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The Lord, our shield

Glenn L. Schwanke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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Our desperate need

Earle D. Treptow 

recent college graduate, with what appeared to be a bright future, tried to end her life. Her boyfriend of three months, who she thought was “the one,” had broken off their relationship. Without him, she could see no reason to liveNo one loved her, and no one ever would. Or so she felt. 

young man, for whom his teachers and mentors had harbored high hopes, moved from one crime to the next, from petty theft to grand larceny to armed robberyOnly when he had money in his pocket could he experience joy in living. Or so he felt. 

To hear such storiesand stories like that multiplyis to come face-to-face with the identical issue, though revealed in different outward manifestationsPeople regularly look in the wrong places for joymeaning, and purpose in life. They’ve been misled by their sinful flesh and deceived by the Liar. The recent college graduate and the young man, as it turns out, have the same need. They both need to hear God’s Word. That should be said more strongly: They desperately need to hear what God has to say, both about their sinfulness and about his gracious solution to the problem they cannot solve. You can probably identify a few people who rise to your top ten list of people in our life who desperately need to hear God’s Word.”  

But then the devil sees an opportunity. He seeks to convince us that we are slightly different. Yes, we need to listen to God’s Word, but we are not like those who desperately need to hear itThe difference between “need” and “desperately need” is subtle, but significant. While we still recognize our need to hear the Savior speak to us, we consider it far more critical for those who do not know God’s love to hear the Word of God.  

In heart and mind, we begin to think that our need for God’s Word is like our need for exercise. All would readily acknowledge the importance of exercise and its value for a person’s physical and emotional health. But, as some of us have provenone can continue to live even without vigorous exercise four days a week. Some of us have skipped exerciseor at least skimped on itwhen life is busy, and we have lived to tell about it. We may need exercise, but apparently, we don’t desperately need exercise.  

But is that our relationship with the Word of God? One might compare it instead to our relationship with oxygen. We desperately need oxygen; without it we die. We don’t just need to listen to our Savior. We desperately need to sit at Jesus’ feet and hang on his words, for they alone give and sustain lifeThe devil loves it when we think that it’s others who desperately need the Word and we don’t.  

Think of what Jesus said to Martha when she was frustrated with her sister. Martha thought Mary should have been helping her serve the Savior and support him in his ministry to those who desperately needed to hear his Word. She felt that there would be other times for Mary to listen to Jesus teach. The Lord’s words to Martha were clear and powerful: “Only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42 NIV 1984). Mary recognized that she didn’t just need to listen to her Savior; she desperately needed to do so 

So do we. 


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon.


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 106, Number 8
Issue: August 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Not just the capital of Rhode Island

Andrew C. Schroer 

In December of 1630, Roger Williams, a Puritan pastor from England, boarded a ship called the Lyon and sailed to the New World. He and his wife, Mary, hoped to find peace from the persecution they had suffered as Puritans. They settled in the Massachusetts colony and began serving a Puritan congregation in the town of Salem. 

Williams, however, was soon expelled from the congregation due to his radical views. You see, Williams believed that church and state should be completely separatethat the government shouldn’t get involved with or regulate churches. To our modern sensibilities, such an idea is far from radical. In fact, it’s one of the founding principles of our countryin large partly due to Roger Williams. 

In the 17th century, however, the separation of church and state was considered fanatical and subversive. So Williams looked for a place where his family could live and believe what they wanted without government interference. He took a boat to a tiny island called Rhode Island, which at the time was inhabited almost entirely by Native Americans. There Williams founded his own settlementWilliams was so thankful God had provided him and others a refuge where they could believe and worship as they wished, he called the place “Providence.”  

But Providence isn’t just the capital of Rhode Island. 

It’s what God does for you and me every day: He provides for us. Just look around at all that you havehomes, cars, phones, beds, clothes, and TVs. We have so much food that we periodically have to clean out our refrigerators because it goes bad. We have so much stuff that our biggest frustration with our homes is that the closets are too small. Sit down one day and try to make a list of everything you owneverything you have. Just look at all the good things God has provided for you.  

Yet at times, we have the gall to consider ourselves poor, or at least not rich. We look at the “rich” people down the road. We don’t have what they have, so we think we must be poor. We fail to see that the poorest of us are richer than 90 percent of the world. 

But wait a minute, you may be thinking. God didn’t provide this. I did. I worked my rear end off to pay for all this stuff. Yes, but who gave you the opportunity to work? Who gave you the ability to work? Who gave you your body and mind? 

Everything we have is because God in his love has provided it for us. In fact, he has provided us with the things we need the mostforgiveness and heaven. Those are gifts we don’t deserve. You and I have fallen and failed so many times. We have thought, said, and done so many bad things in our lives. The only things we deserve are God’s anger and punishment in hell. 

But in his great love, God provided a Savior, Jesus, who suffered our punishment in our place. Through Jesus, God provides the forgiveness we so desperately need. Through faith in Jesus, he provides you a forever home in the riches and happiness of heaven. 

Look at all that God has done for you. Recognize what he has provided for you. Thank him every day. 

Because Providence isn’t just the capital of Rhode Island.


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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On grief and grieving: A Christian perspective

Glenn L. Schwanke

In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler Ross published her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. The book identified five stages of emotional turmoil experienced by the terminally ill: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Decades later, David Kessler joined Kübler Ross to write On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, which applied the five-stage model to those who were suffering from the loss of a loved one.

