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God’s actors

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) 

Peter M. Prange 

God works in mysterious ways. We’ve probably all had opportunity to experience that reality. For instance, we may have the feeling at times that God has abandoned us in our time of need, only to have the problem were facing resolve itself in a way we could have never imagined. With a smile, we conclude, “God works in mysterious ways. 

His mysterious ways 

The Scriptures indeed tell us that God works in mysterious ways. He’s acting behind the scenes, so to speak, hidden from our eyes. That’s what a mystery is: a reality hidden from sight. 

The Old Testament believer Joseph had a wonderful and heart-wrenching opportunity to suffer God’s behind-the-scenes work in his life, only to have God’s good purpose revealed to him much later on. He went from being a young prisoner sold into slavery by his jealous brothers to second-in-command over all Egypt and in a position to save his family and many others from starvation. “You intended to harm me,” he reminded his brothers, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). 

The reality is that God is present with every person every moment of the day, acting in and through the people of this world, both believers and unbelievers. “For in him we live and move and have our being, St. Paul taught the skeptical crowd at Athens about their “UNKNOWN GOD (Acts 17:23,28). But our loving Father’s acting in us and through us is hidden from our eyes and the eyes of the people around usWe don’t normally see or understand it because God works in mysterious ways. 

His actions through us 

Have you ever considered yourself one of God’s actors? That’s what you are. Martin Luther described all people as “masks of God” to illustrate how God is acting through us. Especially as someone who trusts in Jesus, God employs you and your spiritual gifts to bless the people and world around you. He has sent his guiding Holy Spirit into your heart to lead you gently in all your thoughts, words, and ways. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Yes, God has been acting inside you and through you in a mysterious way, even if you didn’t realize it! 

And what’s God’s ultimate “good purpose” for your life? Simply put, he doesn’t want you to “be overcome by evil, but [to] overcome evil with good.” God is good, and he can do nothing but good, even when we initially judge his work in our lives to be evilIn all circumstances, God has called us to be his actors in a spiritual war against evil. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood [i.e., human beings],” Paul reminds us, “but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). We need to realize that our enemy, the devil, also works in mysterious ways, “looking for someone to devour.” We need to be alert (1 Peter 5:8). 

How do we win this spiritual war against our unseen, evil enemy? By putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), which will protect us when the day of evil comes. Then the devil won’t get the best of us. Instead, God’s Word will lead us in victory over Satan’s evil schemes, as we allow our loving God to reveal the good he desires to produce in us and through us as his actors. 


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange 
Volume 106, Number 8
Issue: August 2019

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

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Our shelter in God’s shadow

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

Daniel J. Habben 

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

The approach of judgment day 

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

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

But is it? 

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

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

The refuge of God’s shadow 

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

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

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


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


 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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God’s promised rest

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. Hebrews 4:1

Daniel J. Habben 

Ah, summer. School is out. Holidays are in—that is, after we get through our vacation to-do list: Shop. Pack. Clean. Empty fridge. Service car. Cancel mail delivery. Find pet-sitter. Sometimes there is so much stress before a vacation that we’re tempted to cancel our travel plans altogether and do a staycation instead! All the pre-trip hassle can’t really be worth that seven-day trip to Disney, can it?

Our journey on earth

Maybe we sometimes view our journey to heaven in the same way. Striving to live as a Christian in a sin-filled world is stressful and demanding. Heaven can’t possibly be worth the hassle, can it?

The writer to the Hebrews encourages us not to slack on our heavenly travel plans. Unlike any earthly vacation spot, heaven is a place of true and lasting rest. Heaven is not only worth the troubles we experience on earth, but its glories so far surpass those troubles that we one day will consider them “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17)!

Of course, one reason we may feel exhausted living a Christian life is because we haven’t truly grasped the essence of Christianity. In a recent Bible class, a woman said, “I thought Christianity was like every other religion—just do your best to behave and God will give you heaven.” Being a Christian, however, is not so much a matter of behaving but believing—believing in what Jesus has done for us.

But behavior does follow belief. Because I believe that Jesus gave his life to rescue me from sin, I want to treat my spouse with respect. I want to be patient with my children. I want to give my boss my best and not eat up company time checking Facebook. I want to do all this because I’m filled and fueled by gratitude for all that God has done for me through Jesus.

Our journey to heaven

Christians have God’s standing promise that we will enter heavenly rest. But, amazing grace, that rest already starts here on earth! Jesus has relieved us of our burden

of sin the way a luggage porter relieves a weary traveler of heavy luggage. The porter doesn’t ask the traveler to help him carry the load. He simply takes it. Of course, the porter will expect payment in return for his services, but Jesus shouldered our sins at no cost to us. And where is our heavenly porter leading us? To heaven, on a one-way ticket. We will never have to return to a life of broken relationships, loneliness, disappointment, or disease. Our rest will never end because sin will not intrude again.

Let’s not allow that promised rest to slip from our hands. Heed the warning of the writer to the Hebrews: Be careful! Don’t get so caught up in the concerns of this world that you relegate Jesus and his Word to the bottom of your to-do list. It’s a warning we especially need to hear as summer begins.

As we anticipate a break from routine, let’s not take a break from our worship and devotional life. So go ahead. Buy that vacation ticket; empty your fridge; lock your door. But bring Jesus and his Word along. Visit WELS congregations near your vacation destination. Download sermons and devotions to listen to as you barrel down the highway. Keep feeding your faith so you won’t fall short of God’s promised rest.


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


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben 
Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Our very great reward

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1             

Daniel J. Habben 

What is the greatest reward you’ve ever received? Your fifth-grade spelling bee trophy? A medal from a race in which you set a personal recordA work-related bonus delivered to you personally by an appreciative boss?  

The best reward possible 

God once told the patriarch Abraham that he was Abraham’s “very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). I love that phrase. God didn’t just say he was Abraham’s reward. He didn’t even say that he was his great reward. He said that he was Abraham’s very great reward.  

Think of how that phrase highlights this truth: Our God doesn’t deal in minimums! He didn’t, for example, send his Son Jesus just to forgive past sins and enter us in the race for heaven—leaving it in our hands to finish securing eternal life. No way! Through Jesus, God forgave our past and future sins. Because of Jesus, we look forward to an eternal life of happiness.  

To put this mind-boggling gift in earthly terms, that’s like saying that even though we’ve cheated on our taxes, the tax auditor not only refuses to press charges, but he also gives us a check for a million dollars! Likewise, Jesus doesn’t just keep us out of hellhe also gives us heaven.  

A reward we do not earn 

But how can God really be our very great reward? Isn’t a reward something that is earned? 

If we’re honest, we have to admit that we’ve done nothing to earn God’s favor. Even those kind words we spoke this week—weren’t they partly shared to feel good about ourselves and to receive praise from others? Or consider why you’re reading this devotion. I hope it’s because you want the Holy Spirit to work through the message to strengthen your faith. But isn’t there also a part of you that picks up this magazine because, well, you paid for the subscription, so you might as well read it? You’re expected to keep up with what’s going in our church body anyway. I know I approach the study of God’s Word that way sometimes—as if it’s just a textbook that I use in my preaching and teaching.  

So how can we say that God’s love is our reward when we often do the right things for the wrong reasons? We can because whenever the heavenly Father looks at us, he sees his perfect Son to whom we have been joined in Baptism. It’s like Jesus is the star vocalist in the choir who covered up my mistakes. “The choir was great today, Pastor!” members often comment. Ah yes, by joining his voice to the choir’s, the star vocalist makes the congregation smile. Jesus, of course, doesn’t simply add to what we have done. No, his life and his death are the sole reasons that heaven is ours. What we have done—no matter how great—is not enough. The reward that we have received from him is a reward of grace.  

