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Putting the thanks back in Thanksgiving

How a classic kids movie helped me adjust my holiday attitude.

Alicia A. Neumann

“What have I got to be thankful for?” That’s the quote that stuck in my head after I watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving the other day. I’ve seen it countless times, but this time around it struck me differently. I realized that instead of giving thanks, lately I’ve been acting more like the Peanuts gang did in that classic special.

Focusing on self-induced drama

It starts with Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, complaining. “Why should I give thanks on Thanksgiving?” she says. “What have I got to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us.”

It’s true, holidays are a lot of work—even more so now that my husband and I have four kids under the age of 8. There are travel logistics (sometimes we have three family gatherings to attend on the same day!), food to prepare, and the always exhausting process of getting the kids ready and out the door. Sometimes I’d rather sit at home and sulk, like Sally!

Next, there’s Charlie Brown’s friend Peppermint Patty, who has very unrealistic expectations. When Charlie Brown serves her popcorn and toast for Thanksgiving dinner, she fumes: “Where’s the turkey, Chuck? Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie?”

It’s pretty comical to think a young kid could cook a meal like that, right? Yet my expectations are just as ridiculous. Like when we attend holiday parties, I want my kids to play independently while I relax and have meaningful conversations with other adults. In reality, the kids need me to exact some sort of justice or fix an “owie” or listen to their dramatic stories. I’m usually lucky if I get to exchange a few hurried words with the people I meet on the way to the bathroom with the kids (again)!

Finally, there’s good ol’ Charlie Brown, who’s constantly worried. His friends have invited themselves to his house for a Thanksgiving party, even though he won’t be home. Will they be mad if he cancels their plans? Will everyone have a good time?

I can totally relate to that poor, frazzled boy. After social events, I find myself fretting. Sometimes the precious moments I got to spend with my favorite people are marred by my constant analyzing and ruminating about what happened. Good grief!

Seeing our God-given gifts

So how can I ditch these bad habits? Thankfully, God, in his infinite wisdom, has placed some great examples right in front of me. My children have no problem thanking God in their prayers for the things in their lives, both big and small: “Dear God, thank you for letting me find my whistle. Thank you for giving me a mommy and daddy. Thank you for making pumpkins. Thank you for helping me learn to tie my shoes. Amen.”

Their simple, innocent prayers remind me to quit focusing on my self-induced drama and instead fix my eyes on what God has given me: four amazing, healthy kids and a wonderful husband; plenty of delicious food to cook; and many opportunities to celebrate with loved ones. And the list goes on . . .

But the most important thing God has given me is full forgiveness of all my sins. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I am guaranteed a spot forever in heaven.

Thanks be to God! Keeping that amazing grace front and center this holiday season is the only thing that will stop my sinful grumbling and replace it with contentment, happiness, and peace.


Alicia Neumann is a member at Christ, Zumbrota, Minnesota.


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Author: Alicia A. Neumann
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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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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