Through the years, I have often referred to Kübler Ross’s work when shepherding the terminally ill or when ministering to their family after a death. But for the past year, I have been breaking my own ground through Kübler Ross’s work. How so? My dear wife, Terry, went home to heaven on May 14, 2018, after a lengthy bout with cancer. Since then, I’ve been trudging through those five stages of grief, but not in way you can neatly diagram on a straight line. Rather, I often feel as if I’m at sea in a murky swirl of emotions that can be triggered by the slightest thing.

Depression? If I’m watching a television program that we used to watch together, suddenly sobs I didn’t even realize I had come welling up from a place deep down inside.

Isolation? Some days I fight to find the energy to go to the grocery store or make congregational visits.

Anger? If I’m struggling with a pan of burned bacon, suddenly I’m shouting, “Lord! I was married to the best cook in the world. Why did you take her?”

Bargaining? Well, some have termed guilt “the wingman of bargaining,” and guilt I have felt. “I wish I had been a better husband. . . . If only I had urged her to go to the doctor sooner.”

Why share any of this? Because others are struggling through the same five stages of loss. If you’re one of those people, permit me to throw you my lifeline over the last year.

When I feel as if I’m wading through waist-deep mud, my Father lifts me gently with his guarantee, “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

When I pour out my heartache in prayer, my Father hears every groan: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed” (Psalm 34:18).

When I think, I wish Terry were still here, my caring Father lets me peek at what she already has: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain, because the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

When I’m crushed by guilt, sometimes even by the storm of emotions inside, my Father points me to his Son’s cross and whispers, “Finished!” (John 19:30).

And when I’m lonely, my Father blesses me with Christian family, friends, and neighbors to help in these days and, I pray, in the days to come.

Acceptance is finally settling into the nooks and crannies of my heart and head. But I prefer to call it “trust.” Trust in the One who promised, “As Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, so the LORD surrounds his people from now to eternity” (Psalm 125:2).

Our Father’s lifeline is there for you too. Take hold.


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


 

All Scripture references are from the Evangelical Heritage Version.

 

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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 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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Embracing a double standard

Earle D. Treptow 

“I would have been happy to helpbut no one ever bothered to ask me.” Comments like that illustrate the importance of the personal touch in encouraging people to serve. 

People desire to serve in important ways, to help with tasks that fit their talents, experiences, and resources. Ino one takes the time to approach them directly with a request for assistance, they conclude that their help isn’t needed or the project isn’t important.  

Some respond to that reality by longing for the good old days, when an individual could count on others to serve without being asked. There was no need to approach people, on a one-on-one basis, to ask them to help. People saw a need and acted. In fact, going directly to a person to ask for assistance may have been considered an insult. 

Maybe that was the case at one time. Maybe. Wsometimes portray the past idealistically. Longing for the good old days does not help us at all. We end up frustrated with others and complaining about them 

We would be wise to let the good old days be the good old days and choose to work within the current realityPeople want to be asked to help, no matter how obvious the need may seem to us. So we ask. If, in humility, we consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3)making a personal request will not seem like a stretch. If we charitably assume that they are already using their God-given resources and abilities in many ways, asking them personally to help in another way seems like the right thing to do 

The old self is quick to draw a conclusion about this. “If I’m supposed to ask others personally to help, then people ought to do the same for me. If they don’t, they are not showing the respect God tells them to demonstrate, so I don’t have to help, and I shouldn’t.” The old self has it all wrong, because she thinks only about one person: herself 

The new self thinks about it differently. She reflects on how the Lord chose to operate. 

He did not wait for sinners to ask him to help. He entered this world uninvited by human beings and opted to live and die on their behalf to rescue them from everlasting punishmentThe individual that the Holy Spirit brought to faith through the gospel, without her asking, no longer wants to insist that people must ask her to helpInstead, she desires to imitate God in eagerly serving others. 

We need not wait until someone personally asks us to serve. In fact, we must not, because our brother Jesus is always asking us to serve, wherever we find ourselves—at work, at school, in the neighborhood, or at church. In the needs that surround us in our callings in life, none other than the Savior himself is asking, “Please help.” The Savior asks us to be a blessing to others. He asks us to pray for them and to assist them with the resources he has put at our disposal 

We are to go out of our way to ask others to help, and yet we are to help others without waiting to be asked. That seems like a double standard, which we have been taught to avoid as unfair and onerous. In this case, however, we embrace the double standard. It’s what our Savior personally asks us to do.  


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon, Wisconsin.  


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Judgement-free zone

Andrew C. Schroer 

On July 22, 2018, a 34-year-old man named Eric Stagno walked into a Planet Fitness gym in New Hampshire. He stopped at the front counter, took off all his clothes, and then proceeded to do yoga in the buff. Those exercising at the time were both shocked and disgusted. The police were called immediately. 

Upon his arrest, Stagno claimed he thought he was in a “Judgement Free Zone,” referencing the company’s longtime slogan. 

With 1,500 locations and over 10 million members, Planet Fitness is one of the most successful gym franchises in the world. Its claim to be a “Judgement Free Zone” resonates with many people. The pressure of exercising with sculpted body builders and embarrassment over their own bodies often keep people from going to the gym. 

They feel like they are being judged. 

Planet Fitness has found a way to create a comfortable and welcoming environment for the casual gym user. But, as Eric Stagno found out, there is no such place as a completely judgement-free zone. 

