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Maintaining the faith in a secular college

Secular colleges engulf WELS students in new, even unchristian, ideas—but students shouldn’t be afraid. 

Richard Wilkosz 

Martin Luther went to college to become a lawyer, but that changed. Take note, students and your worried parents: The imminent change of the college experience can be a blessing. 

Suddenly, in just one semester, you already may be rethinking your career path, political views, and more. Young adulthood is tumultuous—a typical undergraduate student switches majors three times. What else could you expect from so much discovery about the world and your place in it? Family and friends may not always understand or approve—Luther’s father fumed when his son left law school for monkhood—but do not focus on a growing distance between you and those who love you and watched you grow up. Focus on the faith that still binds you together.  

Christianity has always appealed to diverse people, starting with the apostles. Simon the Zealot was part of a movement to overthrow the Roman government. Matthew was a Roman employee. Did they agree on earthly issues? Yet they were united by Christ’s heavenly mission. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Earthly differences and changes do not have to send ripples over your unshaking citizenship in that kingdom. 

It’s not a sin to hear someone out who thinks differently. In fact, Peter writes, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). “Everyone” has no exception—those of other faiths, those who deny God, and those without firm beliefs. Using “gentleness and respect” is to first listen—really listen. The skill is difficult to learn but necessary to have.  

Fortunately, you have every chance to practice. Secular colleges exchange as many ideas as they can cram into one place. Participate in the discussions. When listening, you gain valuable new perspectives. When speaking, you have the blessed opportunity to share Jesus. 

Empathy is the key. See it in Paul where he writes, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. . . . To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law). . . . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). 

Now see how he put it in practice. Paul listened before saying, “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22,23). Paul learned about the Athenians. His message then became personal and compelling enough to convert new followers in a place overflowing with gods and strange beliefs. 

Luther listened as well. He studied the classical philosophers, the Catholic Church of his time, and the Bible itself. Some sources confirmed his faith; others did not. Those new and different voices only helped inform his own personal, compelling message of faith. You can do the same, while at the same time declaring with Luther, “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.” 


Richard Wilkosz, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is a member at Redeemer, Weston, Wisconsin. 


 

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Author: Richard Wilkosz
Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

God reconciles us to himself

God’s love does not abandon us when we stumble. It persists in calling us to return to him.

James D. Roecker

Sally is a Community Advisor, or CA, at UW–Stevens Point. Her responsibilities are numerous and specific. CAs are responsible for attending training; opening and closing the residence halls; serving as desk receptionist; programming student development and wellness needs of residents; advising floor government; providing information on campus and community resources; serving as a contact and referral source for student concerns; and providing hall security and student conduct observation, intervention, and reporting. Sally has these responsibilities in addition to managing her own set of courses for the semester.

For the first few months of school, everything runs smoothly. But then there is an incident. Sally smells a strong aroma, possibly from a banned substance, coming from her best friend Sharon’s dorm room.

Sally has two options to weigh in her mind. Option one is to ignore the aroma entirely and act like it was never noticed. No confrontation would happen. No feelings would be hurt. No investigating of the aroma would be necessary. But, Sally would be neglecting her duties as CA. Option two is harder. It would involve confronting Sharon about the odd aroma. Things could get ugly rather quickly. Harsh words may be spoken. Their friendship might never be the same again.

Sally chooses option two. It’s not so much that “rules are rules” as it is about warning Sharon about potentially dangerous behavior and keeping the rest of the residents safe from the same kind of behavior.

And so Sally confronts Sharon. Harsh words are said. A fine would be coming Sharon’s way because of Sally. Their relationship is strained. There is no longer peace and harmony between them. The tension feels like a weight when they are in each other’s presence. Sally longs for the day when Sharon will be open to changing her behavior and mending their broken relationship. But for the time being, Sharon is simply not interested in reconciling with Sally.

God’s prophet Hosea could relate to Sally’s situation. Hosea proclaimed God’s harsh message to God’s people, the Israelites. Israel had turned away from God. Destruction and punishment would be coming their way because of their failure to follow the one, true God. As a result, there was no peaceful, harmonious relationship between God and the Israelites.

God had been faithful to his people. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love” (Hosea 11:3,4). But in spite of his love, they had turned away from him.

Hosea’s task was to issue strong words of rebuke and warning to his people. He wrote, “Return, Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall!” (14:1). God’s goal always was to bring them back to his love and forgiveness. If they did not repent, the dire warnings would come to pass. But the Lord still loved them. His warning was a call to turn away from their rebellion against him and to return to his faithful love.

God’s warnings, harsh rebukes, and threats are intended to call us back to him, for us to return to his love. Sally’s task is simply an illustration of God’s call to repentance. God’s love does not abandon us when we stumble. It persists in calling us to return to him, to repent, and to trust in Jesus for our forgiveness. That’s a message for students everywhere. It’s a message for all of us.


James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.


 

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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Summer on campus

Work continues in campus ministries, even when college students are home for the summer.

James D. Roecker

The summer months in Stevens Point are vastly different from the months when UW–Stevens Point is in session. That makes sense. Ministry to college students does not happen as much without college students around. Some students do stick around Stevens Point for the summer, but most head home. It happens every summer. It can be expected.

For a campus pastor, the beginning of summer brings a good deal of reflection. To help evaluate the prior year, I rely on the students. At our last Bible study of the school year, I hand out a sheet with three columns on it. The columns are: What you liked, What you did not like, and What could be better. The student comments come in handy for setting up goals and plans for the upcoming year of campus ministry. The collegians also suggest specific Bible studies throughout the academic year.

I do my best to implement elements of those suggestions into future Bible studies. Rather than decreeing what I think UW–Stevens Point campus ministry should be or should look like, I defer to our group of faithful collegian officers to make it what they want it to be. Although there may be different officers for each school year, they always seem to set an example for others in our group. A passage from 1 Timothy conveys this remarkably. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (4:12).

This past year Divine Word in Plover started another ministry location and student center in Stevens Point. The congregation called it The Word. A dedicated student space at The Word allowed WELS collegians to invite their friends to do laundry, study, or just hang out away from campus. Invitations extended to friends also led to our Thursday night Bible study group growing from an average of 15 students to an average of nearly 30! Future plans already are being discussed in the event our gracious God sees fit to double this group of students in the coming year.

This is not to say that challenges and obstacles are nonexistent. The devil still tempts, and our sinful nature does not simply disappear. The father of lies wants nothing more than for collegians—for all of us—to believe that we do not need God and his Word. Too often the devil succeeds and separates collegians from fellowship opportunities with other collegian believers. Our faith connection to Christ brought about by the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts can be weakened or even lost over time if that connection is not continually being strengthened through the Word.

Summer months allow me to prepare for the upcoming semester of campus ministry. Bible studies get planned and created. Letters are written to collegians and their parents. All of this is sent to every collegian’s home address we have on file. It is a reminder of the opportunities they have while attending UW–Stevens Point to continually feed on the Word, to continually strengthen their faith connection to Christ.

Students come and go until they graduate or transfer. Faces and names may change, but our God never does. The foundation of our faith, found in Christ, binds us together until we are reunited to learn and grow in him.


James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW–Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.


 

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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Support in times of trouble

Depression and anxiety were unexpected, but healthcare, faith, and Christian friends were blessings.

Andi Franklin

Starting college, there were many things that I expected to experience. Some of these included late nights studying, making new friends, and gaining independence.