I am your very great reward. God gave Abraham this reminder after the patriarch had returned from a successful commando-style mission to rescue his nephew Lot, who had been carried away as a prisoner of warMaybe Abraham felt on top of the world after that experience. Yet God reminded Abraham, and now he reminds us, that no matter what success we enjoy in life, there’s only one reward that matters: the very great reward of his grace.  


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


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben 
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Close enough to love

Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. Luke 10:33 

Joel C. Seifert 

And who is my neighbor?”  

A religious expert asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus told him to love God and his neighbor. He asked, “And who is my neighbor?” His question showed that he still wanted to do something to be worthy of eternal life. He wasn’t even close. 

So Jesus tells the parable we call the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). A man traveling down the road from Jerusalem falls into the hands of robbers who strip him of his clothes and beat him, leaving him to die alone. An unlikely foreigner comes along and shows selfless love to a stranger, even when it put him in harm’s way, even when the most outwardly religious people passed by uncaring. It’s a simple story with a simple point: Love helps whoever is in need. How could this expert love like that? 

Love brings us close to our fellow man  

A subtle detail helps us understand love better.  

There’s a progression in Jesus’ story that stands out in the original Greek: The priest went down the same road. The Levite came to the place. The Samaritan came to the man. 

There’s a connection between love and proximity. When love isn’t there, it’s easier to stand at a distance and tell ourselves there’s no real need for help, that we’re not the right ones to help, or that helping is someone else’s responsibility. The world is full of people whom we can find every reason to keep at arm’s length—the criminal sitting in his cell, the atheist who mocks our faith, the poor and homeless in our community. But love goes right to the man.  

That strikes right at the “expert in the law” and at us too. It condemns the times we stood at arms distance from someone in need, telling ourselves we don’t need to love them. Such love cannot inherit eternal life, because it is impossible for us unless God first loves us. 

Love is found in the God who draws close to us 

The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. We remember that this world is a present evil age and that we fallen people have hearts turned away from the God who made us. Yet at Lent wsee the most unbelievable thing: the holy Son of God here in this world, traveling up the road to Jerusalem so that a band of wicked men might surround him, strip him of his clothes, and beat him to the point of death.  

We don’t mourn at the tragedy. Instead we praise God because we know what’s happening. In Christ, God has come close to his fallen creatures. Close enough to see our hurt and feel our pain. Close enough to be mocked and beaten. He came right to [us]” so he could bear our sins and die our death. He came close enough to love us. 

At the end of his story, Jesus told the expert in the law, Go and do likewise. How?  Not by following rules and directions to love others, but by knowing the One who loves us. The love of God changes us. We love not to earn eternal life. We already have eternal life by grace and are children of God’s grace. When we see the pain of others we love “with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). 


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


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

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

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Keeping the festival

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.1 Corinthians 5:7,8

Joel C. Seifert 

Over the years, Israelites joined in the Passover meal, remembering how through the blood of an innocent lamb God saved them from slavery and death. Then for one week after that meal, God commanded them to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days they were to eat no leavened bread; nothing with yeast was even allowed in their homes.  

So, on the night before Passover, they’d get ready. The head of the household would light a candle. Together, parents and children would search through the house for any traces of yeast and throw them out. Then for one week they would “keep the festival,” celebrating how the sacrifice of the Passover lamb changed their lives. 

It was a tradition, but it pointed to a greater truth. Yeast is a symbol of sin and wickednessit spreads and it corrupts. That festival was a symbol for the Israelites. After they celebrated the deliverance God gave them through the Passover lamb, they had a weeklong reminder that they were to leave behind wickedness and corruption and live in the salvation God had won for them. 

Keep the festival in sincerity and truth 

Paul points us to that greater truth. Christ is the true Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for us. By his death on the cross, Jesus gave us complete forgivenessfreedom from sin and death. We celebrate that truth this month: in our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, we see the Lamb of God offer his life as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We celebrate his triumph on Easter Sunday. 

So, God says through Paul, Keep the Festival. Live in the salvation and freedom God won for you. Your Easter celebrations aren’t mere tradition. You have real victory in Christ. Let’s “keep the festival” in truth. Give a careful search through your life and your heart. Is there a sin that you’ve begun to tolerate? Paul warned the Corinthians against sexual immorality, greed, and hatred. Give a careful search and seek to drive it out of your life. You’re not doing this to find peace with God. Remember, Christ your Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. We’re simply living in the victory he’s won. 

Keep the festival together 

I suppose Paul could have said it more simply: Jesus saved you from your sins; leave your sins behind. But the Holy Spirit led him to point to the festivals that the Israelites had celebrated for more than a thousand years. God had been using the sights, smells and sounds of those festivals to impress scriptural truths on their hearts.   

We’d do well to do the same. This month, our churches will hold services with unique sights, smells, and sounds. Celebrate them together, as congregations and as families. Make a special effort to share them with your children. Gather and worship Jesus. Let your family feel the somber and heavy darkness of Good Friday. Take in the fragrant lilies and triumphant alleluias of Easter Sunday. Young or old, use those outward celebrations to impress God’s truths on each other’s hearts.  

Celebrate them, but don’t leave them behind. Let us keep the festivallive in the victory our Passover Lamb has won for us.  


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


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

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

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Called to love, called to speak

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 

Joel C. Seifert 

What does it look like when the church loves the world? It depends on what you mean by “the church.” 

The “social gospel” movement began its influence on American Christianity a century ago. It taught that the mission Christ gave to the church is to love the world by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and providing for the needy. Increasingly today, there’s a call for churches to love the world by being involved in “social justice.” The United Nations has declared Feb. 20 “World Social Justice Day.” 

Remember the mission of the church 

God calls the church to love the world. When it comes to our corporate activity as his church, he tells us what that means. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20). The church’s primary mission is to proclaim God’s Word in truth and to administer the sacraments. When our churches do this, they proclaim God’s love to the world. 

When the church is called to take an active role in social justice movements, there’s much to be cautious about. We dare not lose our focus on the gospel. It’s easy to give the impression that the goal of the church is to reform society, not preach salvation for sinners. And at times the modern social justice movement advocates for the recognition of immoral lifestyles or actions as legitimate and good. It’s good that a Christian doesn’t take part in such activities.  

But we dare not lose sight of our responsibility to love the world in other ways. 

Remember God’s call to the Christian  

Certainly, God calls the church to love the world by proclaiming the gospel. God calls the Christian to love the world in so many additional ways: We’re to provide for our families and be good citizens and good neighbors, to name a few. Consider also his command in Proverbs: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (31:8,9). 

God calls the Christian to love the world by caring about justice for all and by actively working for it. When individual believers do that, his “invisible church” loves the world. 

What a unique gift Christians are to the world when we do that in our personal lives! Guided by God’s Word, instead of the shifting morals of this world, we can speak up to protect the unborn, because we know that those living souls are precious to God. We can sound a clear call for equal justice for people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds, knowing all of mankind is created and loved by God. We can listen to God’s call to defend the rights of the poor and needy, rejoicing in Jesus’ promise that when we do this, we do it for him. 

February is a month when we love to talk about love. Let’s always encourage our churches to keep their focus on the proclamation of the gospel. And let that gospel message continue to encourage us to love our neighbor in action and in truth. God grant that he blesses this world as his people love others by speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves. 


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


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

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

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Epiphanies change everything

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.  Acts 9:18-20. 

