar intake.) 

Here’s one way this conversation could go.  

Set the scene: “Mom, Dad, can we talk about something a little difficult?” (This preemption gives your parents the chance to be noble, to be big. It also sounds serious—Do you have cancer? Were you fired?which makes the real topic almost a relief.)  

Say what happened: “Garrett ate a sucker at your house.” (A little gentler than “You gave Garrett a sucker.”) 

Explain how it made you feel: “That disappointed us so much. This sugar thing is important to us. It’s not the end of the world that he had a sucker. We’re not mad. But we want to go back to our no-sugar policy.”  

Make a request: “Can you back us up on this, even if you don’t really agree with it?” 

Notice what’s not happening in this conversation:  

  • You’re not attacking them: “How could you do this? You just don’t respect us.” 
  • You’re not patronizing them: “We realize you don’t know as much about sugar as we do.” 
  • You’re not arguing the policy: “We’re right about this. Sugar is bad.” 

You don’t need to convert them. It doesn’t matter whether they agree with your no-sugar rule or not. Because the real point is this: You’re the parents. God gave Garrett to you to train up in the way he should go (cf. Proverbs 22). While you’ll always honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12) and be open to suggestions—my parents gave me tons of excellent parenting advice, and so will yours—you’re allowed to determine your own parenting procedures.  

Chances are, at the end of your 30-second speech, they’ll agree to respect your wishes. Then you can quickly smooth the rough edges by offering a face-saver: “On another topic, do you think we have to be worried about Garrett’s rash?” Or maybe even wrap it up with a little comedy: “Glad that’s settled. Let’s all have some cake!”  


Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.  


Have you had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Please share your thoughts at forwardinchrist.net


My mother hardly spoke of it. But when she did, even in old age, hurt haunted its telling. 

On a Sunday morning, right after worship, Mom decided to visit her parents. I was in second grade. The next brother was in kindergarten, and the youngest was three. 

The Adams’ farm was our Disney World. It thrilled us with live acts starring chickens, dogs, pigs, and cows. Its mud and muck, ladders and lattices were playgrounds. Adventures always awaited in the barn, haymow, machine shed, and an assortment of outbuildings.  

But not on this day. Mom warned, “Do not leave the house. Do not get your good clothes dirty.” 

Of course, my kindergarten-age brother and I chafed under being tortured in my grandparents living room by adult conversation. When we realized that Mom was fully engaged with her parents, we tiptoed toward the door and eased into the backyard. 

We were escapees for only a few minutes. Transformation to ragamuffin doesn’t require longer. Our shoes were caked with mud. Our pants glowed with grass stains. Our white shirts had smears of something unspeakable. Mom’s voice shattered Adventureland. “James Allan! David Dean! Get in here this instant.” 

Punishment should have been swift and painful. But Grandpa stepped between Mom and us. “Fran,” he said, “you should have realized this would happen. If you didn’t want them to get their clothes dirty, you should have had them change.” 

An instant later we were on our way home. Grandpa saved us from the hurt of a spanking, but Mom experienced the hurt of feeling disrespected and shamed by her father. 

Mom’s story urges me to evaluate how well I show respect for my daughters’ parenting. My daughters are great parents. I admire their wisdom, commitment, and sacrifice. However, from time to time, I do feel I have advice to offer. Then I struggle with choosing counsel over silence. I know my Savior’s advice about “speaking the truth in love” and saying “what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:15,29). Gratitude for his grace prompts me to honor his words, but applying his advice is challenging. 

Several questions help with that challenge. 

  • Is there a risk of significant harm? (By the way, I’ve never answered that question with yes.)
  • Is this the right time and the right situation for sharing my “wisdom”?
  • How can I give advice in a gentle way that shows love and respect? 
  • Have I put the best construction on the situation? Do I understand the backstory?
  • Have I asked, “Is there a way I can help?” 
  • Is this a difference in parenting styles or is this a parenting problem?
  • Have I taken my emotional pulse? 
  • Have I asked Jesus for advice? Have I talked this over with my wife?

Now it’s your turn. Parents and grandparents, have a conversation. 


James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren. 


“You sure make parenting hard!”  

That’s the statement I heard from another parent as I finished explaining to my young child that we were running to the grocery store. My child didn’t want to stop playing, but we needed to go. My friend insisted that a child should not have to do something he didn’t want to do if it wasn’t fun for him. I calmly replied that a quick run for milk was just one of those things we sometimes do as part of a family. No surprise that as we were walking to the car, my son screamed, “You’re not a fun mommy!” Wow. Pop that aspiration! 