I also had experiences that were different from those of a typical college student. I didn’t leave my bed for over 36 hours on multiple weekends. I lied to my professors that I overslept when I couldn’t bring myself to attend classes. If I thought about answering a question in class, I would start to shake. I wondered why I was struggling so much while all of my peers seemed to eat, sleep, and attend class with no problem. Five months ago, I learned I was struggling with mental illness and was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

When I was first told about this, I was in denial. I was a straight A, highly involved student. How could I have a mental illness if I was defined as successful by society? I later came to accept that mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

But I also learned that many individuals do not understand how debilitating mental illness truly is. Depression is like having weights tied to your limbs and around your neck. At first, they don’t seem very heavy. Eventually, the weights become heavier, and you struggle to stay upright. You can feel yourself hunching over but need to keep walking.

Struggling with mental illness as a college student can lead you to ask many questions. What if I can’t finish my degree? Will my professors understand when I can’t come to class or finish my assignments? Will my friends be supportive when I tell them I can’t handle going out tonight? Thankfully, my friends and professors have been very understanding of my mental illnesses.

Mental illness will never be easy as a full-time student, but being a Christian has led me to ask more difficult questions about dealing with a mental illness.

Growing up, I learned that God doesn’t make mistakes and has a plan for everything.

I was told to pray in times of trouble because God would answer me. But when I was questioning the point of my existence, hearing “just pray” discouraged me. I felt guilty going to church and ended up not going all together. I wondered why God would create me to have a mental illness. I thought that if I reached out for help that others would look down on me for not trusting in God.

What I forgot is that God gives us many blessings, even in times of trouble.

God has given two large blessings to support me as I struggle with mental illness: healthcare providers and the church. It has been five months since I started seeing a counselor and three since I started taking medication for my depression and anxiety. After suffering quietly for almost ten years, I am so thankful to have a support system that consists of people who constantly encourage me in my studies and my faith. You don’t have to be an expert on mental illness to help someone. Asking how you can help is more than enough.

Prayer is powerful, but sometimes you can’t just pray away illnesses. We need to support our friends and neighbors in times of trouble. They have supported me. “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).


Andi Franklin, a junior at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is a member at St. Paul, North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.


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Author: Andi Franklin
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

The encouragement app

When faced with doubt, there’s an app for that. The Lord is with us.

James D. Roecker

Conversations are a part of life. Conversations might be good, great, awkward, terrible, emotional, or routine. We have had them with our inner circle of friends and family, with the people who live in our neighborhood, or with those who live down the hall in the college dorm.

As we think about all those conversations, would we say the majority of our comments could be considered encouragement or criticism? The natural tendency is to remember all the times we have been critical in conversation. The positive and encouraging conversations we have had with people are forgotten. The devil is quick to remind us how terrible we have been to family members, friends, and people we just met at the gas station. His next step is to get us thinking that God will never show us any kindness because of how deep into sin we have gotten ourselves. We doubt God could ever forgive us. All of a sudden the certainty of salvation we have through faith in Jesus and what he has accomplished on the cross is an uncertain thing in our minds.

Satan’s assaults against us cannot stand because of Christ’s conquering victory over the evil one, sin, and death. We have the certainty of a new life of faith through the waters of our baptism. We are encouraged and strengthened by the Word of our God. The psalmist writes, “You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Psalm 10:17). The Lord encourages us by promising to hear us when we call to him in prayer. The Lord encourages us by promising eternal peace in heaven.

But we are not in heaven yet. We have life ahead, and we don’t know what the future may hold. It is frustrating at times not knowing the future—what might come next in life, good or bad. As the troubles and struggles roll in, we might ask ourselves: “Do I have what it takes?”

There may be collegians who struggle with school, who are unsure of their currently declared major. Similar questions arise: “Do I have what it takes to complete a degree in fisheries and water resources, health promotion/wellness, or dietetics?” Lack of focus and motivation could be the culprit behind such feelings. Uncertainty could come because of tough courses or challenging professors. Doubting one’s abilities may stem from trying to balance school, work, and social time. Thinking about the future, about what it means to be an adult with a full-time job after college, can bring some hesitation. The worst critic is most often inside. We question if we have what it takes to get through life on our own.

But encouragement comes from God and his Word: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

We receive all the encouragement we will ever need from our perfect Lord who reigns over all things for our good. He is with us every step of this life, encouraging us as we live in view of our heavenly home.


James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.


This is the final article in a six-part series on life apps the Bible has given Christians.


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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

The trust app

What takes years to build, seconds to break, and a miracle to repair? Trust.

James D. Roecker

Imagine a child slowly creeping to the side of a pool. That child’s father is in the pool waiting with open arms and calling for his child to jump. But the little guy is scared of the unknown. He does not know for sure what will happen if he jumps. Father and son make eye contact. The father says, “Trust me.” His son tightly closes his eyes, trusts his father, and jumps into his open arms. After that the child knows for sure that he can trust his father to catch him every time he jumps into the pool. Uncertainty

at the edge of the pool was erased since his father came through and caught him.

Throughout our lives there are numerous scenarios when we feel like that child at the edge of the pool. We can be consumed with worry and fear of the unknown. We can become paralyzed to the point of inaction because we are scared we might pick the wrong path through life.

One of these life scenarios is taking the plunge into the pool called college. The process of selecting the right college can fill anyone’s heart with fear—and that is before you consider where your friends are planning on attending college. Worry winds its way into your mind and heart. “What if I can’t make new friends? Do I really want to take the college plunge by myself?”

It can be easy to focus inward—to focus on how we will handle life’s challenging decisions—and forget the Lord. The book of Proverbs gives us all this inspired reminder: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Leaning on the Lord and trusting in him eases the burden of challenging decisions, since he already knows the plan for each of

our lives.

The Lord knows each collegian’s path through the rigors of college. He knows the friendships that will be forged. In some cases, those friendships made in college will endure for entire lifetimes.

However, those relationships are not without sin. Trust among friends can take seconds to break. The psalmist David reflected: “Even my close friend, someone

I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9). Friends can fail us. They can fail to follow through on what they said they would do. At times, our expectations of them do not match what we experience, and trust begins to evaporate. We may have to confront our friends from time to time regarding their failures.

That’s tough, especially since we ourselves are not always trustworthy. We are capable of all kinds of sin by nature. On our own we cannot repair the damage done to our

relationship with God.

But God knew what remedy was needed to restore us to himself. God sent his only Son to repair the relationship. Through Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary, God himself has become our salvation. Jesus has restored peace, trust, and joy. We trust in God only because of Jesus. We are not afraid. God’s plan is the right plan. Trust him.

James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

This is the fifth article in a six-part series on life apps the Bible has given Christians.

 


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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Rest: Part 4

When you need rest from this harried world, retreat to your Savior in his Word.

James D. Roecker

How much sleep do you need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. For younger adults (18-25), the recommended sleep range is also seven to nine hours per night. I wonder if their recommendation matches reality.

The reality is that not everyone gets enough sleep. We live in a culture that chronically overworks. We are a generation of exhausted people. And most of the time we realize it is bad for us. Yet we are always on the go, filling our schedules to the maximum. The to-do list seems endless. Rest eludes us.

Rest can also be elusive for college students. Often there is just not enough time for sleep. College schedules get busy rather quickly. The academic year can be rigorous all by itself. But many students participate in intramural sports. Others play on the collegiate-level athletic teams. Some are involved in two or more student organizations. Part-time jobs can be thrown into the mix as well. Study time is important too, but so is time for fun and socializing. All of a sudden something fills every minute of every day. Exhausting! Coffee, really any caffeinated drink, becomes king. The National Sleep Foundation’s recommended seven to nine hours of sleep is just that, a recommendation.

Eventually, the question needs to be asked: “Is this current pace sustainable?” Lack of sleep can lead to distress physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Maybe sleep deprivation causes you to become a totally different person, a person you might not like as much as your normal, rested self.