Peter M. Prange 

One of the most famous epiphanies in world history took place when a Greek mathematician named Archimedes jumped into his bathtub and noticed that the water level rose the further he submerged himself. This discovery allowed him to measure the volume of an irregular shape and unravel a conundrum he was asked to solve for his king. As the story goes, the naked Archimedes jumped out of his bathtub and ran through the streets of Syracuse, shouting “Eureka!” (Greek for “I found it!”). He had a grand epiphany. He wanted to share the good news. 

It was as if a lightbulb had suddenly gone on. Archimedes had taken baths before, so the truth he now discovered had always been there. It had simply eluded him. Finally, he saw it. Eureka! What a change! 

Celebrating Paul’s epiphany 

The same can be said of the apostle Paul. It wasn’t as if Jesus became the Son of God and the Savior of the world the day Paul first realized it. That had always been true of Jesus, even when Paul failed to see it and stubbornly worked to snuff out the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus was Paul’s Savior, whether he believed it or not. 

Paul openly acknowledged his former life in darkness under Judaism, how he “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (1 Timothy 1:13) and how he had put many Christians in jail and voted for their execution (Acts 26:10). But then on the road to Damascus, something changed. Paul saw the light of Jesus, literally! He had an epiphany. He came to understand how backward his perspective had been, and it changed everything. 

For many centuries Christians have celebrated Paul’s grand epiphany and conversion on Jan. 25, during the season of Epiphany. His conversion and apostolic ministry are emblematic of the great mystery of God’s saving will, how he shines light on utter darkness.  

Sharing God’s truth 

One would think that Saul would be the last person on earth Jesus would be interested in saving. If anyone deserved to suffer forever for his resistance to the saving gospel, it was Paul. Who could possibly be a more unlikely candidate for conversion than someone who was openly attacking Christians, even seeking their extermination? 

But Jesus does the unexpected, and Paul marveled at the irony. The apostle also understood the Savior’s purpose. “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). Paul’s conversion proves many things, but it demonstrates one thing above all: Jesus’ love and forgiveness extends to every sinner, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. No situation is too hopeless. Epiphanies happen. 

When Paul discovered the truth, he couldn’t help but share it. His epiphany changed everything. We have the same privilege today. Our faith in Jesus as the world’s Savior is not just an opinion or one saving truth among many. It’s a singular, objective truth, whether people believe it or not. 

It’s our task to proclaim that truth. It’s Jesus’ job to turn on the light and provide the epiphanies. 


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 106, Number 1
Issue: January 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Joy to the world! He was born to die!

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of deathHebrews 2:14,15

Peter M. Prange 

There is perhaps no event that brings greater joy to the human heart than the birth of a child. How many times have we watched the scene play out on our television screens? A young mother is in the throes of childbirth being urged on by her doctor, “One more good push.” An anxious father stands nearby, awaiting the long-anticipated outcome.  

And then it happens. We hear the newborn cry, and the little baby is placed into Momma’s trembling arms. She sheds tears of joy and celebrates the amazing, divine gift of new life. Dad grabs his cell phone to broadcast the baby’s birth in one big blast. Life is worth celebrating, and parents can’t help but share their joy. 

Our Savior is born 

It was no different for the virgin Mary on that first Christmas night, though the circumstances were entirely different. No warm hospital room, not even a room in the inn. Her birthing center was most likely a dank, dirty cave. There were no doctors or nurses to attend her needs. She probably made due with a nervous husband and some unassuming farm animals. But despite those differences, what joy! True, Joseph didn’t tweet, but as the babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes the holy angels announced his wondrous birth.  

For good reason. This child would bring joy to more than a select group, courtesy of a text message. Instead the angel proclaimed to the shepherds, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). A Savior has been born to you. What joy! 

Our Savior must die 

Let precisely what that means sink in. Why was Jesus born exactly? Our Savior was born to die. At least that’s the point an inspired writer emphasized in his letter to the Hebrews. We who are flesh and blood needed a Savior-God who was flesh and blood too. Why? So that he could die for us in our place, be our sacrifice, yes, become “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was born so that “by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” 

In other words, our Christmas joy should always include a tinge of Good Friday sadness because the one naturally foreshadows the other. It’s a biblical truth beautifully depicted by Johann Sebastian Bach in the final chorale of his Christmas Oratorio. There he intertwines the celebratory tones of trumpets with words set to the Good Friday tune of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”—a poignant reminder that Jesus was born to die. 

But why? To “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” True, it is sad that Jesus was born to die. But what does his death and resurrection bring? Freedom from fear. Life eternal. Victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell. In other words, joy. Eternal joy that is found in the fact that our Savior was born to die our death so that we might live forever. 


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Give thanks for gospel partnership

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. 

Peter M. Prange 

It’s worth celebrating. 

Exactly 150 years ago last month, on Oct. 21–22, 1868, ten pastors representing two church bodies met in Milwaukee to discuss possible gospel partnership.  

Unity of the Spirit 

For more than a decade, their Lutheran synods made accusations and counter-accusations, especially in print. In many ways, they hadn’t really taken the time to listen to one another and to understand one another’s story in Christian love. But now they put down their swords for a moment, opened their Bibles and their hearts together, and discovered a wonderful reality: They shared “the unity of the Spirit,” a unity God had called them to keep “through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  

After less than two days together, these representatives of the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods recognized each other as members of “orthodox Lutheran church bodies” and quickly resolved to “practice pulpit and altar fellowship.” The Missouri Synod’s theological giant, C.F.W. Walther, was said to have uttered a memorable lament about his newly-discovered Wisconsin brothers: “If we had known all this before, we might have been united ten years ago already” (The History of the Wisconsin Synod, pp. 129,130). 

It is a rare thing when believers agree on the teaching of the Scripture. It is sad to note that even this great fellowship has deteriorated and broken since that start 150 years ago. 

Fellowship of faith 

Fellowship is a precious blessing. The apostle Paul understood not only how precious it was but how important. As a faithful apostle of Jesus, he was determined to celebrate the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace and to be thankful to God for his gospel partnership with others. 

True, Paul had a sharp, theological mind and could debate scriptural teaching with the best of them (Acts 9:20-22; 17:2-4). When people stubbornly denied indisputable, scriptural truths, he shook the dust off his feet and moved on (Acts 13:46-51; 18:4-8). 

But Paul craved unity and pursued it feverishly. Like Jesus, he was exceedingly patient toward those who trusted in the Savior yet struggled to grasp his sometimes “hard-to-understand” (2 Peter 3:15,16) teaching. Paul learned that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). He realized that even inspired apostles were not finished products in knowing and understanding every sacred truth (1 Corinthians 13:12). God’s broken people live and die by faith alone, hopeful that the Spirit who began the “good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Only then will knowledge and understanding be perfectly complete. 

Until then, God’s people stumble along together imperfectly, united spiritually in the bond of peace. Yes, there are believers in many visible churches, but we don’t all believe the same. Sadly, we note those who do not teach God’s truth and avoid them for the sake of our own faith and to be faithful witnesses to God’s truth—like Paul. But we can thank God that we are not alone in our knowledge and trust of Jesus as the world’s only Savior. So we celebrate our deeper blessed fellowship of faith, pray for others with joy, and give thanks for the Lord’s work in creating faith in human hearts. 

It’s worth celebrating. 


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Contend for the faith

I . . . urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. (Jude 3) 

Daniel J. Habben 

For Lutherans, October means Reformation. We are reminded that salvation is free—a gift through faith in Jesus. We are motivated to stand guard so that no one takes this truth from us. We are also urged to fend off a false teaching that Jude summarized like this: “They . . . pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 4). 