This was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that my parenting would be undermined. While the circumstances were not terribly important, the principles were. I have seen firsthand that sticking to principles in the early years has payoffs in the later years. It was important for my son to hear and learn some important lessons.  

He needed to know that how other people’s families run was not his concern. He did not need to hear his mother pass judgment on someone else’s parenting. Whatever I may have thought privately was not the business or worry of children. As a classroom teacher, it was often evident when children heard gossip from their parents’ lips. What my children needed to know were the rules for our family and our house. Other kids’ parents were quite often more fun and less strict than my husband and I were. Entering a parenting popularity contest ensures somebody is going to win at the cost of somebody else losing. 

Dealing with contrary forces outside our home was at times difficult as well. Many times we found no need to address the undermining with our children because our stance was clear and consistent. Our children were smart enough not to waste their breath. Sometimes we did find it necessary to affirm our rules to other adults in light of their questions or actions. We tried to point out what we did without becoming defensive or critical. Again, our concern was with our own family, not theirs. On occasion, it was made clear that the house rules of another family were in direct or dangerous conflict with ours. This passive form of undermining sometimes resulted in limiting exposure to these homes or children. It meant opening our home to social interaction with our children’s friends. This had the unintended reward of getting to know and love our children’s community.  

People are more receptive with your parenting choices when you show love, especially to their children. When we were asked why our children got along or why they were respectful, the door was open for a joyful testimony to the goodness of God’s love and forgiveness. 


Mary Clemons lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Sam. They have three children and seven grandchildren.  


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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 3

Quarrels and hatred come so naturally from our sinful nature. Yet our patience comes from Jesus. 

John A. Braun 

On our Christian journey to heaven, signs often point us to paths that lead away from our destination. Paul identifies one of those signs as hatred and discord. We don’t even need this sign to beckon us to these acts of the flesh. They arise quickly within our sinful hearts and burst from our mouths with bitter venom. Without much coaxing, so often we cause heartache and cripple positive action even among our fellow believers in Christ. 

Acts of the flesh: Hatred and discord 

Arguments arise at all levels and in all kinds of ways. Sometimes those arguments are over silly and unimportant issues. The neighbor’s dog leaves a deposit on your lawn, and you step in it when you’re mowing. You get angry, and the words that tumble out of your mouth make your neighbor angry. It doesn’t take long for you to be on the road to discord and quarreling. Husband and wife easily turn down the road, and so do parents and children. 

It happens in neighborhoods. It happens in families. We are frustrated or hurt by what someone says or does. A little further down the road something else happens to fuel the tension. Soon we have turned down the road where hatred awaits. Hostility and enmity characterize conversation and action. A couple more steps and we are off the Christian way and building a hate wall. 

Sometimes the turn from the Christian way seems so natural. Our prejudices and thinking contribute to building the wall. We know we are not “one of them.” It seems natural to call different ethnic groups by offensive names, and they in turn label our ethnic origins in demeaning ways. The road of discord and hatred includes waysides were like-minded people stop and feed on the racial hatred of each other. 

And racial hatred has a twin—ideological hatred. Both are born from a human heart that has turned away from the Christian way. We hate Democrats. We hate Republicans. We hate this politician and his or her supporters of the policy or personality we detest. Yes, we can disagree about differences on any subject, but the human heart is a perverse thing. Actions of the flesh all too often play out in destructive rhetoric that destroys peace and hardens the discordeven turning it into hate. If there is any doubt, surf social media and read the vicious attacks on all sides of almost any issue. 

Name calling and disruptive actions that flow from hatred of others are not part of the Christian way, and they destroy neighborhoods, families, friendshipsand society in general. Jesus suggests, “Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. . . . Anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22).  

We should not be surprised that hatred, enmity, discord, and antagonism are so easy to find in our own hearts. We know the Christian way, but we also still have our sinful flesh. We know better, but we quarrel, and words hurt. Paul knew his own sinful heart and ours: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). It’s a short trip from disagreement to enmity, hatred, and malice. It happens in the congregations of Christians too. Arguments create a stew that can bubble and boil over to set members against members. Paul reminded the Galatians “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:15).  

In this discussion, we should remember that God allows us to hate only one thing—whatever opposes his grace and mercy in Christ. We hate such evil with God’s blessing, but we do not have his approval to inflict harm on others who do not share our beliefs. We are reminded not to turn the other cheek and speak the truth in love. Peter advises, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing.” He continues by reminding us that we are to share our faith with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:9,15).  