But there’s an app for that.

Jesus, as true human, was not immune to exhaustion or getting tired. He also recognized the benefits of withdrawing to solitary places to pray and recharge before returning to his redemptive mission. After some disciples reported John’s beheading to Jesus, we are told this: “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13). The crowd followed him. After landing the boat on shore, Jesus had compassion on the crowd, healed the sick that were there, and miraculously fed the large crowd. But then Jesus took time to rest. “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

Our to-do lists are not going to say: “Be the Savior of the world.” Jesus has already accomplished our salvation through his work as Savior while he lived on this earth. He lived perfectly in our place, suffered the agony of the world’s—including your and my—sins on the cross of Calvary, and rose victoriously from the dead.

So when you need rest from this harried world, retreat to your Savior in his Word. Be refreshed by the living and enduring Word of God. Sleep soundly and securely knowing that your God will never abandon you and will wake you with the morning light if that is his will. Jesus has said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He keeps his promises and will give you spiritual rest in this life and in your eternal life in heaven.

James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

This is the fourth article in a six-part series on life apps the Bible has given Christians.


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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Application is everything: Part 3

Confession is good for the soul, but not enough. Applying forgiveness to our souls is trusting Jesus has paid the penalty we deserve.

James D. Roecker

Sally comes to church every Sunday. She arrives early to save her favorite spot. She participates in worship, confesses her sins, and pays close attention to the pastor’s message.

Yet Sally always leaves church feeling bad about herself. Sally takes this bad feeling back into her daily life. Through this routine, Sally feels close to God. Feeling bad seems like a good thing for her. The closeness to God she experiences by feeling bad about her sins seems to satisfy her and ultimately makes her feel superior to her friends who do not go to church.

Confession is more involved than just feeling bad about sin. To some, penance quickly comes to mind when discussing confession. Penance involves confessing sins and then doing some act to repair the damage caused by sin. Feeling bad about your sins can be viewed as that “something” we do to overcome sin. Emptying the overflowing sin bucket in confession to God can be a satisfying experience, but it never applies Christ’s forgiveness.

If we view confession as a guilt reliever or a conscience cleanser, all the emphasis is on us. It’s like saying that God and I had a private conversation about sin, so we are good. Sally might come to God and say, “God, I’m sorry I hate Mary. She rubs me the wrong way. I’m sorry, but I’ve confessed this sin to you, God, so we’re good, right? When I tell you my sins, that counts, doesn’t it?” So then, sadly, Sally goes off to class and the dorm thinking that feeling bad makes up for sin.

But it doesn’t. For Sally, the law left her feeling bad about herself. The law does make us feel bad because it shows us just how far we have fallen, just how short we have come to God’s standard of perfection. We confess that we are sinners who deserve God’s punishment.

Confession is the first part. The second part is applying the full and complete forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ blood, not our remorse, cleanses us from sin. None of our efforts, including our effort to amend our sinful life, removes sin. Only God’s grace in Jesus forgives us. Then that forgiveness gives us the power to gladly and freely turn from the sin and live differently because our sins are fully and freely cleansed. The problem may be that we don’t change as dramatically as we think we should. We fail again and again, sometimes falling into the same pet sins.

So we come to church each week not only to confess our sins and feel bad about them but also to rejoice that our sins are forgiven. There is full forgiveness for our sins in Christ. As we live out our Spirit-worked faith, we’ll strive to turn completely away from sin and toward our Savior. “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). We then live each day as a forgiven child of our heavenly Father.

James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

This is the third article in a six-part series on life apps the Bible has given Christians.


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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Application is everything

Sometimes it’s easier to hold a grudge then to forgive, but we are to forgive others as Christ forgave us.

James D. Roecker

Has there ever been a time in your life when someone wronged you? Have false rumors been spread about you to give you a bad name? Those rumors might have torn down your reputation. Maybe you can think of a few people who have broken your trust. Forgiveness may not be given out easily. Really, it is easier to withhold forgiveness for a while so others feel terrible about what they did to you.

In fact, holding a grudge often seems to be the only option. One of life’s guilty pleasures is fantasizing about what telling that person off looks like. Rehearsal time is set aside to run through all the grievances you have in your arsenal. Resentment can rage until lashing out with an angry text or e-mail. We may even make decisions based on how someone has wronged us.

At times, the “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” exchange are just words you say, not something you truly feel. Then a relationship you have with someone disintegrates quickly and ends poorly. This sort of thing can happen at the workplace, within families, and even on college campuses.

College courses do not ignore the topic of forgiveness, but the religious and spiritual component is often lacking. UW–Stevens Point student, Emma, shared an experience she had in her Positive Psychology class. An entire section of the course was dedicated to the topic of forgiveness. One assignment was to write a forgiveness letter to someone. Students did not have to give the person the letter. They wrote it and handed it in.

Emma said this about her letter: “I chose to write it to my first roommate from the residence halls. We did not have the same morals or respect for others. It ended poorly when I changed roommates after a semester with her. I often would see her around campus, and we both avoided eye contact and never talked even before I switched rooms. So I wrote the letter, and, after the letter was written, I said a prayer. I knew that I had already been forgiven by God for the way I handled the situation, but it helped me get it out of my head. I stopped feeling weird every time I ran into her.”

Sinful people sin. All of us fall short of God’s standard of perfection. Sin strains all the relationships we have, including our relationship with our heavenly Father. We can even secretly enjoy being overcome by evil. We might not want to ever forget the way people have treated us or especially the deep hurt they caused. At times, we may not be able to forgive ourselves.

However, when we confess our sins, the cross is personal. God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness is given to you. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). His faithfulness brings us forgiveness.

Forgiven people forgive. Jesus lived a perfect life, died for all people, and rose from the dead. He lives so that we will someday live with him eternally. We need to take time to reflect on the forgiveness Jesus has given us and then let our light shine as we live Christlike lives and forgive others.

James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

This is the second article in a six-part series on life apps that Bible had given Christians.

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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Application is everything

The Bible is just as applicable to our lives as it was to those who heard it for the first time.

James D. Roecker

What’s the big deal about the latest and greatest tech gadgets? Well, they’re new, stylish, and user friendly. Upgraded models offer much more than previous models. Smartphones combine numerous devices into one machine. New apps provide countless hours of entertainment.

It wasn’t always the case. Cell phone styles and capabilities were different ten years ago. Tech gadgets did not stay the same. Cell phones got bigger, not thinner. Then touch screens took over. GPS navigation was built in. Internet and e-mail now is a touch away. Smartphones do it all. Think of anything. There’s probably an app for that. Apps can wake you up, show you where to shop, log your exercise and calorie intake, and keep your to-do list. Apps even can supply daily Bible reading plans.

But apps can’t make you get up, control your spending, manage your diet, make you exercise, check things off your to-do list, or read your Bible daily. Application is important and significant. It’s what you do that makes a difference.

Some suggest applying the Bible is not a big deal. They say, “Shouldn’t I just read it?” Others don’t read it at all. They admit, “What I hear in worship is enough for the week.” But what good does hearing and reading the Bible do, if when you’re done, you don’t remember what God has said to you?

Applying the Bible is an ongoing challenge for every Christian, college students included. The schedules of our lives become cluttered with a never-ending to-do list. God’s passages of comfort in his Word might not come to mind easily in the thick of daily temptations and troubles. The father of lies convinces us that God’s Word doesn’t apply to our situations. And if we don’t apply it, the Bible becomes another book on the shelf, a collection of dated manuscripts that appear impractical. Satan wants nothing more than to separate us from God and to persuade us the Bible isn’t useful.