Forgiveness: Not an invitation to sin 

Unfortunately, that false teaching is as likely to come from within our own hearts as from any outside source. We might gleefully belt out Reformation hymns about God’s free grace and favor but then feel free to gaze at the latest racy video clip making the rounds. We might rejoice that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness through Baptism but shrug at how our wardrobe choices make it difficult for others to stay pure in thought. We might cherish Jesus’ gentle words of encouragement and forgiveness but excuse our own nitpicking and criticism of others. When we realize these sins, we might rush to assure ourselves that we are forgiven but make no move to change. How easy it is to pervert God’s grace!   

An invitation to someone’s house is not permission to leave our dirty socks on their living room floor. Likewise, when Jesus invites us to taste his forgiveness and experience the freedom that comes from lifted guilt, this is not an invitation to shrug our burden-free shoulders at our sin! We can’t embrace Jesus’ forgiveness and cozy up to sin any more than a man would be allowed to embrace his wife while holding his ex-girlfriend’s hand.  

“But temptation is all around us. We can’t avoid falling into sin!” Yes, but that’s not an excuse to sin. And that’s why Jude implores us to contend for the faith. Contending means struggling. It’s what you do when you deny an urge to spit back at someone who has just belittled you. 

God is with us in the struggle 

Contending for the faith is a lifelong effort. Every minute of every day you’ll need to make conscious adjustments to your attitude, the same way you make constant adjustments to your car’s steering wheel. If you don’t, you’ll end up in the ditch.    

Thankfully, contending for the faith is not a solo task. Jude wrote: “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance” (Jude 1,2). God’s abundant love moved him to send Jesus to die for our sins. It also works to keep us in the faith for Jesus.  

You’re like a war medal a proud father has received for his son’s act of valor. The medal is sent to the father for safekeeping while the son continues to fight on the frontlines. Do you suppose the father will throw that medal in the junk drawer with greasy bolts and rusty nails? Of course not! He will guard and keep the medal in a safe place until his son comes home to claim it.  

That’s exactly what your Father is doing right now as you ponder his Word. He is keeping you safe for his Son until Jesus comes to claim you at the end of time.  

Yes—God’s mercy, peace, and love are yours in abundance. It’s a truth we celebrate at Reformation. It’s also a truth that empowers us to daily contend for the faith as we strive to live holy lives for Jesus.  


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


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Victory parade

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14) English Standard Version  

Daniel J. Habben  

A few years ago, I studied 2 Corinthians 2:14 with the leaders of my congregation. We were happy to be reminded that as followers of Christ we are participating in a victory parade. We Christians need that reminder, because our walk to heaven doesn’t always feel victorious. Instead, it often feels like we’re a parade of clowns. The world has a good laugh at our beliefs, and our own human limitations trip us up like oversized clown shoes.  

Not according to plan 

That’s how our congregational leaders felt as we met to discuss a building project that had run into some difficulties. Didn’t we know what we were doing? Not really, as it turns out. But in the end, the Lord worked everything out so that we were able to finish construction and present to the congregation a beautiful and functional building.  

What are some difficulties you are facing? Have you spent the week submitting resumés in the hopes of securing a few interviews? Have you sent a child away to school for the first time and feel anxious about how he or she will cope? Are you trying to figure out how to care for aging parents while also looking after your spouse and children?  

Narrow route 

Notice how the apostle Paul never said that the parade route would be easy. We’re not marching down a broad boulevard to heaven. Quite the contrary! Jesus warned that the way to heaven is a narrow road that few find (Matthew 7:13,14).  

Although our route is narrow and unpopular, that doesn’t change the fact that we are indeed marching in a victory parade. High above us snaps the banner of our Savior, a sharp retort to Satan who says we don’t belong in such a parade. Sure, we do. Ahead of us walks Jesus himself. He knows the way. He’s been down this road before and has already unlocked the door to heaven—for us.  

Beside us are fellow Christians who encourage us in our journey, even as they receive encouragement from us. Angels guard our flanks. None of this escapes the notice of others. We Christians exude an aroma says Paul—the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.  

Our victory parade 

Granted, not everyone likes the scent. Many will continue to turn up their noses at us as we pass. Don’t be surprised by this. Don’t use it as an excuse to “tip-toe” past certain people, hoping not to disturb them. We’re in a victory parade! Make some noise! 

Let others know of the confidence we have because of Jesus’ forgiveness and his promise to keep caring for us. Explain to your friends why you’re not worried about your job prospects or about your children who are now out on their own or about the added responsibilities you have as you care for those aging parents. We are in the Lord’s care, and in the end, all our troubles will turn to joy. 

But we won’t march in step with our Lord if we’re not regularly hearing his voice. 

Now that summer is over, congregations are resuming Sunday school and Bible classes. Jump back into these spiritual growth opportunities. Be assured that we Christians aren’t a parade of clowns, nor are we just biding our time until our Savior’s return. We’re marching with him in triumphal procession.   


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


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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A hallelujah helper

Hallelujah! . . . The LORD’s works are great. . . . He has sent redemption to his people. He has ordained his covenant forever. Psalm 111:1,2,Christian Standard Bible 

Daniel J. Habben 

Millions have used Hamburger Helper since 1971. You may even have a couple boxes in your pantry. The dry mix makes a quick dinner for everyone in the family.  

Just as we need help with meal prep from time to time, we Christians often need help with our praise prep. Isn’t that especially true during the doldrums of August? The excitement of Easter is long past, and our favorite Christmas hymns are still five months away. Fellow members are away on vacation, so worship lacks its usual energy.  

What if there was a product that could fill our mouths and hearts with praise every day? Hamburger Helper can’t, but Psalm 111 can. It’s a hallelujah helper.  

God is worth praising 

Psalm 111 begins with “Hallelujah!” or “Praise the Lord!” Why praise? For one, because “the LORD’s works are great.”  

Just think how awesome it is that God created the universe in six days. I truly appreciated God’s creation feat after being involved with a church building project. In all, it took more than 250 skilled workers 285 days to refurbish our 1,600 sq. ft. church and to build a 3,200 sq. ft. addition. Even then, it wasn’t perfect. It took another two years for the finishing touches. And yet when God was done with his work of creation on that first-ever Friday afternoon, he looked with satisfaction on stars, comets, oceans, animals, and two people named Adam and Eve, and God declared them all to be very good. Wow!  

But then sin came into the world and ruined everything. So perhaps you don’t feel inclined to raise a hallelujah for God’s work of creation—not when your summer has had too much family tension and conflict, even on vacation. But Psalm 111 offers another motivation for our hallelujahs: God “has sent redemption to his people. He has ordained his covenant forever.” A covenant is like a contract. I saw a lot of those with our building project. Each contract stated what the plumber or electrician would do in exchange for our payment. Compare those contracts with the covenant God made with you in Baptism. God washed your sins away, gave you the Holy Spirit, and granted you eternal life. What did it cost you? Nothing. So how can we not respond with a hearty, “Hallelujah!”?  

His Word shares his great works 

And yet days can go by without praises parting our lips. We get too busy to reflect on God’s blessings. Psalm 111 describes God’s people studying God’s great works. The word study in Hebrew means to “visit often.” Do you visit God’s Word as often as you visit Facebook? It’s true, the content of Faithbook doesn’t get updated like the content on Facebook, but don’t let Satan convince you that it’s pointless to open your Bible frequently. God’s Word doesn’t change, but your life does. A psalm you read last year may not have seemed to say much to you at the time, but what about today? What new challenges confront you that God’s multifaceted Word would speak to?  

When you’re stuck for a meal idea. you can reach for Hamburger Helper. But when your hallelujahs get stuck in your throat, reach for a hallelujah helper like Psalm 111. Be reminded of the many daily reasons you have to praise the Lord. Your awesome God has saved you from your sin, and he never takes a break from caring for you. Hallelujah! 