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience 

One sign calls us back to the Christian way. In large letters it says, “Patience.” Yet in the heat of arguments and disagreements, the sign is difficult to see. Our first reaction to verbal attacks is to raise our voice and retaliate. We forget that we are children of God who know his love. Because we are redeemed and forgiven by a Savior who has shed his blood for us, we can stop, remember our Savior, repent, and be patient with others. It is not easy, but the love of God for us unworthy, wayward, and rebellious sinners can soften our attitude toward others.  

We are told to stop, drop, and roll when our clothes are on fire. Good advice! It’s good advice also when we are on fire with hatred and discord. Stop! Drop to your knees and roll yourself in the forgiveness and love of Jesus. Then stand up as a child of God and be patient.  

The word Paul used for this fruit of the Spirit could also be translated as “forbearance” or “long-suffering.” Those two words are helpful. In the malice and anger that are directed at us, we can find the strength in Jesus to hold back, forbear, and be patient in spite of provocation. Longsuffering is similar. Endure whatever personal attack you experience—suffer the insult quietly, and do not be quick to retaliate.  

How can we do this? Remember Jesus who has endured our sins and paid the penalty for our anger, harsh words, and malice. In spite of our sins, he went to the cross to claim us as his children. Think of what that means. His perfect example of patience in the face of discord has achieved the good our sinful flesh lacks. He did what we could not do. His righteousness covers our unrighteousness.  

And yet there is more. He wants us to be like him here in this life and has given us a perfect example to follow. Think of Jesus responding to the Pharisees who claimed that he had supernatural power from the devil (Luke 11:14-28). Think of Jesus before the high priest and before the crowds that called for his death. Think of Jesus standing before Pilate. He quietly endured and is a perfect example of longsuffering, forbearance, and patience. Like him we are to be peacemakers and not agents of hatred in this world of discord, quarrels, and enmity 

When we walk along his way, he knows that our steps will not be steady and resolute. We stumble and fall. It’s an ongoing struggle to avoid the quarrels that come so naturally from our sinful nature. Yet he calls us back, encouraging us to repent and turn once again to the way that leads to the eternal home he has prepared for us. He seeks to renew our hearts and attitudes with his forgiveness and his example. 

 


John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


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


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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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 9

Responding to the knowitall  

Jonathan R. Hein 

The poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec once wrote, “The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all is the person who argues with him.” That aphorism contains two truths.  

Truth #1Confrontation is a poor tactic when dealing with know-it-alls. Psychologists explain that know-it-alls fall into two categories. Some have a sense of superioritygenuinely believing they know more than others. They will not listen to any argument, for they assume they already have all the pertinent information. Other know-it-alls have an underlying insecurity. If you confront themthey will perceive that as an attack upon their self-worth and dig in their heels. Arguing with either type of know-it-all is going to be ineffective. 

Truth #2When encountering know-it-alls, you want to argue. Perhaps it is because you find their smugness annoying. However, your inclination to argue is more likely because you believe know-it-alls are sharindangerous falsehoods as truth. Perhaps it is a college professor who claims that anyone who questions evolution has been misled by religious zealots into anti-scientific superstition. Perhaps it is a neighbor who, after reading a few books that question the historicity of Jesus, now explains how pointless church and prayer are. We want to quarrel with them because we love our Savior and his Word. Yet quarreling with them is ineffective  

So how do you deal with the knowitall? Here are some suggestions:  

Love the know-it-all deeply.  

It is easy to view the know-it-all as an enemy to be vanquished. Ask the Spirit to help you see him as a soul to be won.  

We think, But that know-it-all is such a jerk.” Look at him or her in a different way. When we come into this world, all of us were dead in our transgressions and sins—spiritual corpses (Ephesians 2:1). But without asking or deserving it, the God of grace intervened. He “made us alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). Were it not for the Spirit’s effort, you would be every bit as opposed to Christianity as the know-it-all. But God used someone to enable you to see the light. That person loved you enough to bring you to the font . . . to witness to you . . . to teach you ScriptureIt is your turn to show love. “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Being that light begins with loving the lost. The know-it-all is desperately lost and in need of love. 

Ask questions that probe why the know-it-all believes what he does.  

Some have compared an argument to a house. In this metaphor, what one believes is the roof. To be held up, that roof needs strong walls. In other words, one must have sound reasons why he believes, or eventually what he believes crumbles. So, ask the know-it-all questions about why he believes what he believes. 