One of the things our world today fails to distinguish is the difference between judging and being judgmental. Being judgmental means being quick to judge or harsh in your judgment. It means setting yourself above other people or thinking you are better than them. 

God doesn’t want us to be judgmental. We have no right to set ourselves up as judge and jury for someone else. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks strong words about those who pridefully judge others (Matthew 7:1-5).  

God, however, does judge. He is the Supreme Court of all creation. His moral code will be the standard by which we will all be judged one day. Every single person will be judged by God for what they do in this life. Before God there is no such thing as a judgmentfree zone.  

When we as Christians lovingly and humbly share God’s moral code with the worldwhen we call sin “sin”we aren’t being judgmental. We are simply sharing the decrees of the Judge of all creation. 

Our world, however, calls that judgmental. It doesn’t want you or me to say that certain actions or attitudes are wrongThat is considered unloving and intolerant. For our world, love is living judgement free. 

But then when a guy gets naked in a gym or a pedophile molests a young boy or a terrorist massacres the innocent, suddenly the world sees the importance of judges and juriesThen there is a higher moral code by which people should be judged. 

Deep down we all know there is a higher moral code. We know we haven’t lived up to that moral code. We deserve to be declared guilty by God the Judge. 

And yet because Jesus lived and died in our placebecause he suffered our guilty verdict in our placeGod declares all those who believe in him to be innocent of all charges. Through faith in Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of judgment day. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that judgment day is coming. Even here on earth there are no judgement-free zones, as Eric Stagno discovered. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all judging is judgmental. God wants us boldly and lovingly to proclaim his moral code and his judgments even when people don’t want to hear it. Only then will they be able to see how desperately they need Jesus as their Savior. 

There is no such thing as a judgement-free zone.


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
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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Frogs in heated recliners

Glenn L Schwanke

I wake with a start, and it takes a few moments for me to realize it was only a dream.

The dream?

I’m sitting at the supper table with my family. I look over in the living room, and there’s my dad, Loyal, sitting in one of our recliners! (That’s no small feat, since my father passed away suddenly in 1972.)

Eagerly, I jump up from the kitchen table and rush over to my dad to give him a hug. Then I sit down in the other recliner as I pour out my life story. “I have so much to tell you, Dad! I went to Northwestern College, then to seminary. While at Sem, I met a very special young lady. We got married. After Sem, I was assigned to serve a congregation in Fort Wayne. There our daughter was born . . . yes, Dad, you’re a grandpa! Since 1996, we’ve lived here in Houghton.”

While I’m catching up with my dad, I notice he’s getting distracted. He keeps glancing at our television. So I shift the conversation. “Dad, you won’t believe the technology we have today! Those anchor-weight CRT TVs are a thing of the past! Now we have flat-screen TVs, light as a feather. And cable! No more rabbit-ear antennas wrapped with aluminum foil.”

But it’s not the technology that has grabbed my dad’s attention. As a dark cloud settles over his face, he asks, “What’s that show on TV?”

“That? That’s a rerun of Friends, an old sitcom from almost 20 years ago.”

“And you allow that kind of program to be viewed in your home?” Dad responds sternly.

“Well, Dad, it’s mostly just background noise during supper. And it’s just Friends—that’s pretty tame by modern standards.”

“But they were just talking about sex and no marriage, as if it was okay! Joking about it! You let your daughter watch that? You watch that? I thought I trained you to know better.”

“But Dad . . .”

That’s when I wake up and realize I’ve become a frog in a heated recliner. How so? Well, there’s an old tale that says if you put a live frog in a kettle of hot water, it will jump out. But if you put the same frog in a kettle of cooler water and heat it slowly, the frog won’t notice the danger, and it will be cooked to death.

In my dream, my dad came back from the dead after 47 years, so what he saw on the television shocked him. After all, he was used to watching Gunsmoke. And Sheriff Dillon didn’t curse. Nor did he joke about going to bed with Kitty.

I’ve been immersed in our country’s culture through all those same years. So little by little, my conscience has been dulled to entertainment that would have shocked me back in 1972. Entertainment that should still shock me (Ephesians 5:12).

Has the same happened to you?

Then how comforting it is to have a Savior who cried out from his cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He said that for soldiers gambling at his feet, religious leaders circling like vultures, and gawking crowds. He also said it for all of us frogs in our heated recliners—Christians with dulled consciences who may spend too much time watching garbage entertainment and too little time pondering the truth that Jesus bore the full heat of God’s hellish punishment for all our sins.


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


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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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An easy question?

Earle D. Treptow 

The same question may be easy or complex, depending on the person you ask. For example: What are the factors of 2xy – 10x2y + 4x2y2? A sixth-grade student would consider that complex. Even some who have completed college may find it difficult. For the mathematician, however, the question is easy. In the end, you’d hope, if you found the question complex, that those who considered it simple wouldn’t look down on you because you couldn’t answer correctly and quickly. 

Here’s another question that one person may find easy, another complex: What is your gender? You may think of that as the easiest question. Some, on the other hand, consider the two possibilities most often presented as inadequate. Neither “male” nor “female” accurately capture the way they view themselves, so they look for some other word to communicate their gender.  

When it comes to math, we expect that those in the know will be patient with those who have not been taught or who struggle to grasp the concept. Above all, we expect that they will not regard with contempt those who can’t give the proper answer. Do those same expectations apply when it comes to questions of gender identity? Do we expect it of ourselves as we interact with those who struggle with an issue that is so clear to us? 