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


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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When everything seems lost

Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” John 20:10-13

Joel C. Seifert

There was something that seemed desperate in Mary’s actions. Jesus—the one she followed as her Lord and Savior—was dead. She went to anoint his body in a tomb she knew she couldn’t open. And now that the tomb was empty, she began to search for his corpse. What was she hoping to accomplish?

Faith goes to Jesus, even when all seems lost

Over the years I’ve met many people who say, “I used to be a Christian, but . . .” They tell stories of how they were raised to believe in Jesus and the Bible and God’s love, but then faith let them down. They lost their job, and with their job their home, and with their home, their marriage. So they stopped saying, “I am a Christian,” and started saying, “I was a Christian.” Faith didn’t seem to matter anymore, so they stopped going to Jesus. It’s an awful trick of the devil: At the times we need Jesus most, it’s hardest to go to him.

I don’t know what Mary expected to happen. I think she just remembered what had happened. She was a lost soul; Jesus found her. So in his life and now in his death, Mary only wanted one thing: She wanted to be near Jesus, even if all seemed lost.

That’s where Jesus finds us. Things may seem pointless. You might not have any idea what kind of help you’ll find. Maybe you’re just going back to church or your Bible because once upon a time, it gave you hope, even if nothing seems to matter now. But when you’re near him, Christ finds you and shows you that he still loves you, lives for you, and calls you by name.

When faith goes to Jesus, he uses us to reach the lost

God gave Mary one of the most important tasks in the history of the world: She was one of the first people to ever tell anyone that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s important! Do you know what she did after that? I don’t either. Read through everything the Bible says about this important woman, and all you get is this: She wanted to be where Jesus was. So when he was preaching, she listened. When he was in need, she gave him her gifts. When she saw her living Savior, she told others about him.

That’s the importance you have too. When you’re there listening to Jesus’ Word, that’s important. You’re not just strengthening yourself; you’re encouraging and strengthening others. When you give your offerings to help keep his message sounding in the world, that’s important. People will hear the gospel because of you. When you tell others about Jesus, you become one of the most important people in the world to them.

Most people won’t list Mary side by side with Peter and Paul and James and John as one of the most important people in the Bible, and maybe there aren’t many people who will look at you that way either. But Jesus does. And no matter where you go with him in faith, he makes you important to others.


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


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 105, Number 7
Issue: July 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Words that fight for peace

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:32-34

Joel C. Seifert

They seem like fighting words. Jesus calls us to speak his truth faithfully, and he says when we do so, it’ll bring a sword. Jesus doesn’t hide what faithful witnessing brings. Those who speak his words will be imprisoned and punished. The words they speak will bring strife into their family life and hatred from the world.

This probably doesn’t surprise you. The world Jesus sends us into so often sees God’s will for our lives as out-of-date—or even threatening. Those who hold to a biblical worldview of creation are publicly mocked. So many even in the visible church oppose those who hold to the teachings of Scripture. We have a lot to fight against, don’t we?

Christians are for Christ

Christ sent the disciples out with a simple task: “Proclaim this message, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’ ” (10:7). They weren’t sent out to eradicate sin or reform society. Jesus didn’t call them to erase divisions in the visible church and drive out false teachers. The purpose of the church isn’t to defeat those evils; they’ll exist until the end of time.

God calls us to proclaim his kingdom. Matthew chapter 10 is a list of the challenges that will simply be there when we go about our work. But that doesn’t mean we’re on the defensive. We have a different strategy. We share the news of a Savior who doesn’t promise an immediate fix for a sinful world but forgiveness and salvation for the sinners in it.

Christ is for Christians

But as we do that, Jesus says it will bring trouble, even in our families. It will bring a cross. Are we attacked? Is our faith mocked? Our natural reaction is to respond with fear or anger, but we don’t need to. Jesus has won the victory. Christ is for us.

Do you see the freedom those words bring? It’s an easy temptation to see yourself as on the defensive—a victim in a culture war against Christian values. And that makes it all the more tempting to lash out in kind: to mock, to accuse, to insult. But dear Christian, Christ has won for you. So, follow him. Proclaim his kingdom with kindness, love, and respect. Will you be attacked? Of course! The world attacked Jesus too. But Christ is for you, so follow him as you speak the truth in love.

At the end of June, the church remembers the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. It’s one of the foundational confessions of the Lutheran church. It was delivered by Lutheran princes and laymen to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530. Because they held to God’s Word, they were condemned and threatened by their emperor with loss of land, wealth, and even life. Consider reading the Augsburg Confession this month. You’ll find in its pages a wonderful confession of the truths of Scripture in the face of false teaching. And with that, you’ll find something else beautiful: the entire confession is filled with humility; respect; and Christian love, even as its writers faced punishment or war. They weren’t afraid; they knew Christ was for them. And they let their words and actions speak clearly: They were for Christ


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


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

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

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Jesus’ victory is a given

“Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

Joel C. Seifert

I think of the young women and men who’ve stood before me and made confirmation promises that were boldly spoken and quickly broken. I write this article the day after another school shooting claimed 17 lives, and I fear the despair and anger that Satan sows into the world my own children are growing up in. I get afraid.

Jesus’ victory is a given

So, Elizabeth’s words amaze me and bring peace to my heart. The virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus when she visited her cousin. Mary faced dangers. Certainly, those around her considered her guilty of adultery, a sin punishable by death. The world would be opposed to this child; Herod would order the deaths of dozens of children in hopes of killing her baby. The child she was carrying was one the great dragon would do anything to destroy.

If Elizabeth was afraid for Mary, you couldn’t hear it in her words: “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:43,45). I suppose it was simple. Elizabeth was too old to have a child, but God promised she would. It was more than dangerous at her age; it was impossible. But there she was, running her hand over her growing belly. That same God also promised a Savior would come through Israel. Yes, the nation was broken. And yes, there were dangers for Mary. But God promised. So, it would happen.

The dangers to our children’s faith and safety are real. Many churches are confirming another group of eighth graders this month; the seniors receiving diplomas in a few weeks will head to college in the fall. And Jesus makes a promise: no one can snatch his sheep out of his hand. The world and the devil will attack them with lies; these young Christians can and will wander from their faith at times. But Jesus has paid for every sin they’ll fall into. Jesus will bring his people home. His victory is a given.

Jesus gives us to each other

So, God keeps giving. On May 31, the Christian church celebrates the Festival of the Visitation. We remember the three-month period during Mary’s pregnancy when she

stayed with Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:39-56). One of the chosen readings for that festival is Romans chapter 12. Consider a few encouragements from that passage: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another” (vv. 10,15). It’s a beautiful picture of what those faithful women must have done for each other during those dangerous days.

And it’s a reminder of the privilege we have during these dangerous days too. We won’t stop the devil from being the devil and the world won’t cease being filled with evil, but we can show Christ’s love to each other. We can encourage each other. We can weep and rejoice with each other, not in fear, but out of Christian love.

The Festival of the Visitation falls at the same time as many graduations and confirmations. Consider taking time this month to choose a younger Christian or two whom you might seek to befriend, encourage, and pray for in the years to come.


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


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

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

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God’s gift of groaning

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Peter M. Prange 

“Don’t get too comfortable.” I offer that guidance to my children when we’ve got someplace to go. Don’t take off your shoes. Don’t even remove your jackets. Be prepared when it’s time to head out the door. Simply put, don’t get too comfortable.

We like comfortable, though, don’t we? It appeals to us. But bodily comfort can be damaging to the human soul. It can so easily serve as a tranquilizer to Christian faith, lulling us to spiritual sleep. Bodily comfort can be dangerous, even deadly.