Take that neighbor who read the book questioning whether Jesus was a historical figure. He says, “It is very scholarly. They guy who wrote it has his PhD!” You might respond, “Okay. But most history scholars say there is plenty of evidence that Jesus existed. Why do you value the opinion of this author more than other scholars?”  

Thtrue goal is to get the know-it-all to examine if the rationale for his beliefs is rooted in objective fact or personal desire. If Jesus is who he claimed to be, then the know-it-all is under Christ’s lordship. Therefore, his inclined to accept that author’s claims because he doesn’t want Jesus to exist. A followup question for your neighbor might be, Do you think you are being completely unbiased? Might there be a reason you don’t want Jesus to be a real person?” 

Help the know-it-all to see that Christians are reasonable.  

Some believe that being Christian means setting aside human reason. That is a gross misrepresentation. For Christians, Scripture is supreme. When Scripture says something that conflicts with reason, we simply acknowledge that we cannot grasp all of God’s works and ways. However, Christians still use reason.  

Take Jesus’ resurrection. We believe it is true because through the gospel the Holy Spirit created faith within us. However, in creating that faith, the Spirit addresses our God-given intellect. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:6St. Paul writes, “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brother and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Paul challenges those skeptical of Christ’s resurrection to consider the eyewitnesses. Ask the know-it-all, “Isn’t eyewitness testimony still something reasonable people value?” 

Or take one’s approach to science. I believe there are laws of nature. I also believe that God wrote those laws and is above them. Therefore, I am open to the supernatural. When scientific inquiry suggests that the universe is so orderly that it appears as though it were engineered, the unbeliever must find a natural explanation. So, he theorizes that there was time—billions of years—for the universe to come to exist only through natural means. When I look at the same evidence, I’m open to the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful Designer who created everything supernaturally. I am not anti-intellectual or close-minded. The unbeliever assumes everything came to be without God. I assume God created it. Both of us have assumptions about how to explain things. I’m willing to accept supernatural explanations, but the unbeliever rejects that explanation. I’m actually more open-minded than the unbeliever 

But we aren’t blind. We see everything the unbeliever does. We just interpret what we see differently. At death, the unbeliever sees a corpse. I see a sleeping Christian. The Spirit’s power is why I believe that. But the testimony of more than five hundred eyewitnesses tells me it is also reasonable to believe that.  

Tell the know-it-all what he does not know. 

You may have softened the know-it-all with your love. You have tried to help him understand that the way he views things is not entirely objective but flows from some personal assumptions. And your questions show that you aren’t some mindless zombie. You also think deeply about things. All these things give you the opportunity for conversation with the know-it-all, maybe even more than one.  

But none of this will win the know-it-all for Christ. Only the gospel is the power of God for salvation. So show the know-it-all Jesus. 

The know-it-all thinks he knows what God would be like, if there were such a being. He believes that God would be judgmental and controlling and if you were to fail him, there would be dire consequences. Like all of us, the know-it-all has a conscience. Failing God is a terrifying thought!  

As Christ’s ambassador, you get to tell the know-it-all, “Friend, you do not know God at all!” You get to tell him of a God who had no interest in exacting a pound of flesh but instead took on flesh so that he might also take our guilt, paying for it with divine blood. You get to tell him of a Creator who gave this ordered universe to all humans to enjoy and care for. You get to tell him that God’s Word is there not to control us but to set us free. Sharing this good news . . . that is the only hope for the know-it-all. 

Only a fool argues with the know-it-all. So don’t argue. Love. Question. But ultimately, proclaim the wonders our God has done.  

 


Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling, is a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin.


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


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? How did you respond to a know-it-all? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


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Author: Jonathan R. Hein
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 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: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20 in relation to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone?

Can you please explain Matthew 5:20 in relation to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone? I have always understood the doctrine of faith alone to mean that someone is not saved by their own righteousness but through their faith in Jesus. 

James F. Pope

Your understanding is correct. Examining Jesus’ words in context will verify that.  

Good 

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

To unsuspecting first-century Judean eyes, the Pharisees could have easily appeared to be paragons of virtue. They displayed a zealousness for God’s laws—and their own rules as well. While most Jews fasted a handful of days throughout the year, Pharisees boasted of fasting twice a week (Luke 18:12). While certain items were exempt from God’s commands to tithe, Pharisees made it a point to tithe everything (Luke 11:42; 18:12). Casual observers quickly could have concluded that the Pharisees were good people and model citizens. They appeared to be righteous to everyone. 