But we know the Bible isn’t just a normal book. The Bible is God’s inspired Word. It’s just as applicable to our lives as it was to those who heard it for the first time. That’s why Saint Paul gave this encouragement: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

The God of peace is with us as we read his Word. The knowledge we glean from Scripture becomes the foundation for applying the Bible’s principles for our lives. God’s Word is solidified in our hearts by studying, memorizing, and meditating on what we have read. It’s how we apply it. The psalmist reminds us that the man who meditates on God’s Word is blessed.

But we are not alone in trying to understand and apply God’s Word to our lives. God given us his Holy Spirit to guides us in all truth. He’s our app. He moves us to take the words of James to heart: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Application of God’s Word in our lives makes all the difference.

James Roecker, pastor at Divine Word, Plover, Wisconsin, does campus ministry work at UW–Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

This is the first article in a six-part series on life apps the Bible has given Christians.

 

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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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“What is truth?”

Pilate’s age-old question still rings true today. But God’s answer also remains the same.

Glenn L. Schwanke

“What is truth?”

The words rip us back in time to very early on Good Friday morning at the residence of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, where Jesus had been led like a lamb to the slaughter by the Jewish leaders and their temple guards. They needed Pilate’s permission for the death sentence against Jesus.

You might expect their request would come after a thorough, legal review of the case against Christ. But none came. Rather there were only feeble attempts to avoid handling the case and two brief exchanges between Pilate and Jesus.

The first of those exchanges led to three of the most infamous words ever spoken.

‘You are a king then?’ Pilate asked.

‘You say that I’m a king,’ Jesus replied. ‘I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’

‘What is truth?’ said Pilate (John 18:37,38 HCSB used throughout).

We shudder at those three words, because in our hearts, we hear the mockery in Pilate’s voice. And we weep at what follows. Jesus—mocked. Jesus—scourged. Jesus—sentenced. Jesus—crucified. And Pilate? He does nothing but wash his hands of the affair (Matthew 27:24).

“What is truth?” When I hear those words, I think of Pontius Pilate. But I also think of millennials, a generation whose worldview has been dramatically shaped by television, movies, computers, tablets, and smartphones; Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter; Siri, Cortana, and “OK Google.” A generation always connected with an overwhelming flood of information that is just a voice command or a few keystrokes away.

Unfortunately, far too much of that information stream is little more than snake oil, a slick but poisonous repackaging of Pilate’s snide comment, “What is truth?” This is particularly true when it comes to issues of morality or matters spiritual and questions about life, death, and eternity.

Is there absolute truth? The skepticism of our modern age boldly shouts, “Absolutely not!”

Is Jesus the only Savior, the only way to eternal life? How are millennials expected to believe that when a 2015 Barna Group study found that only 48% of millennials believe that Jesus was God! On the other hand, 56% of millennials believe Jesus committed sins while he was on earth. Hardly the makings of a Messiah. So it’s not at all surprising when that same Barna study concludes, “Millennials are less likely to believe that Jesus is the path to heaven than are other generations.” As Barna Group President David Kinnamen comments, “Jesus is a friend of sinners, but many millennials are ‘unfriending’ him at a time when their lives are being shaped and their trajectories set toward the future.”

“What is truth?” I think of the college students I serve in Campus Ministry. I see no sneer on their face. I detect no mockery in their tone. What I do see are young Christians who are constantly being inundated by the worldview around us. I do hear doubt, and I do see confusion written on their faces. I think, “So much has changed since I was their age!”

But, thank God, the answer remains ever the same. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them” (1 Timothy 1:15).

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

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 103, Number 3
Issue: March 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Many hands make light work!

Students involved in campus ministry are eager to serve. Give them an opportunity!

Glenn L. Schwanke

Viele Hände macht bald am Ende!” The words come gushing out from the bottom of my heart. Well, it might be more precise to say they flow from my lower back, which is even more excited that this job is finished. And what job would that be? Mid-winter roof snow-shoveling in the Copper Country.

Roof snow-shoveling? Yes, we live in an area where 200 to 250 inches of snow per winter are the norm. Though that snow comes down all white and fluffy, it piles up. On roofs too. And the weight of three to four feet of compacted snow on a roof can rival parking a pick-up truck up there. (I don’t advise it.) If the snow isn’t removed, roofs collapse. That’s why Yoopers shovel off their roofs every winter—maybe more than once.

I remember absolutely no mention of roof snow-shoveling in the call documentation I received when I moved here from Indiana. However, I vividly remember my state of shock when that first roof shoveling work day was scheduled. The volunteers were to start at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday. I walked over to the chapel before 8:30. I didn’t want anyone to see my first timid steps up onto the corner of our chapel’s roof—covered in three feet of snow. Below the snow there was ice. Somewhere lost under that were the shingles. I slipped and shuffled until I collapsed into the snow, looked up to heaven, and said, “This I can’t do, Lord!” But with a little practice, by the end of that work day, I started to get my “snow-roof” legs. It wasn’t so bad after all.

Since then, however, the project has been getting far, far easier! Why? Our campus ministry group is growing. Ten to 15 eager college students, combined with members from our congregation, make short work of shoveling off our chapel’s roof. When the chapel’s finished, they head over to the parsonage. In less than an hour, that’s done too. All the while the pastor remains on terra firma, snowblowing a path to the doors so we can still get inside the buildings. As the workers finish and climb back down the ladder, then comes the victory shout, “Viele Hände macht bald am Ende!” It’s time for chili and hot chocolate.

Why share the story? To make a very simple point. Students involved in campus ministry are eager to serve. Give them an opportunity! The inspired writer observed, “Two are better than one. . . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 HCSB).

Maybe you don’t need a roof shoveled, but are there older folks in the congregation who could use some help with painting, cleaning, splitting wood, or raking leaves? Are there shut-ins whose day would be brightened by students who drop by with some fresh-baked cookies? Could students help with babysitting or tutoring grade school children or mentoring high school youth? What about ushering or playing organ or piano for worship? Singing a solo or in the choir? Teaching in Sunday school, helping with vacation Bible school, or coordinating a soccer camp for community outreach?

I suspect most of our churches have a “round-to-it” list that could use some volunteers. You’ll find campus ministry students are eager to help. They take our Lord’s Word seriously. “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10 HCSB).

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

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 103, Number 1
Issue: January 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Teen Talk: My life as a child of divorce

Divorce affects entire families. How can we support and encourage those struggling with the long-lasting effects?

I am a product of divorce. As a child, it defined me. My parents were divorced—so of course I must be a troubled child. At least that’s how everyone made me feel.

Already as a first grader, I remember being treated differently than other students. So I acted naughty. Maybe I played into the assumptions.

As school continued, I never talked about my parents and their divorce. I would get embarrassed when we would talk about the Sixth Commandment in school—“You shall not commit adultery.” “Divorce means adultery” would click in my head. I’d sit there and not say anything.

When I was in the sixth grade, my mom got married again. He seemed like a great guy. But later, we found out he was a struggling drug addict. I worried about my mom getting another divorce. I wondered if my mom would go to heaven. I look back and wonder why no one attempted to make it clear to me that I was okay, that my sister was okay, that my mom was okay. This man ultimately chose drug addiction over us, abandoning his marital duties. He deserted us. I avoided ever talking about my family.

When the Sixth Commandment came around in class again, I remember not wanting to go to school . . . but I went. No one clarified anything for me or comforted me. Maybe they didn’t know I was struggling with such things, and maybe I should have asked. But what 12-year-old is going to raise her hand and say, “Is my mom’s divorce okay?”