Christians know the answer because God has taught us in his Word. In the opening pages of Scripture, he says, “God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). The Lord formed human beings as male and female. That was his perfect design in his perfect world. Adam and Eve accepted God’s design as a gift of God’s goodness.  

When our first parents decided that God had unfairly forbidden them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, things changed for the worse. Adam and Eve experienced serious confusion. They were so confused that they tried the impossible—to hide from the Lord in the garden. Their confusion led them to doubt God’s mercy, so they deemed it necessary to blame God and others for their sin. The Lord, by his promise of a Savior, cleared up their confusion about his mercy, but their sinfulness meant that confusion would regularly persist. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve passed along their sin to their descendants and, in so doing, passed along their confusion too.  

We ought not be surprised, then, that people are confused about gender identity. Sin has corrupted us all, so that God’s clear and beautiful design seems unclear. Don’t we know that from painful personal experience? Must I not say about each sin I commit that it’s a rebellion against God’s design? Every sin arises from the confused idea that God’s design doesn’t fit our current circumstance or our view of how things ought to operate.  

God graciously calls us to repentance day after day and then patiently teaches us the truth yet again. He invites us to deal in the same way with others who do not grasp his clear design. With the strength the Lord provides, we don’t dismiss people who are confused about gender issues as hopelessly in rebellion against God. Instead, we serve them, as one wretched sinner to another. In humility, we proclaim God’s love for them in Christ. 

We teach God’s design. And then we pray that the Holy Spirit would enlighten confused hearts and minds, just as he has done with all us undeserving sinners.  


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon, Wisconsin. 


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Drowning in a sea of bad news

Andrew C. Schroer 

The news can be overwhelming. It doesn’t matter whether you watch CNN, Fox, or MSNBC. I don’t see a difference whether you catch the local news on TV, glean it off the Internet, or read the newspaper. The sheer volume of news can be overwhelming, especially when it’s bad news. 

Terrorists. Crime. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Politics. Protests.  

It seems that the more time we spend watching the news, the more it feels like the world is falling apart around us. The more we watch the news, the more helpless we feel. 

We have no control over most of the events we read about and see on the news. I have little influence over what the president does. I can’t stop hurricanes or earthquakes. I can’t stop the shootings, and I couldn’t even stop our local Walmart from closing. The more informed I become, the more painfully obvious it becomes that I can do little about the chaotic events happening in the world around me. 

Thankfully, God can. 

Just look at the history behind the Bible. Great empires—the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans—rose and fell as God’s hand worked all of history to bring his Son Jesus into the world. Floods, earthquakes, and famines raged as God’s loving plans and purposes came about through them. 

Sometimes we are like Peter when he was walking on the water toward Jesus in the middle of the storm (Matthew 14:22-36). He was doing fine until he started staring at the storm raging around him. He saw the whitecaps and waves. He looked down at his feet and thought, I can’t do this. 

And he was right.  

On his own, Peter couldn’t walk on water. He couldn’t stand in the middle of the storm. He began to sink. Thankfully, Jesus lovingly and powerfully reached down his hand and pulled Peter up. 

When we focus all our attention on the bad news cycling across the screen, we can easily become overwhelmed. We are forced to face our own impotence. We begin to feel like we are drowning in a sea of chaos, violence, and tragedy. 

There comes a point when we need to turn it off. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you should completely stop watching the news. 

A Christian should be well-informed of what is happening in our world. We need to know what is going on so we can do our best to influence, help, and heal the ills of our world. 

But there comes a point when we need to turn the news off. If you find yourself obsessing and stressing about the state of affairs in our country or the world, if you are constantly worried about our president or the border or the Middle East or any of the countless other news stories flashing across the screen, it’s probably time to take a break. 

Take your eyes off the storm for a while and take a long look at your Savior God. 

Open up your Bible and read the good news of his promises. He is in control. He is working all of time and history for our good. Even if this world goes to hell in a handbasket, you are going to heaven in the care of his angels because Jesus lived and died as your Savior. 

When you feel like you are drowning in a sea of bad news, the good news of God’s promises will keep you afloat. 


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 106, Number 1
Issue: January 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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What if your Christmas isn’t so silent?

Glenn T. Schwanke 

We had just finished our Christmas Eve service, and the familiar words of the closing hymn, “Silent Night,” were still echoing in my mind. “Silent night, holy night, all is calm.” As I glanced out our chapel’s window, I smiled as I saw the light fluffy snow falling idyllically, as if our Lord was laying a thick, white blanket over the Copper Country and hushing nature itself. Moved by the moment, I stood to make the final announcements.  

“Isn’t Christmas here amazing? If snow is what makes your Christmas special, we have plenty of that! And with Michigan Tech on Christmas break and so many of our businesses closed for the holiday, those of us still in town can concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas—the Son born of the virgin Mary and laid in the manger. All because it’s so qui . . .” 

I never got to finish that last word, for just then our chapel was flooded by ear-piercing blasts from our fire alarm! It went off because a young boy was fascinated by the big, red fire alarm handle located in the back of our chapel. It said, “Pull Down.” So he did.  