Better than good 

Jesus states that if people want to enter the kingdom of heaven, their righteousness needs to go beyond “that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.” On the surface, the Lord’s words appear to be saying that if people are to have any hope of salvation, they need to do more and be better people than the Pharisees. If that surface meaning is accurate, then the doctrine of salvation “by faith alone” would be in jeopardy. But digging deeper into Jesus’ words enables us to arrive at an accurate interpretation. 

Remember that Matthew 5:20 is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In that discourse, the Lord was not explaining what people needed to do to become his followers. The “congregation” listening to that sermon consisted of people whom the Holy Spirit had already brought to saving faith. He was teaching his disciples (Matthew 5:1,2) To these Christians Jesus spoke of the need to have a righteousness that surpassed the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Knowing what kind of righteousness those people possessed is critical to understanding Jesus’ words. 

Perfect in Jesus 

The “righteousness” of the Pharisees was their moral outward righteous behavior. They were not righteous in God’s eyes (John 15:5; Hebrews 11:6). So what would surpass their righteousness? The only righteousness that counts: the righteousness that comes from Jesus.  

Just a few sentences earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus came into the world to fulfill all the commandments of God perfectly. That is precisely what he did.  

He is “the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). Through faith in Jesus, his righteousness is credited to people who are joined to him in faith (Romans 4:22-25). God considers Christians righteous in his sight. In this way, our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, because we have the righteousness of Jesus by faith. So this verse harmonizes well with the doctrine of salvation through faith alone. 

Martin Luther described well the righteousness Christians enjoy through faith in Jesus: Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.”  

Because of Jesus’ righteousness, we have entered the kingdom of heaven. 


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 7
Issue: July 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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Our shelter in God’s shadow

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 

Daniel J. Habben 

I wonder how many natural disasters will strike the world this summer. How many hurricanes will blow through our communities? How many earthquakes? How many floods and fires?  

The approach of judgment day 

In 2016, Canada suffered its costliest disaster when a forest fire sped through Fort McMurray, Alberta, forcing the evacuation of every one of its 88,000 residents. I was living four hours south of Fort McMurray at the time, and many fire evacuees took shelter in and around my community. News about the Fort McMurray fire was front and center for months. It seemed to be the first thing that anyone talked about. We all knew people who had been directly affected.  

Every forest fire, every earthquake, every flood, and every tornado is a not-so-distant rumbling that signals the approach of judgment day. When that day comes, how many will “evacuate” successfully? Will you be among those who escape God’s righteous anger over sin? Surely, the coming of judgment day should be forefront in our minds, just as the news of a local forest fire would be.  

But is it? 

I find that the heat of mid-summer has a way of slowing me down. Projects and plans don’t seem quite as appealing as a little time on the porch with an ice-cold lemonade. Yes, summer often affords a break from the usual routine, an easing of the knot between your shoulders. But summer is not an excuse to let our guard down spiritually—to roll over on a Sunday morning and choose an hour of sleep over an hour in worship. The Word of God that is prepared for our consumption during summer worship and Bible class is no less important than during the rest of the year.

That’s because you and I need to be continually reminded that there is a firestorm coming. The flames of judgment day won’t surrender to all the water bombers in the world, any more than the flood of Noah’s day could have been held back as water burst from sky and earth.  

The refuge of God’s shadow 

So how can we escape God’s righteous anger over sin? The psalm verse above reminds us that when we continue to dwell in God’s shadow, we have nothing to fear. Those who stand in the shadow of the cross know that Jesus’ death protects them from eternal death and punishment. Time spent in Bible study and church is time spent in that sweet shade. As we find shelter in God’s shadow, we are also reminded that since Jesus has rescued us from the fiery consequence of our sin, his arm is not too short to sustain us in any other calamity that may upset our lives 

How can you encourage your family members and your fellow church members to keep standing in the shadow of the cross, even during the “lazy” summer months? Set the example by being regular in worship. Speak often about the truths you’re learning in Bible class. Encourage your fellow members to stand in the shadow of the cross as zealously as a mother directs her children to put on a hat and sunscreen before they head outside. 

This summer will no doubt bring another round of natural disasters. Lives will be disrupted. But believers can take refuge beneath a promise that cannot be burned or drowned or broken: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”  


Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. John, Saint John, Antigua.  


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben 
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 2019

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