I went to a Lutheran high school. Not many people there had divorced or separated parents. I had a serious boyfriend for about two years, who ultimately broke up with me because my parents were divorced. He said he “just couldn’t deal with it and felt like he could never marry me.” Couldn’t marry me? We were just kids in high school! But it showed me again how divorced persons are perceived. I got the feeling I was somehow extra sinful because my parents were divorced.

Why is divorce looked at as worse than other sins? One sort of sinner is not better than another. People who get divorced can be forgiven. Our focus shouldn’t be on the stigma of certain sins, but on repentance and faith. Many people struggle with many challenges and sins. People who are judged for their circumstances can be turned off by such judgment.

I’m not saying to accept people in their sins. Absolutely not. But we need to show patience and understanding. Both law and gospel need to be applied. Struggling sinners are forgiven because Jesus died for them.

If you don’t know the story behind someone’s situation, don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume everyone who is divorced came to that position by pursuing sin. Don’t assume you know someone’s heart. Approach people with support, with loving words. That could be all they need to begin healing.

My point is not to complain about how challenging my childhood was or how everyone around me handled things wrong. That is not the case. I am writing this to raise awareness of things that could be happening if we are open to helping one another. Life is hard; we are sinful people. What is most important—in fact, the only thing of ultimate importance—is what Christ did for us. We have a gracious God who forgives all sins. Let’s seek to help and forgive each other, rather than making life more difficult for those who’ve been affected by hurtful sins.

Because of the personal nature of this article, the author’s name has been withheld.

 

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Author: Withheld
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Are we a welcoming church?

If we want to be a welcoming church, we dare not ignore or try to explain away sin but instead answer tough questions with gentleness and respect.

Glenn L. Schwanke

I stood at the table Michigan Tech had assigned us for the Community Expo, an event held at the start of the school year so that local businesses, services, churches, and student organizations could make contact with the students. Some students approached our table with a bag, just in case we were giving away something good. Others stepped forward cautiously, with questions written all over their faces. One young lady, however, approached with clipboard in hand as if on a mission.

“Rita” (not her real name) spent a few seconds sizing up our table banner that identified us as “Peace Ev. Lutheran Church, Wisconsin Synod.” She glanced at the “Lutheran Collegian” materials on the table. She noticed the stack of Bibles. Then she looked at me, with her pen poised over her clipboard, as she asked, “Is your church a welcoming church?”

I responded, “I’d like to think we are! Our doors are open to everyone. When you visit us for worship, you will be greeted warmly at the door. Members or students in our Campus Ministry will be happy to help you follow along with the worship. And after every worship service, we have fellowship with snacks and beverages. That gives us more of a chance to get to know you.”

“But,” I added, “I’m guessing that’s not how you are using the word welcoming. Would you please tell me how you are using the term?”

Rita responded, “I represent the Michigan Tech Center for Diversity and Inclusion. And I’m doing a survey to find out which churches in our area are welcoming to the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) community.”

“So you’re asking me where our church stands on homosexuality? Do we view it as a sin? Ultimately, this isn’t about our individual views or opinions. But,” as I pointed to the stack of Bibles, “our teaching and practice are guided solely by God’s Word. And God’s Word is plain on the matter. Homosexuality is called a sin by the One who made us.

“Still, our doors are wide open to the LGBT community, just as our doors are wide open to any sinner who crosses the threshold, no matter the sin. When Jesus died, he died and paid for all sins.”

In light of this summer’s Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, I anticipate more questions and possibly even confrontations over our church’s stance on homosexuality. When that happens, will we be ready? “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, 16 HCSB). Will we be careful to be the kind of “welcoming” church our Savior wants? You see, Christ’s enemies once leveled this charge against him: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” (Luke 15:2 HCSB). But even as he welcomed them, Jesus didn’t try to explain away their sin. Rather he said, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31,32 HCSB).

If we want to be a welcoming church, we dare not ignore or try to explain away sin, for then there is no need for repentance or for the forgiveness our Savior so graciously gives. At the same time, our challenge will be to answer tough questions with “gentleness and respect.”

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

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

There’s no app for that

Campus ministries rely on simpler technologies to give us the names of WELS students attending the colleges we serve.

Glenn L. Schwanke

It’s an exciting time of year. The sleepy little town of Houghton, Michigan, which boasts some 6,500 residents, is waking up from another summer slumber. The fall semester at Michigan Technological University is starting. That means more than seven thousand students are back in town for classes.

This time of year, one of the challenges for our campus ministry is the same one faced by some 375 Wisconsin Synod congregations with campus ministry opportunities. How do we identify the WELS students attending college here so that we can invite them to join us for worship, Bible studies, and fellowship activities? Contacting these young men and women at the start of the school year is critical! Otherwise students can be swallowed up by the hectic nature of their school schedule. Bad habits can get started, and time in God’s Word and worship may be pushed off to the side.

So what do we do? Like many campus ministries, we’ll participate in orientation events tailored for first-year students. But when those 1,500 first-years file by our table—more than a few somewhat dazed by information overload—how can we make sure that not a single WELS student passes by without realizing we’re here to serve them with God’s Word?

I have an idea! We need an app for that. We can model it on the “Merlin Bird Photo ID.” This software is currently under development by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in collaboration with Visipedia. Its purpose is to help casual birdwatchers tell the difference between a pileated woodpecker and a ruby-throated hummingbird. To use the software, you take a picture of the bird; load the picture onto your computer; draw a box around your little feathered friend; click on the bird’s beak, eyes and tail; then identify where and when you saw the bird. Upload this data to the website and, voila, within seconds you’ll get back a list of the best matches, including recordings of the sounds and songs the little birdie makes.

We need an app like that! Then when those first-year students pass by our table during orientation week, members of our ministry team can click a picture of each student. Other helpers can quickly transfer that data to notebook computers; put a box around the head of each student’s picture; click on the beak (nose), eyes, and mouth; and upload the data to the “WELS Campus Ministry Student ID App.” Ta da! In seconds we’ll know the student’s name and address.

Alas, there’s no app for that.

So our WELS campus ministries rely on simpler technologies to give us the names of WELS students attending the colleges we serve. Pastors, teachers, family members, and caring friends can forward the names of students to WELS Campus Ministry by surfing to www.wels.net and clicking on the “sign up with campus ministries” link. Or, they can fill in and return the yellow cards that our congregations receive each year in the packet of materials from WELS Campus Ministry.

Why bother? Because every day, young Christians on secular campuses are wading through a quagmire of temptations, many that these young people never faced when they still lived at home. Our Lord himself tells us what these young people need to stand strong in the faith: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9 ESV).

Please help us! Send in those names. You are our app for that.

Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as a campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.

 

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Author:
Volume 101, Number 11
Issue: November 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Empty Nesters

College graduation causes empty-nest syndrome for hundreds of WELS campus pastors around the country.

Glenn L. Schwanke

It’s summer. Everything is settling down after college graduation. My wife and I are empty nesters again. We saw Rachel off to further her graduate studies at Virginia Tech. Calvin packed up his van and headed down the road for his new job in Tennessee. Another Rachel plans on pursuing graduate studies in Illinois. Jon and Ashley are off to the Twin Cities, where Jon starts his new job as “a project engineer designing hardware setups that will run software to monitor the power grid in various countries.” Please note: It’s countries not counties. I sure hope he gets it right. There are quite a few more who are leaving our nest, but I just don’t have space to list them all.

For more than 18 years now, graduation has caused my wife and me to ride the same roller coaster of emotions: proud, thrilled, and yet sad to see our nest emptied. Exactly how many have left through the years? I’ve lost count. It must be in the hundreds.