What followed was chaos. As the siren blared, the members looked to the pastor, expecting him to know how to silence it. But they soon learned their pastor must have snoozed through the Practical Theology class at the seminary that was devoted to fire alarms. So the siren continued its assault. Thankfully, one of the worshipers, the county sheriff, had called the fire department to report a false alarm. Finally, after everyone’s eardrums were on the edge of bleeding, we found the alarm manual and silenced the system. 

So much for a silent night. 

What will your Christmas celebration be like this year? Maybe not so silent because there are alarms thundering deep inside you that cause you to toss and turn every night. Maybe an alarm pulled by the fear that your marriage seems to be heading toward the rocks? A parent-child relationship stretched to the breaking point? A faltering business or a career careening into the ditch?  

Maybe your inner alarm can’t be silenced because this Christmas seems far too quiet, especially late in the evening when your home feels so empty and cavernous. All because your lifelong spouse went home to heaven this year.  

Maybe your inner alarm has been pulled by worry over a loved one serving in the Armed Forces, far away from home this Christmas season. Some 450,000 US troops serve oversees, and some are stationed in hot spots like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. 

I claim no expertise in silencing fire alarm systems in our chapel at Peace. So I defer to the experts. What about when it comes to silencing the inner alarms? I humbly defer to the Child. Isaiah gives us this unforgettable guarantee: “Every boot that marched in battle and the garments rolled in blood will be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born. To us a son is given. The authority to rule will rest on his shoulders. He will be named: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no limit to his authority and no end to the peace he brings” (Isaiah 9:5-7 Evangelical Heritage Version). 

I pray you and yours are blessed with a calm, silent night this Christmas, one marked by the true peace the Child came to bring.  


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


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Author: Glenn Schwanke
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Drives me crazy!

Earle D. Treptow 

“Drives me crazy!” he said, after recounting his technology woes to a friend. Maybe you’ve uttered those same words, whether about technology or something else.  

So, what’s on your list of frustrations? What drives you crazy?  

Imagine posing that question to a thousand people. A handful might likely take the high road and say that nothing really bothers them. Most, however, would be able to rattle off a list, ranging from pet peeves to more serious matters.  

Sometimes it’s situations and events. Sentences that begin with “Traffic that makes a 15-minute trip take an hour,” or “The critter that thinks my garden is its café,” or “A cell phone battery that constantly needs be recharged” all end with “drives me crazy.”  

Popular ideas and attitudes may also drive us crazy. Perhaps it’s some political news or even some popular ideas about the Bible. When articles and books simply assume that the world evolved over billions of years, those who believe that God created the world might be annoyed. The Christian may also experience frustration at the idea that gender identity is only a social construct and not something God has designed.  

Often, it’s people who drive us crazy. Some act as if the rules don’t apply to them. The sign says, “Clean the microwave after you use it,” but you have to clean it before you can use it. Sometimes it’s what people say. They know all the answers and won’t listen to anything else. For example, when they assert that homosexual relationships are perfectly normal then charge us with being intolerant when we try to offer a different view. They won’t allow us to explain that homosexuality isn’t an unforgivable sin and that the Bible’s primary message is that Jesus died for all sinners. We may well find ourselves saying, “Drives me crazy!” They drive us crazy because they defy what God has to say in his Word. They imagine that they know better than God.  

Do you know the real reason people drive me crazy? It’s because I’ve forgotten what God says people are like by nature because of the sinfulness they inherited from their parents. It’s hardly shocking that those who do not know God’s Word would hold a position contrary to it and speak passionately against it. I ought to expect that people might lash out against any who would speak against their views, because by nature they think God’s Word is foolish. 

In the final analysis, people drive me crazy because I’ve forgotten who I am. If I knew myself the way the apostle Paul knew himself—as the worst of sinners and an unworthy recipient of God’s love—I wouldn’t be so easily frustrated with others. I would recognize that, were it not for the grace of God in giving me faith, I would be thinking, speaking, and acting the very same way they do.  

When the Spirit helps me remember God’s extraordinary patience with me, I strive to be patient with others. I confess God’s truth to those who do not know Jesus as their Savior and trust him to work through it in his time. I seek to bear with my fellow Christians in love, realizing that maybe, just maybe, I drive people crazy too. And then I thank God anew for covering me with Christ and choosing not to say of me, “He drives me crazy!”  


Contributing editor, Earle Treptow is professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, and a member at Christ Alone, Thiensville, Wisconsin.  


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Tradition

Andrew C. Schroer 

I recently read that the standard U.S. railroad track is 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide. That’s a rather odd measurement, don’t you think? Why build railroad tracks that width? 

The answer is simple. Immigrants from England designed our railroads, and that’s the width they used in England. 

But why did they use that width in England? It turns out that the people who built the railroads in England were also the ones who earlier had built the tramways. That’s the width they used. 

Why did the tramway builders use that width? Because the people who built the tramways were also the ones who built the wagons and that is the width they used. 

Why did the wagon builders use that width? Because that was the width of the wagon ruts already worn into the roadways of England. 

And why were the wagon ruts that width? The ruts in the roads were first made by Roman chariots when Rome ruled England more than 1,500 years ago. The distance between wheels on an ancient Roman chariot was exactly 4 feet, 8.5 inches. 

So why are our railroad tracks 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide? Blame it on the Romans. 

Why do you do what you do at your church? Sometimes it is because God clearly says in his Word that is the way it should be done. When God reveals his will, we comply. Period.  

But like the width of our railroad tracks, we often don’t even know why we do what we do in our churches. We’ve just always done it that way. It’s tradition. 