Avoiding comfort

That’s why Jesus responded the way he did to the rich man who thought he had everything he needed stored up for many years. Jesus scolded him. “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20). That wretched fool had put his hope in the comfortable things of this world—a deadly decision. It’s why our Lutheran forefathers taught their people to pray for the Lord Jesus to rescue them from luxury, because luxury can be so poisonous.

Who in their right mind would offer such a prayer? Only someone who lives by faith and not by sight. Someone like St. Paul.

The apostle had learned from experience that Jesus uses groaning to serve our ultimate good. Ironically, groaning is a gift from God. It’s as if Jesus has put us up in tents in this world, and “while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened.” But our gracious Savior has his reasons. It’s no mistake. Indeed, he “fashioned us for this very purpose.”

And what is his purpose? He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable. Instead, he wants us to be prepared for that remarkable moment when all our dying and groaning is “swallowed up by life” once and for all. Then we will trade in our quickly-expiring earthly existence for “our heavenly dwelling” that is truly imperishable (2 Corinthians 5:4,5).

Jesus’ main life lesson is this: We are called to “live by faith, not by sight,” so we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Our Savior has far greater things in store for us, and those divine gifts will last forever. Then the groaning stops, and true, wholesome, and eternal comfort begins in Christ.

Embracing our cross

It’s the central scriptural truth that a young friar named Martin Luther discovered in the monastery and then proclaimed to his dying day. He called it “our theology,” the theology of the cross. In April 1518—five hundred years ago this month—Brother Martin presented the cross-centered theology he found in Holy Scripture to a group of monks and scholars gathered in the German city of Heidelberg. His words caused a stir, and the reason was simple. They ran so counter to our broken and backward worldly thinking. Young Luther was imploring his listeners to heed the urgings of St. Paul to “live by faith, not by sight.”

But we sinners prefer comfortable. The sooner, the better. Even St. Paul had to admit that about himself, because he was a sinner too. But Jesus opens our spiritual eyes to see the divine purpose behind our groaning, behind our suffering, behind our lack of comfort in this world. It’s no accident. It’s no divine oversight. It has a godly purpose, and that purpose is good.

Our groaning compels us to live by faith, not by sight, and the comfort of that blessed faith is eternal.


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Living in exile

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. Genesis 28:10

Peter M. Prange 

When St. Paul penned Philippians, he was languishing in prison. Life had not been easy for this witness of Christ Jesus, and it wouldn’t get easier. But that didn’t come as a surprise to him. The Lord Jesus had promised as much, even before Paul became an apostle. The Lord even said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16).

Paul was living in exile, and he knew it. Through his suffering he had come to appreciate that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). But until the day of Jesus’ glorious coming, he would be living away from his heavenly home.

Experiencing suffering in this world

The Old Testament believer Jacob had a similar experience. He was the one who received the birthright, not Esau, his brother. Jacob was the one through whom the Savior of the world would be born. He was the one whom God chose for this blessing, even before he and Esau were born (Genesis 25:23). Yet it was Jacob, not Esau, who was driven away from his homeland to live in exile. He received the divine promises, only to be sent out into the wilderness.

Near the end of his life, Martin Luther remarked on Jacob’s plight. “God seems to be a liar, because he promises in a kindly manner and puts forth good words but gives things that are evil. He gives Jacob a blessing and, on the other hand, allows it to be taken away. On the contrary, Esau, who has been cursed, remains in the house with his children, his wives, and his whole relationship, and governs everything just as previously he was head of the household and a priest of the church. Jacob goes into exile and abandons his blessing” (Luther’s Works [LW], Vol. 5, p. 202).

Luther discovered in Holy Scripture that what was true for Jacob is true for God’s people in general. “This is the constant course of the church at all times, namely, that promises are made and that then those who believe the promises are treated in such a way that they are compelled to wait for things that are invisible, to believe what they do not see, and to hope for what does not appear” (LW, Vol. 5, p. 202).

Using trials to exercise our faith

But why? Why does God deal with his dear people this way? Why does he allow his people to endure such pain, such persecution, such pushback from an evil world? Why doesn’t he turn the tables and send the unbelievers into exile and allow his children to live in peace in this world?

Why? Because Jesus wants us to trust him. He knows how faith works and how faith is worked. Faith needs to be exercised just like our bodies, and it is exercised through resistance, through trial. Luther explained that “faith is not a laughable, cold quality that snores and is idle in the heart. No, it is agitated and harassed by horrible trials concerning the nothingness and the vanity of the divine promises. . . . [So often in this world] I see nothing of what he promises. Indeed, I feel the opposite in my flesh” (LW, Vol. 5, p. 205).

But that’s exactly when faith in God’s promises kicks in! That’s when faith is exercised. Jesus pushes the seed of his gospel deep into our hearts through the crosses we carry. The heavier the cross, the more we treasure his promises

Like Jacob, we are living in exile. Thank God for it.


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Deliver us from evil

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 

Peter M. Prange 

The question my wife’s grandfather asked me was completely sincere and has been asked or at least thought by many others: “Didn’t anyone who died on 9/11 ever pray ‘Deliver us from evil’? And if they did, did God simply ignore their prayer? Or was he unable to deliver them from evil?”  

He could not imagine a greater evil than the one committed on that bright September day. Nor could he imagine that only unbelievers had perished in those murderous attacks. Surely, at least one among the dead had faithfully prayed, “Deliver us from evil”! So where was Jesus? 

Using evil for good 

The answer is both simple and complicated. Grandpa had misunderstood the meaning of the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. He was defining evil far too narrowly. We all do that. It’s natural for us to define evil as those things that make our earthly lives uncomfortable and unsatisfying. If it hurts, if I don’t like it, if I’d rather have it be a different way, or if it leads to death, it must be evil! 

But God responds, “Not so fast!” Consider the example of Joseph. He suffered the worldly evil of his brothers selling him into slavery. It hurt. It wasn’t enjoyable. He certainly prayed for it to be different. This was pure evil, right? Well, yes and no. 

Through the Spirit’s working, Joseph gradually learned and later proclaimed to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s brothers had done their best to inflict evil on him, and they had. But God delivered Joseph from evil. No, God didn’t immediately change the outward circumstances. Joseph suffered evil. What God changed was Joseph’s perspective on that evil, and in time he transformed human evil into divine good. Joseph perceived God’s gracious work—yes, even through evil!—and he was perfectly delivered. 

Fighting eternal evil 

So if God uses evil for good, what is truly evil? The Scriptures teach us that true evil is being separated from God’s eternal love. True evil is someone forfeiting the eternal blessings Jesus has won for all sinners. True evil involves us turning our ears away from God’s saving Word and treasuring instead the things of this condemned world. That’s the true and hidden evil to which we sinners are so naturally blind and vulnerable, an evil that daily surrounds us and lurks deep within us (Mark 7:21-23).  

So we fervently pray, “Deliver us from evil,” something only Jesus can do. And he does. Every time, in his own time, and at just the right time. And sometimes he uses the greatest evil to do his even greater saving work (Acts 2:22-24). 

Our Savior never promises to spare us from every worldly evil. If anything, he promises that we will endure evil regularly, especially as his people, but for our ultimate good. Make no mistake about it. “In this world you will have trouble.” And why is that? Because Jesus’ far greater desire—his only mission— is to deliver us from the brand of evil that lasts forever. 

So we live day by day in the confidence of knowing that Jesus hears our prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” and answers as only he can: “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” In Jesus alone we are truly delivered from evil forever. 


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


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 105, Number 2
Issue: February 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Confident and persistent prayer

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

Daniel J. Habben  

I think Jesus made a mistake.

It just doesn’t seem that his promise in Luke 11:9 is true. I’ve asked, I’ve sought, I’ve pounded on the door to God’s heavenly treasure room, but I haven’t always received what I wanted.