What? So many? How is this possible? I suppose by now it is time I make clear what you have probably already guessed. The young men and women who leave our nest each year are not our biological sons and daughters. They are your sons and daughters, your grandsons and granddaughters. You have entrusted them to us through WELS Campus Ministry. But we develop a close relationship with so many of these fine young Christians. Remember that Paul called Timothy “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). That’s how we feel about the young men and women who spend four, five, or sometimes even six or seven years with us here in Houghton.

We watch them grow and mature. We rejoice to see them “fan into flame” the gift of God that has been given to them by Baptism and then nurtured through Word and sacrament over the years (2 Timothy 1:6). We cry with them when their hearts are broken. We laugh with them when they are happy (Romans 12:15). We celebrate with them when they walk on commencement day, hear their names read, and proudly grasp their diplomas.

Then we send them out into the world with our prayers, hugs, and also a few tears. The good-byes aren’t always so easy.

Not that the good-byes come easy for the other 384 campus pastors in our Wisconsin Synod either! Did you know that we have a full-time campus ministry at Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel at UW–Madison? We have part-time-plus campus ministries here in Houghton and at Point of Grace in Milwaukee, True North in Minneapolis, the Rising Son Campus Ministry in Oshkosh, and the Beacon Lutheran Student Center in Mankato. We have campus ministries as far away as the Light of the World Campus Ministry in Fairbanks, Alaska, and even a few in Canada. And we all share a common goal.

Just what is that goal? Nurturing sons and daughters in the faith. Preparing them for the day when they will leave the nest. Sending them out with the prayer once offered by Paul: “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17).

We pray you will welcome our “adopted children” when they come. We pray you will be blessed by them, as we have been.

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

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 102, Number 7
Issue: July 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Forever young in Christ

Forever young in Christ

Campus ministry provides an opportunity to continue to reach the younger generation with the saving message of God’s grace.

Glenn L. Schwanke

The Supper is ready. The invitation to come forward has been given. I stand before the Lord’s altar holding the paten, the small plate that holds the consecrated wafers. I watch as the first table of communicants comes forward—when it hits me. They are all so young!

Those of you who know me might quip, “Well, you’re no spring chicken anymore. Fifty-year-olds probably look like kids to you.” Point well taken. But so many of the communicants coming forward aren’t 50, or 40, or even 30. They are in their late teens or early 20s. They are part of the Millennial Generation. They are college students, young men and women who are growing up in a world so different from the one I experienced at their age.

Millennials can’t remember a world without the Internet, personal computers, smart phones, GPS, and social media. From the time they were toddlers, they’ve heard terms like climate change and green energy. For many of them, 9/11 is ancient history that must be learned from textbooks. Al Qaeda and Bin Laden are yesterday’s news. Same-sex marriage is fast becoming America’s societal norm. Many, including some of those who stand behind the podiums in college classrooms, have abandoned the concept of absolute right and wrong.

And what about Christianity? Far too many ridicule all religion as nothing more than silly, ancient superstition—little more than road kill to be scraped into the ditch of modern life.

Surrounded by such a dense fog of conflicting thoughts, it’s a wonder that a single college student still comes to worship regularly. But they come, even though Mom and Dad don’t swoop into their dorm rooms on a Sunday morning to rouse them out of bed. These students fill our chapel. They listen attentively. They sing powerfully.

And they come forward to the communion table, heeding the age-old invitation: “Take and eat. Take and drink.” They come hungering and thirsting for that one meal where the menu never changes. “This is my body. This is my blood.” And like countless generations of Christians before them, they leave the table possessing a gift worth more than all the wisdom, power, and money in the world—“the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

So many pastors tell me how their congregations are graying along with them. “All the young people are moving away or staying away.” But I know of a place where young people still come. Actually, I know of many such places. It is happening in Campus Ministry, where your sons and daughters and your grandsons and granddaughters still come to learn about Jesus, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

After all the other communicants have come forward, at last, it is my turn. The elder stands before me with the paten. As I kneel, one knee creaks. My lower back pops. My right shoulder throbs. But then I eat, and then I drink. And the distant triumph song of my Savior takes hold of my heart: “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5).

Now the Supper is ended. The benediction is spoken. I look out at the congregation, and it hits me. They, we, are all so young. Forever young in Christ. The words of the psalmist ring true: “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— . . . who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2,5).

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

 

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Author: Timothy J. Spaude
Volume 102, Number 4
Issue: April 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

It was just a homemade card

It was just a homemade card

A simple card reminds a couple in hard times always to fix their eyes on Jesus.

Glenn L. Schwanke

Dreary gray skies and a snow-rain mix pelting against the window did little to lift my already dampened spirits. Neither did the scenery: a cemetery. That’s the panoramic view I enjoyed every time I looked out the seventh-floor window of my wife’s room at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

We were there because my wife, Teresa, had undergone surgery to remove a massive cancerous tumor. The surgery itself went well, and the surgeon had informed us the normal recovery time was three to five days in the hospital. But it had already been six. My wife was getting mighty sick of ice chips. No liquids. No solid foods. To make matters worse, a tube had to be inserted down her nose and throat to remove stomach secretions that could poison her. That painful procedure, coupled with all the other tubes still connected to her, had prompted more than a few tears from her, and more than a few from me.

So we prayed together. And we asked, yet again, for others to pray. And the prayers came! From the pastors who visited us in the hospital; from members of my congregation in Houghton; from the congregation I had served in Fort Wayne; from called workers and laypeople in my circuit, conference, district, and beyond. In who-knows-how-many worship services and in who-knows-how-many personal devotions, there were prayers.

Greeting cards came too. Too many to count. Each one special. Each one with the promise, “We are praying for you.”

In the stack of cards came one card that was homemade. It had been folded to fit in the envelope. The cover boasted a simple outlined cross with a sun behind and the peace dove overlaid. Inside the card in handwritten letters was the verse, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). On the opposite inside panel were signatures, almost 30 of them. The card came from a number of the college students in the campus ministry I am blessed to serve.

The card prompted even more tears, but not tears of frustration or fear. Instead, they were tears of joy. Tears of knowing how Paul must have felt when by inspiration he wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6).

There can be dreary days in ministry, days that pelt our heart and mind and dampen our spirits. Far too easily, we can focus on those days. On the sacrifices we make. On how much time and effort we pour into the work and how little seems to come back. All too often those days are clouded over, because our ancient foe has partnered with our sinful nature to tear our gaze away from the Son, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). And when we take our eyes off of Jesus, we also lose sight of the blessings that come from sharing his good news with others.

It’s just a homemade card. I doubt it will ever win an American Graphic Design Award. But it came to my wife and me just when we needed it. It helped lift our eyes back to Jesus. And this humble card reminded me of the privilege I have to serve as a campus pastor.

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

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 102, Number 3
Issue: March 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

When the news is bad

When the news is bad

Jesus is always the answer during hard times—for us and for those we see as invincible, full-of-life college students.

Glenn L. Schwanke

Students are beginning to gather before one of our midweek campus ministry Bible studies when Mary nonchalantly checks her text messages. I think nothing of it, until I notice Mary staring hard at her cell phone’s screen. The tears start to roll down her cheeks. She looks up with eyes that betray a broken heart. She blurts out, “My uncle just died in a car accident!”

It’s after worship and fellowship time at church. I notice that Jon is hanging around, waiting for others to leave. Finally, after everyone else has left, Jon walks up to me. “Pastor, do you have a minute? I need to talk.” I respond, “Sure.” I invite Jon into my office. He takes a seat. The words start tumbling out, as Jon confesses a sin that has tripped him up yet again. He feels so dirty. His guilt is crushing him.