Don’t get me wrong. Tradition can be a good thing. Often it is based on centuries of wisdom and experience. Traditions have stood the test of time for a reason. They should not be changed lightly. 

Yet we often treat traditions as divine directives. We cling to them. We cherish them. We get angry when anyone suggests we change them. 

Change can be scary. 

Sometimes, though, change is necessary. “We’ve always done it that way” is never a good argument to keep doing something. The way we’ve always done things may not be the best or wisest way. 

As time passes, the opportunities, gifts, and challenges God gives each church change. The way your church operates today may have been the best way to serve God 50 years ago, but it may not be today. 

Churches often get stuck in ruts exactly 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide when they don’t take the time to periodically ask: Why are we doing what we are doing? Should we adjust what we are doing to serve God and others better and more efficiently? 

The answers to those questions aren’t always easy. Wisdom and love dictate that we don’t fall into the ditch on either side of the road. On one side of the road, we despise tradition and changing things simply for the sake of change. We shouldn’t quickly cast aside the wisdom of time-tested traditions and the feelings of those who cherish them. But on the other side, the ditch is just as dangerous—blindly clinging to traditions and refusing to evaluate honestly what we are doing and to consider new ideas. 

It is healthy for Christians to evaluate the ministry of their churches periodically so they can serve God and others to the best of their ability and to his glory. Every Christian congregation needs voices that lovingly and humbly ask, “Why are we doing what we are doing?”  

Could you be that voice in your church? 


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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There’s a change in the seasons

Glenn L. Schwanke 

There’s a change in the seasons. You can feel it in the crispness of the morning air and see it in your breath. Fall is almost here. That’s why intrepid Yooper gardeners like me are scrambling to stretch the growing season by using sheets to cover some of our prized vegetables before a cold night. We lavish special care on our most precious plants: the tomatoes. The goal of a “master” gardener in the Keweenaw Peninsula is to harvest at least one red, ripe tomato before the first frost! I think this year, I may actually do that. 

But I wouldn’t have even had the chance for a ripe tomato if I hadn’t planted a garden. This year, many wondered if I would. Why? On May 14, my wife, Terry, was carried safely home to heaven after a long struggle with the devil’s concoction, cancer. In the weeks following her memorial service, I kept getting asked, “Pastor, will you plant your garden this year?” “Certainly!” I said. Then I added, “Remember Dr. Luther? Some claim that he once said, ‘Even if I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I’d still plant an apple tree today.’ ”  

Whether Luther actually said that or not is hotly debated. It really makes no difference. I agree with the sentiment. It’s a biblical principle written by the wisest man who ever lived. King Solomon wrote, “For everything there is an appointed time. There is an appropriate time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot plants” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2). As Solomon observed, our heavenly Father guides all our “appointed” times: the seasons of the year and the seasons of our life. Planting the garden in spring, then harvesting and pulling it out in fall. Giving birth and dying.  

As I ponder Solomon’s words, I sometimes think of the inspired words of his father, King David. “As for man, his days are like grass. Like a wildflower he blossoms. Then the wind blows over it, and it is gone, and its place recognizes it no more” (Psalm 103:15,16). Life flies by so quickly. Death comes to us all. Yet we don’t despair, because we know the second of our death is an “appointed” time planned by the One to whom David could confess, “My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15).  

Yes, I miss my wife. But we were blessed to have almost 39 years together as husband and wife. And now she is forever safe, wrapped in the loving arms of our heavenly Father who “appointed” the time for her to die at just the right second! There is comfort and profound peace in knowing that.  

So I planted a garden this year as a confession of faith. Spring, summer, fall, winter, seedtime and harvest: All will continue till the end of time as ordained by the Lord’s unwavering guarantee.  

So also, our life: spring, summer, fall, winter. If I were to judge by the calendar, I’m in the fall of my life. But I’m at peace with that, because my Lord is guiding every turn of my life, just as he guided my wife, Terry, safely through the last season of her life into the changelessness of eternity.  

May you find this same peace in Jesus.  


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


All Bible verses are from the Evangelical Heritage Version. 


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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Free, but expensive

Earle D. Treptow 

“I’ll keep that in my prayers,” a Christian says upon hearing about the challenges an individual is facing. Occasionally, the words come as a reflex, uttered without much thought. It feels like the perfect thing for a Christian to say, and not only because the words roll easily off the tongue and encourage the person who’s hurting. In addition, since a Christian may offer a prayer anywhere at any time at no charge, it seems like an easy promise both to make and to keep.  

But this needs to be said: Prayer is free, but expensive.  

A Christian doesn’t have to pay for an audience with the Lord. She’s not required to show herself deserving of God’s ear. But strangely, the cost of prayer may be a problem. Some have suggested that people tend to take for granted that which is free. If that’s the case, we need to look at prayer a little more closely. Prayer is expensive. In fact, “expensive” doesn’t begin to express the reality. The highest price was paid to secure the privilege of prayer for the children of God: God himself took on flesh to shed his blood for sinners so they might pray freely and often.  

That’s not the only reason to consider prayer expensive. While the Christian doesn’t pay anything to pray, the Christian does incur significant cost by praying. The Christian who prays gives up the cherished illusion that he can solve the problems in his life all by himself. In approaching the Lord in prayer, he acknowledges what his sinful flesh has no interest in confessing: “I’m powerless to solve this problem. I’m not the one directing all things. God is, and he alone.” Given the pride of the sinful nature that clings to Christians, prayer is expensive—an admission that we are powerless.  