Getting what we need

How are we to understand this promise about prayer? In the short parable before the verse, Jesus describes a man who received an unexpected midnight visitor. He had no food to offer this visitor, so he went to his neighbor to beg for provisions.

Knowing that the neighbor represents God, how would you have written the ending to the parable? Would the neighbor in your version of the story have whipped up an omelette with all the fixings? Would he have insisted on personally hosting the unexpected visitor? Isn’t that what we want God to do—to put to bed all our problems? Instead, the neighbor in the parable told his friend to go away! Are we supposed to think of our heavenly Father as a grumpy neighbor who won’t help?

But Jesus doesn’t make mistakes. The parable doesn’t end there. One key to understanding this parable is to remember that Jesus never promised to give us whatever we ask for. No, he said that God would give us whatever we need. In the parable, the man boldly asked. As a result of the man’s bold asking and knocking, Jesus said his neighbor gave him just as much as he needed.

Dealing with the unexpected visitor

Unlike the grumpy neighbor’s first response in the parable, God delights to hear us knocking at his door. And he loves to answer us in just the right way. But what if I’ve persistently prayed for financial stability only to have my car break down? That “unexpected visitor” makes me realize just how ill-prepared I am to handle life’s trials on my own. It sends me running again to my loving Father, my heavenly neighbor who can supply all my needs. If I ever doubt his willingness to help me. I need only consider the cross. It is God’s perfect answer to the problem of my sin: his son Jesus.

Jesus himself knows what it’s like to deal with a “midnight visitor.” Maybe it was around midnight when he was on his knees in the Garden of Gethsemane praying that God would remove the cup of suffering he was about to endure on the cross. Jesus was persistent in that prayer, asking three times for it to be removed. But each time he also added, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus was confident that his Father knew what was best. And his Father did provide what Jesus needed. He gave him the strength to finish his work of earning salvation for a world full of sinners.

God may not rescue you from your financial mess in quite the manner you prayed for, but he will give you the calm to handle the crisis. If your midnight visitor is a difficult coworker or your own grim diagnosis, God may not deliver you from those situations by making them suddenly disappear. But he will give you enough strength and patience and peace each day to handle your hardships.

So keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. The door to God’s heart is open to you. He’ll always give you what you need.


Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. John’s, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.  


Note: The artwork is a painting called “Midnight visitor.” It features Luke 11:9 in Japanese: Motome. Sagase. Tatake. (Ask. Seek. Knock.)


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 105, Number 1
Issue: January 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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God with us

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14                                            

Daniel J. Habben  

Not so long ago, my wife found a list of names that we had compiled 16 years ago in anticipation of each of our children’s births. We wanted their names to mean something, to be just right, since our kids would carry those names for life.  

In a few weeks, churches all over the world will remember a far more significant name-choosing: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Talk about a name packed with meaning. Immanuel comes from the Hebrew and means “God with us.” The child Mary would bear was God himself. Isn’t that what we celebrate every Christmas—the fact that God chose to pitch his holy tent among sinful humanity? 

Help is at hand 

But perhaps God’s arrival should be cause for concern. If you came home to find an ambulance parked in your driveway with lights flashing and engine running, you wouldn’t think: “Cool! I’ve always wanted to see an ambulance up close!” Instead you would race into the house and shout: “What’s wrong?! Who’s hurt?!” The presence of an ambulance means trouble.  

Likewise, when God parked his Son in that Bethlehem crib it signaled trouble—or at least it should have. Do we really want a holy God to be with us? In the bedroom? In the boardroom? In the bar? Do we want him observing our every action and reading our every thought? Such a prospect should dismay us more than someone livestreaming every hidden moment of our life!   

But while the presence of an ambulance signals a problem, it also means that help is at hand. So it is with Immanuel. God is with us—not to punish, but to save. The Son of God accomplished our salvation by actually becoming one of us. In the person of Jesus, God has hair and an eye color. He became thirsty and tired. He even died.  

One eye on the cross 

But why bring up Jesus’ death before the ink on his birth announcement has even dried? Why conjure up images of a brutal crucifixion even as we prepare for the joy of Christmas? Because Christians understand that lasting joy and happiness can only come from knowing and believing that all of our sins are forgiven. And that means celebrating Christmas with one eye on the crib and one eye on the cross where Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.  

At this time of year, credit card companies often offer the chance to win all the purchases you will make in December. Wow—wouldn’t it be something to win that contest so that you wouldn’t have to start the New Year with a huge credit card bill? But here’s something better. When Roman soldiers fastened Jesus to the cross, God the Father charged him with all the sins that we have done and will ever commit. With sin paid for, the debt we owe God has been erased. The door to everlasting happiness is wide open.  

It’s no wonder churches all over the world proclaim this well-known prophecy from Isaiah at this time of year. It’s a joy to be reminded that in Jesus we have Immanuel: God with us. In the person of Jesus, God joined Team Humanity so that we undeserving sinners may live forever with Team Divinity.  

Whom will you invite to church this Christmas to learn the meaning of Immanuel, God with us?


Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. John’s, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.  


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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God’s best is yours

Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” Genesis 45:20 (English Standard Version)                                             

Daniel J. Habben  

“Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”  

These were Pharaoh’s words to Joseph’s brothers. After Joseph had revealed his identity to his brothers, Pharaoh instructed them to return to Canaan to fetch the rest of the family before returning to settle in Egypt. This was a generous offer! With a famine overshadowing the region, Pharaoh could have been reluctant to play host to more hungry mouths. But he not only invited Joseph’s extended family to Egypt, he also told Joseph’s brothers not to bother bringing their possessions. Everything they needed would be provided from the best of the land.  

God’s riches 

In the face of such an offer, it would have extraordinarily rude and foolish of the brothers to dismiss Pharaoh’s generosity—to insist on hauling to Egypt everything stored in their attics, garages, and junk drawers. In essence, the brothers would have been saying, “We don’t believe you, Pharaoh. We don’t think you will really give us what we need to live. And we don’t think that what you are offering is better than what we already have.”  

Joseph’s brothers weren’t that rude or foolish. But that’s often my shocking response to God’s gracious promises. Sometimes I hold on to my worldly attitudes because I’m not entirely convinced God will share his vast riches with me—even though he’s promised to do just that. Think of how the apostle Paul assured the Philippian Christians: “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19, emphasis added). I’ve been offered the best! I don’t need to cling to my worldly concerns as if to a life preserver.   

Our concerns 

What about you? What’s in your grasp that makes it difficult to see and appreciate God’s great blessings? Are you holding on to resentment? Let it go! God knows best how to handle the situation. He calls you to exercise patient forgiveness and leave the judging up to him. Do you see how this makes you rich? It’s as if you have your own private investigator looking into the matter so that you don’t have to worry about it.  

Are you grasping for approval from nonchristian friends? They aren’t going to speak up in your defense on judgment day. They can’t bring a loved one back to life. They can’t soothe your guilty conscience or prepare you for eternity. But your glorious and gracious friend Jesus can and will.  

And what things are so important that they divert your attention from God’s riches? Are you stretching to the breaking point to snag that luxury vehicle with those awesome gadgets, or do you treasure that stylish patio furniture or some other thing? Their warranties won’t outlast judgement day.  

It’s tempting to expend oodles of energy and concern over worldly goods and concerns, but they are only baubles and distractions compared to the riches of God’s glory that are yours through faith in Christ. Such riches free us to live generous lives—to share our faith, our time, our abilities, and our income with an open hand. 

So fix your eyes on Jesus, the king of the universe, who says to you, “Have no concern for your earthly goods, for the best of heaven is yours . . . forever.” 