The church phone rings. It’s Cindy. She’d like to make an appointment to see me, so we schedule it for the next day. When Cindy comes in, I can tell that she hasn’t been sleeping well. Cindy just learned that her mother is dying. What complicates matters is that Cindy and her mother haven’t spoken in years—not since her parents were divorced. And even worse than that? Cindy knows that her mom hasn’t gone to church in a long time.

Those of us with gray hair and wrinkles may dream that college-age students are invincible. After all, they are so full of energy! So confident! So ready with expert answers on every subject under the sun—from politics, economics, the environment, ethics, and philosophy to pop culture and video games like Minecraft and NBA 2K14.

Death and dying? That’s nowhere on the radar screen. Failure? That’s not in their vocabulary. Until the phone rings. Until the doctor looks over the clipboard and says, “It’s cancer.” Until the morning brings haunting memories of the night before.

What do we say to invincible, full-of-life college students when the news is bad? When their eyes are dull, their cheeks are stained with tears, and their hearts are broken? We say what countless generations of Christians before us have said: “Jesus.”

When death stares up at us from the casket of a Christian grandparent, mom or dad, or very best friend, there is Jesus who guarantees, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).

When we run all the stoplights of God’s law and careen off the cliff into sin and self-destruction only to be left a spiritual wreck, there is Jesus who says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Jesus did not push away the sinful woman who anointed his feet with oil. Rather, he assured her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). There is forgiveness for you too. Come and kneel at the rail. Take and eat. Take and drink. Leave the crushing weight of your sin on the shoulders of your Savior who carried it to Golgotha.

And what about Cindy, whose mom is dying? I suggested that Cindy write her mom a note to express her love. And I promised to contact the WELS pastor in her mom’s town, asking him to call on her. He has.

When the news is bad, there is good news. There is Jesus.

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

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

What can I possibly say to them?

How do you reach college students with the gospel in a world already inundated with information vying for their attention?

Glenn L. Schwanke

The headline caught my attention. “Goldfish have longer attention spans than Americans.” It seems that goldfish pay attention to that flake of food on the top of the tank for nine seconds. The average American Web surfer has an attention span of eight seconds.

I wasn’t particularly surprised by the data, and I’m not too sure our attention spans are a whole lot better when we’re not using the Internet. Harvard business school historian Nancy Kroehn has been studying the recent publishing-world phenomenon that’s called “series publishing.” It seems publishers see a need to release shorter books, rapid-fire, rather than wait to release one larger work. In part that’s because we’re in an instant society, and nobody wants to wait years for their favorite author to release another book. But perhaps “series” publishing is also gaining traction because nobody wants to read the 500-page book. After all, even Twitter, with its limit of 140 total characters in a tweet, is too wordy for some these days. It’s being replaced by Instagram where the picture is worth a thousand words.

Even as our attention spans are plummeting faster than a rock tossed into the lake, more information is inundating us. Some media mavens will consume up to 285 pieces of content every day. That’s some 54,000 words and as many as 1,000 clickable links. Or its 443 minutes of video—the equivalent of four Star Wars movies.

No wonder our attention spans are shorter than that of little Bubbles the goldfish! There aren’t enough hours in the day to take in all the content that fights for our attention.

As a campus pastor, when I think about these things, I wonder, How can I hope to grab even eight seconds of a college student’s attention? What can I possibly say to them? My timing with jokes has always been bad, and too often I forget the punch lines. The stories I tell they’ve heard one hundred times before. I don’t have a clue about hashtags. And Instagram? I always manage to have my finger over a corner of the camera lens.

For such moments, it’s important that I remember what I’ve been called to do by my fellow believers in the Wisconsin Synod: “Preach the good news” (Mark 16:15). “Repentance and forgiveness of sins”—that’s what Jesus wants his church to proclaim till the end of time (Luke 24:47). That’s what I am to share with students in our campus ministry.

Will I prepare sermons, Bible classes, and evangelism outlines to the very best of my God-given ability? Will I seek to use language students will understand? Will I use carefully chosen illustrations that resonate with them? Will I even—gulp—try to be briefer in my presentations? Yes. The Lord hasn’t called me to be sloppy or out-of-touch with those I serve, but rather “faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Yet at the end of the day, I need to remember that my jokes, my powers of reasoning, and my ability to debate won’t win a single soul for Christ. Only the power of the gospel does that. Only the work of the Holy Spirit brings someone to faith and keeps them in faith.

What can I say to the students I serve? What Paul once said to the intellectuals at Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1,2).

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

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 101, Number 11
Issue: November 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

And then there were two

And then there were two

Much of campus ministry starts one-on-one—but can often lead to more.

Glenn L. Schwanke 

It’s quiet as I write this. Yet, maybe I’m just noticing it more, because I just returned from our district convention. There I joined hundreds of fellow WELS members in worship, in work, and in fellowship. The singing reminded me that Garrison Keillor is right. Lutherans love to sing, and if given the chance we’ll do it in rousing four-part harmony, even when the music isn’t printed in the bulletin. The rafters shook from our singing.

But then I came back to Houghton, Michigan. We don’t have hundreds in worship on a Sunday. Most Sundays it’s not even one hundred. The rafters don’t shake quite so much.

On top of that, it’s now summer break. A few students stick around for classes, but it’s only a trickle compared to the flood of students come fall.

Even in fall, the lion’s share of my campus ministry will be quiet. By that I mean it’s not flashy. It doesn’t generate a lot of media buzz. Most of my ministry is not done in front of hundreds or even dozens. Most of my campus ministry is one-on-one. It’s talking to a student over a cup of coffee in a cafeteria on campus or in a restaurant downtown. It’s counseling a student in my office. It’s sharing a Bible and a brief witness with an Islamic student who has heard a bit about Christianity and has some questions.

Or it’s meeting Zhiquiang Zhao for the first time, just days after he arrived in the United States from his homeland of China. On his first Sunday here in the States, Zhao walked down the street from student housing and wandered into our church building to look around. I noticed him visiting with a member. I introduced myself and invited him to stay for Bible study. He did, and then he stayed for worship. But it wasn’t enough. Like so many other students, Zhao was hungry to learn more. A Bible information class was what he needed.

So I invited him to start classes—that very week. But others who were already in class were at an advanced level, so Zhao would get lost. Then, too, it was a challenge to fit everyone’s schedules together. So we began, just the two of us. One-on-one.

Is that good stewardship of my time? Philip the evangelist didn’t argue with the angel who instructed him to “go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” And when God’s Spirit pointed Philip to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip didn’t blurt out, “What, all this trouble just for one?” He shared the good news of Jesus, and the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized (Acts 8:26-39). Today, there’s an Ethiopian Orthodox church that boasts some 45 million members, and that church body claims the Ethiopian eunuch as its founder. So maybe one-on-one campus ministry can lead to something more!

It’s still quiet in Houghton right now. I’m getting ready for my next class with Zhao. Here he comes. He is excited. He says, “My friend Zhen would like to join us. Is that okay?” A few moments later, in she comes. Introductions are shared. Zhen tells me a little bit about herself and how much she loves Bible stories. She’s already heard a few, but there are so many more to be shared, including the most important story of all—the story of God’s love in Christ.

And then there were two.

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

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 101, Number 9
Issue: September 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

Campus ministry brings young Christians together for worship and fellowship and sometimes more.

Glenn L. Schwanke

It’s Tsarist Russia. The year is 1905. In the little village of Anatevka, three of Tevye’s daughters are hanging out the laundry. Yente, the village matchmaker, has just stopped by to inform them that Lazar Wolf, the wealthy butcher and also a widower older than Tevye, wants to marry Tzeitel, the eldest daughter. What a match! Not exactly the man of a young girl’s dreams.