A Christian who has listened to God’s Word knows the way God chooses to operate. He typically works indirectly, through ordinary means, rather than through miracles. Instead of dropping food from the sky, for example, he gives people the ability to work and earn the money needed to purchase the food they need. The Lord who generally answers the prayers of his people indirectly may decide to use the Christian herself as the answer to her own prayer.  

The Christian who prays that the Lord would encourage her friend who lost her job may see the Lord do so through her ears and mouth, as she listens intently to her friend and speaks God’s promises to her. The Christian who asks God to have mercy on those whose homes were destroyed by a tornado may find the Lord answering his prayer through the money currently in his savings account. The Christian who prays for godly people to serve in government might see the Lord grant that request by leading her to run for office. Prayer is indeed free, but it may prove expensive.  

Might that be a reason we’re sometimes slow to pray? We’ve observed how the Lord answers prayers, and we’re not convinced we can afford the answer. We see under-supplied bank accounts and overflowing calendars, with scarcely an ounce of emotional energy remaining. Rather than looking for more people and situations for whom to pray, we withdraw into our own lives. But we need not withdraw. The Lord promises to strengthen his people and to meet all their needs in Christ, freeing them up to serve others.  

So go ahead and pray for others. Then watch the Lord use you as an answer to prayer and marvel at the way he empowers you to serve.   


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon. 


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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The center of the universe

Andrew C. Schroer

In his book, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams states the obvious: “Space is big.” But have you ever wondered how big space really is? A friend of mine recently shared with me the following analogy.

If the ballpoint of the pen on my desk was the earth, the sun would be the size of a ping pong ball about 15 feet away. The nearest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, would then be another ping pong ball located in the city of Toronto, Canada. I live in Edna, Texas, by the way.

There are more than one hundred billion stars in our galaxy, all of which are trillions of miles farther away. And that’s just our galaxy. Scientists estimate that there are more than two hundred billion galaxies in the known universe, each containing between one hundred billion and one trillion stars.

Douglas Adams was right. Space is big.

From the perspective of the moon, the earth appears to be the size of a marble. From the perspective of other galaxies, the earth is imperceivable. It is invisible. It is nothing.

So what does that make us? We aren’t even a microscopic speck in God’s universe. King David once wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3,4).

If you have a chance this week, read Psalm 8. It gives us a proper perspective of our relative size and place in God’s universe. We are insignificant microscopic specks. Yet God knows and loves each of us personally.

We need that perspective because so often our perception is skewed. Like the warped images in a fun house mirror, our sinful mind distorts how we look at ourselves. We see ourselves as bigger than we really are. We make ourselves the center of our universe.

My life, my goals, and my happiness become the purpose of my existence here on earth.

God made us tiny specks to be the crown of his creation. And what do we do? We treat him as insignificant. Instead of our lives revolving around him, he becomes a small satellite that enters our orbit only when we think we need him.

The amazing thing is that God loved us rebellious specks so much, he didn’t want us to suffer the punishment we deserve for our distorted views. The God who created and fills the vastness of the universe became an insignificant microscopic speck just like you and me to take our place and die our death.

And because he did, we are forgiven for all the times we have made ourselves the center of our own universe. We are forgiven for all the times we have relegated God to being simply a small satellite that revolves around our world.

The God who created and fills the vastness of space does not treat us as we deserve. He loves us. He forgives us. He gives us heaven.

Keep that perspective. Remember your place in God’s universe. Remember who you are and what he has done for you. Don’t make him simply a satellite that enters the orbit of your life every so often. Don’t relegate him to being just a part of your life. He is your whole life. Everything you have and everything you are is because of him.

May God always be the center of your universe.


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 105, Number 7
Issue: July 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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“I do.” “He did.”

Glenn L. Schwanke

Statisticians inform us that 2.3 million couples wed each year in the United States. That works out to some 6,301 weddings per day. June is the most popular month for weddings. About $72 billion is spent on weddings each year. The average number of guests invited to a wedding is 178. The average wedding cost is $20,000.

That last piece of information brings a tear to my eye. Why? Lord willing, our daughter is getting married this summer.

The date the wedding is scheduled is June 9, thirty-nine years to the day after my wife and I exchanged our wedding vows on June 9, 1979, at St. John’s, Clinton Avenue, Milwaukee. (The congregation is now called Loving Shepherd.)

I wish I could tell you what the pastor’s wedding address was about all those years ago. But I was far too nervous to take it in. Nervous because of the vows that my wife, Teresa, and I sealed with the simple promise, “I do.”

And this June 9? I will be nervous again, but not because I haven’t performed weddings before. I’ve had that privilege countless times over the years. Yet this marriage will be unique in my ministry. It’s for our only child.

I’ve had folks ask, “Does a pastor walk his own daughter down the aisle?” My response, “I plan to.” When we reach the front of the church, I’ll lift her veil, give her a hug and a kiss, hand her to her fiancé, and give him a firm handshake. Then I’ll step up to the altar, turn, and begin the service in my role as pastor.”

“Will you get emotional? Will you cry?” “More than likely, but I trust God’s Spirit will help me get through the service.”