Oh, what a promise! I don’t need to weigh myself down with distractions and stuff. The Lord gives me the worldly things I need, but they are unimportant. If I have Jesus, I have everything.  


Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. John’s, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.  


 

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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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The sounds of the Reformation

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4 

Joel C. Seifert  

Bam! Bam! Bam! The sounds came from the hammer driving the nails through the paper. A Catholic professor posted his 95 theses to the door of the university church.   

Fwoosh! Three years later, Martin Luther held a copy of a letter from the Pope. In it, the Pope condemned many of Luther’s ideas. Knowing he was at risk of excommunication, Luther stood in front of a crowd and dropped the letter into a fire, watching the flames consume it.  

“Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!” Six months later, Luther refused to recant his teachings at the Diet of Worms. He would stand with God’s Word, no matter what it cost him. 

Those were the sounds of the Reformation. But open up your catechism, and you’ll find words written by Luther that call to mind some of the most dramatic and powerful Reformation sounds of all. Over each chief article of faith, Luther wrote this: “As the head of the family should teach it in the simplest way to those in his household.”  

Let Reformation truths sound loudly in our homes 

God gave the apostle Paul a helper, Timothy, a “son in the faith,” to help carry out the gospel ministry. Timothy had learned God’s truth at home. Paul wrote: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). 

Even though the visible church of their day had lost a clear view of Jesus and preached work-righteousness, Timothy’s grandmother and mother passed on the truth of Scripture at home. Luther reminds us: Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel.  

They say that good character and values are “more caught than taught.” Our children are always watching us and learning from our examples. But faith is only taught, never caught. Our children don’t learn of Jesus by watching us speak honestly and act fairly. They learn as we sit down with them, open the Bible, and let God tell them of his wonderful works. “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”  

We speak God’s Word, and faith lives in them! 

From Christian homes to the world 

It happens in seemingly humble and gradual ways. A nightly devotion. Morning prayers. Asking questions about Sunday school lessons and sermons. Every day, as countless Christians read their Bible, God pours out his Spirit. Soul by soul, believers learn to love God’s truth and take their stand on it.  

What does a Reformation sound like? As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, you’ll hear preachers proclaim grace from pulpits. You’ll hear churches resounding with powerful cantatas and echoing with “A Mighty Fortress.” You’ll go to Bible studies about holding onto God’s Word in truth and purity. Those are wonderful sounds! 

And, Lord willing, behind all of those sounds you’ll hear some of the most beautiful and influential sounds of the Reformation as families gather to read and listen to the Bible, the catechism, or devotions. Those are the sounds of the Reformation. And when they ring out, God’s truth echoes again in the next generation. 


Contributing editor Joel Seifert is pastor at Shining Mountains, Bozeman, Montana.  


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017

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

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God’s holy angels

Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen. Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer

Joel C. Seifert

When you’re little, there’s something incredibly comforting about the angels’ protection. That’s power enough to keep you safe from the thing sleeping under your bed and the monster hiding in the dark closet. No wonder we teach our children to pray those words from Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer.

Something seems to happen as we grow up. We look under the bed and realize that there wasn’t a tentacle reaching out for us. It was just an old shirt that didn’t make it into the hamper. Our lives get a little safer, more predictable.

DANGER AWAITS

But sometimes life reminds us that danger still lurks around us. I like to think of Psalm 91. Whoever wrote it wasn’t a kid, and he wasn’t worried about things that went bump in the night. He talked about disease and plague, being out on the battlefield as your brothers-in-arms lost their lives; he wrote of arrows flying and wild animals prowling. It reminds us we need the angels’ care.

It’s because our world is at war. An angel of God, so beautiful and powerful that he could only be described as a bearer of light—a Lucifer, if you prefer the Latin—rebelled against God and brought other angels with him. He knows he can’t defeat God, so he preys on his children. It’s been war ever since.

What opens your eyes to that war? The phone rings, and someone you love is on their either end. Their doctor didn’t use the words deadly pestilence, but saying cancer was really no different. We don’t fight battles with arrows anymore, but the 22-year old Marine knows that the Kevlar in his vest can only do so much good. The psalmist talked about the terror of night, and that seems far off until you’re driving down the highway with your family and the driver next to you swerves unexpectedly.

GOD’S ANGELS PROTECT

But there’s more to see: “If you say, ‘The LORD is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:9-12). I think of the time my niece was on a hike deep in a state park and collapsed, unable to breathe. She was on the ground, maybe 90 seconds from death, when a man in white showed up, put his hand on her chest, and her lungs opened up again—and then he was gone.

But we might also think of the dangers we don’t experience: “No disaster will come near your tent.” “Let your holy angel be with me” is a prayer for the mother standing over her daughter’s bed because every time she lies down, she’s worried the fever won’t break. It’s for the soldier on the battlefield and the family weathering the storm. It’s for you, because God promises for the sake of Jesus Christ to send his holy angels to serve those who will inherit salvation.

And when troubles do arrive, those angels stand ready to carry us home, if that is God’s will. And the wicked foe will have no power over you.

The Christian church celebrates the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels on Sept. 29. Consider reading Psalm 91 on that day and giving thanks to God for his angels’ watchful care.


Contributing editor Joel Seifert is pastor at Shining Mountains, Bozeman, Montana.


 

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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

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

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Great things for me!

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” Luke 1:46-50

Joel C. Seifert

“What are you doing?!”

Do you think Mary was tempted to scream those words toward heaven? Pagan Romans ruled her land, bleeding every shekel in taxes they could get from the people. Her church featured pious leaders in flowing robes, but grace and mercy sat unseen in the back. She had a man that she loved—a godly, upright fiancé. But then came the angel and the message from God that she—a young, unmarried woman—would have a baby. What was God doing?

So Mary lifted her eyes towards heaven, took a breath, and poured out her heart. But she didn’t say, “What are you doing?!” She said, “My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior. . . . The Mighty One has done great things for me.”

Honest faith sees the greater reality

Faith isn’t blind to life’s problems. Mary knew the hardships her out-of-wedlock pregnancy would bring.

Yet faith is also honest about God’s promises. Two words changed everything for Mary: “My Savior.” There was a greater reality that God allowed Mary to see. Yes, life would get harder. But she would have her Savior, growing within. And miracle of miracles, he wasn’t just stepping into her life; he was allowing her to be part of his story as he brought salvation to generations of countless souls. Great things indeed!

Honest humility leads to faithful service

Mary knew she would serve as the mother of God, but not because of her worthiness or righteousness but because of grace. That blessed her with an “honest humility.” She knew her chance to serve was just another one of the “great things” the Mighty One had done for her. So she served faithfully. God grant us eyes to see that too.

Perhaps Mary seems like a wonderful role model for little girls. She’s an example of how God works through those who don’t seem important in the eyes of the world. Maybe she seems like a source of encouragement for faithful Christian women who choose to serve in humble, quiet ways.

But the truth is that Mary isn’t simply a role model for little girls or faithful women. She’s a wonderful example for big, burly men too. She’s an encouragement for those who sit in corner offices and those who stand in pulpits. She’s a role model for all of us when we’re tempted to wonder what God is doing.

Even if we wonder what God is doing in our world, our society, or in our daily lives, he allows us to be a part of his plan. No matter what’s going on around us, we get to care for others in need, to practice justice, to show mercy, to forgive sins, to carry Jesus to the people around us. Maybe our service seems unimportant or lowly, but it makes an incredible difference.


Contributing editor Joel Seifert is pastor at Shining Mountains, Bozeman, Montana.


Note: For at least the last thirteen hundred years, Christian tradition has recognized Aug. 15 as the date of Mary’s death.


 

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

 

Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 104, Number 8
Issue: August 2017

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

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