Who would be? The three daughters tell us. “Someone wonderful.” “Someone interesting.” “And well off.” “And important.” Then the three burst out in song. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a match, Find me a find, catch me a catch. Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Look through your book, And make me a perfect match.” (Fiddler on the Roof, 1964)

It’s the United States of America. The year is 2014. In the little town of Houghton, Mich., three Michigan Technological University (MTU) coeds are hanging out the laundry. . . .

Wait! That’s not right, not right at all! Let’s change it to, “In the little town of Houghton, Mich., on the MTU campus, there are almost 7,000 students enrolled. Over 5,600 of them are undergraduates. For a variety of reasons, the student body ratio of men to women stands at about three to one.”

That ratio has actually shifted somewhat in the last decade, because recruiting has raised the number of female students on campus. And among the Wisconsin Synod students who attend MTU? The ratio has shifted even more dramatically over the years. Our student group ratio is about 60 percent male and 40 percent female.

So what? Well, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kind of like a 21st-century Yente. Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say that our campus ministry functions as a matchmaker—at least on a secondary level. One of the reasons we carefully plan worship and all those Bible studies and weekly fellowship activities is to bring young Christians together. Our model is that of the early Christian church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of

bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Our primary purpose is that of the apostle Paul: “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2,3 ). We want young Christians well equipped to live their faith in a society that is becoming increasingly challenging, and at times even hostile, to Christianity.

And if, while doing that, young Christian men and women meet? And start to date? And their relationship gets serious? And they get engaged? And Papa gets a scholar! And Mama gets someone as rich as a king! And a young woman gets a husband of whom it can be said, “He loves his wife ‘just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it’ ” (Ephesians 5:25)! And a young man gets a wife of whom it can be said, “[Her beauty comes from her] inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4)! Isn’t that a rich blessing from our gracious God?

Certainly! And anyway, somebody has to arrange the matches. Over the years, matches like Raj & Mahita, Dan and Kate, Matthew and Heather, Ken and Nicole. . . .

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

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 101, Number 7
Issue: July 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Pastor, what about?

Jesus is the solution when conspiracy theory books attack Scripture and our Christian faith.

Glenn L. Schwanke

An e-mail appeared in my inbox. A graduate student who is an officer in our Lutheran Collegian student group had a question: “Pastor, a friend of mine shared a link with me. It’s rather disturbing. Could you do a Bible study on this with us?”

I checked the link. The Web site is about a Blu-ray disc and a book. The title was controversial: Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus.

Disturbing indeed. I scanned a bit further. The author proposed that Jesus was the invention of the Roman Imperial Court. What? Roman Caesars invented Christ? How? The author claimed that the Caesars used the first-century historian Josephus to ghost-write the New Testament. And how did the author come to that conclusion? He claimed to have discovered parallels between the works of Josephus and the New Testament.

Hmm. The “evidence” felt flimsier than paper-thin. Then I wondered, “Why would the Roman Caesars bother with such an ambitious project?” The author anticipated the question. He suggested that Rome feared the revolutionary spirit of the Jews would infect the rest of the Empire. Huh? My recall of history told me that Rome squashed Judah like a bug in A.D. 70. Her capital city of Jerusalem was destroyed along with her precious temple—just as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 24:2).

My reaction to this book and video was that it was nothing but speculation heaped on top of fabrication. But still, my student was concerned. I downloaded the eBook.

I read the book. I groaned with the turning of every page. I regretted that I burned $8.69, the cost of the download. There’s nothing in this book that comes close to proving the author’s damning claims about the New Testament Scriptures. This is nothing more than the devil’s first lie clumsily repackaged for unsuspecting 21st-century readers: “Did God really say . . .?” (Genesis 3:1). I researched a bit further and found out that even the rankest of atheists disavow this book.

I prepared a Bible study and shared it with my student group. Some wondered, “Then why is this book so popular? Why are so many listening to it?” The questions were heart-wrenching, because we’re talking about classmates, roommates, and friends. I suggested that the answer lies, in part, in the genre of the book: “conspiracy theory.” Conspiracy theory books are all the rage right now because so many people are disillusioned with authority, whether it be in government or society or religion. And frankly, Christianity is often singled out for the fiercest of attacks. Therefore even the most outlandish claims gain traction.

But that’s not the whole answer. Attacks on Scripture, on our Savior, and on our Christian faith will continue to the Last Day because Satan is still a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Desperate beyond despair, the devil will seek to destroy our faith any way he can, even though he knows he’s already been crushed by our Savior’s heel.

Yet why are people so gullible, even eager to believe the devil’s lies? Our Lord explains. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The solution? It goes far beyond pointing out the half-truths and lies of devil-driven scholarship in conspiracy theory books. The solution is Jesus. His good news alone softens stubborn human heads and hearts that are dead in sin.

Glenn Schwanke, pastor of Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 101, Number 3
Issue: March 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

There’s music in the air

Practice and effort create a joyful song to praise the Lord.

Glenn L. Schwanke

I’m at my office computer. My mind is burrowed deeply into a Hebrew text study for this coming Sunday’s sermon. Yet little by little, my thoughts are gently nudged away from Hebrew grammar. Why? There’s music in the air!

Where’s it coming from? Not from the hundreds of MP3s I’ve got squirreled away on my hard drive. (Nor is the music streaming from a Web site like Spotify or IHeartRadio.)

Instead the music is coming from our chapel. College students in our Lutheran Collegian group are practicing again.

That happens a lot these days. Maybe they’re practicing the hymns and liturgy for an upcoming service. Maybe someone is practicing a solo to be used during the offertory or as a reading response. Maybe two vocalists, male and female, are working on a duet. Maybe a keyboardist is smoothing out some timing issues with another student who is playing the guitar. Maybe a small ensemble of flutes and clarinets are rehearsing. But one way or another there’s music in the air.

As I sit back in my office chair and allow the music to wash through me, I’m humbled. I’m also filled with thanks. Why?

These college students usually spend hour after hour practicing for worship. Sometimes that’s because they are nervous; it’s the first time they will be playing for a service. Usually there’s another reason. These young adults take worship very seriously. They practice and practice and practice because they want to glorify the Lord with their music. They spend hours working on their fingering or fine-tuning the dynamics of a piece, even though their playing already sounds sublime to the untrained ear. They practice even though they are swamped with assignments, projects, and papers at school. They practice even on a Friday or Saturday night, when they could be hanging out with friends. They practice, because they want to give their very best to the Lord who gave us his very best.

Sometimes when I listen to the students practice, I’m struck by something else. I don’t know the music. It is new to me. So I need to ask questions about it. Who is the composer? Who wrote the lyrics? May I preview the lyrics?

Why do I ask those questions? I know that our gracious Lord has given us New Testament Christians breathtaking flexibility and freedom when it comes to the forms of music we use. Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians proves that. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). However, the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” of Paul’s day and the different musical genres available to us today still need to breathe “the word of Christ.” The sweetest music, played ever so skillfully, does little good if the message isn’t soundly scriptural. Instead, it can do great harm.

These college students get that too. So they patiently bring their “aged” campus pastor up to speed on the music they prepare. Then that music is introduced in worship for the first time. It’s repeated, and soon it becomes one of my favorites—and one of the congregation’s favorites too.

But now it’s time for me to get back to my text study. The music I hear drifting in from our chapel is an added encouragement for me to do my very best in preparing next Sunday’s sermon.

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

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 101, Number 1
Issue: January 2014

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