Don’t miss the point. The service revolves around a man and a woman standing before their families and friends in God’s house. There they publicly declare their commitment to each other with the solemn pledge, “In the presence of God and these witnesses, I take you to be my wife/husband. I promise to be faithful to you, as long as we both shall live.” The service is about the simple promise, “I do.”

Yet the wedding ceremony is about far more than that! Think of all the family and friends who come to the wedding. Some of them rarely, if ever, go to church otherwise. Maybe they’ve never cracked open a Bible. What do they need to hear on the wedding day? What do we all need to hear? “He did.”

Jesus did what no sinner, no husband, no wife, can ever do. As Paul explains, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy. . . He did this so that he could present her to himself as a glorious church, having no stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but so that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27 Evangelical Heritage Version). Because of what Jesus did, our Lord will shower his grace into our hearts and homes in this life and then wrap his arms around us in the life to come in heaven above! Knowing this, I’ll make sure all the worshippers at this wedding hear, “He did.”

And for the bride and groom? I’ll print copies of the address, just in case, they’re too nervous to listen closely during the ceremony.


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


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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Optimist or pessimist?

Earle D. Treptow

Do you belong to the “pessimist party” or the “optimist club”? Your answer may depend on the day you’re asked. For instance, if asked whether your favorite team will win a championship, you may be a pessimist, conditioned by years of futility. But two months later, when the team is exceeding expectations, you may be an optimist.

On a more serious level, would you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist on the possibility of eliminating, or reducing, the mass shootings that plague us? Do you think steps can be taken to preserve life? Or do you feel that attempts to address the situation won’t make any substantial difference? How does your Christian faith influence your view?

Christians have learned, by the Father’s grace and the Spirit’s work, to tune their ears to God’s Word when they’re bothered by horrific events. What Christians hear is God speaking the truth about all people, including us: “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). We can’t be overly surprised by these senseless shootings. Sinners sin. The law that God has written on human hearts curbs sin, but it doesn’t stop all sin from occurring, as we know from our own personal struggles.

Christians also hear what Jesus said about the final days of this world: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). People will become increasingly self-centered. They will do what their corrupt hearts want to do, with little thought to the impact of their actions on others.

Christians who believe what God says about sinners don’t expect an end of senseless violence in this world. Laws may well be enacted to make it more difficult to get the kinds of weapons used in these shootings. Yet laws do not change hearts. Sinful hearts will remain loveless. Christians see the glass half empty.

But Christians whose ears are tuned to God’s Word also hear promises that fill their hearts with confidence. The Lord Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, promises to direct all things for the benefit of his people. The Lord is ruling over everything, even if rampant wickedness makes it appear that the devil has gained the upper hand.

When we reflect on senseless violence, we often focus only on the hard-heartedness of sinners and forget about God’s grace and power. The One who desires all to be saved promises to work through his powerful gospel to call people to repentance and faith.

What’s more, he promises to empower his people to speak the gospel through which the Holy Spirit miraculously transforms hearts and lives. Believing the Lord’s promise that he can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20), we take up the task of speaking God’s Word to the world. We need not feel helpless in the face of rampant violence. Jesus gave us the task to proclaim his heart-changing gospel to everyone, and he gave us his promise that the Spirit will accompany the Word we speak. Christians see the glass half full.

When Christians focus on sinful human beings, they’re pessimistic—sinners will continue to sin. When Christians focus on the grace and power of God, they’re optimistic—the Lord can change hearts. We know and confess the sinner’s natural depravity, which makes every sin possible. But we also know and confess the grace and power of our Savior-God, for whom nothing is impossible, not even transforming hearts and altering lives.


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon.


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Fools

Andrew C. Schroer

It all began with an edict by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Julian calendar used by most of the Western world had some problems. Among other things, seasons and solstices did not always line up because the calendar did not accurately calculate leap years.

The new calendar, called the Gregorian calendar, established a more accurate number of leap years as well as other innovations. Pope Gregory’s calendar also established Jan. 1 as the official beginning of the year.

Though Jan. 1 had traditionally been the first day of the year on the Julian calendar, by the Middle Ages many Western European countries celebrated the new year on different days. In some countries, New Year’s was celebrated at the end of March and the beginning of April.

When Pope Gregory published his new calendar, there was no Facebook and no CNN. There wasn’t even radio. News about the changes spread slowly. Many continued to celebrate New Year’s on their traditional dates decades, and even centuries, later.

Those who continued to celebrate the New Year at the end of March and the beginning of April, either due to ignorance or just plain obstinance, were soon mocked by their fellow countrymen. They were called fools, and practical jokes were played on them.

According to some historians, thus began the celebration of April Fools’ Day.

Much has been made in the media about the fact that Easter this year falls on April Fools’ Day. It’s ironic. As Christians we often play the role of the fool for believing the Easter message.

For those who don’t believe in Jesus, what we believe seems ridiculous. We believe that because God was born as a man, nailed to a piece of wood, died, and came back to life, we are now free from any guilt or punishment for every bad thing we do. We believe we will live forever with him one day in a perfect place of happiness called heaven somewhere beyond our existence here on earth.

Many of the greatest scientists and scholars of our age mock us and call us dumb for believing the Bible. Even the apostle Paul was laughed off by the educated elite of his day (Acts 17:32). As Christians we are fools. To be more accurate, though, we are sophomores. You see, the word sophomore literally means “a wise fool.”

But even though the world considers us foolish, we have true wisdom. To the world, what we believe as Christians is weak and foolish. The apostle Paul reminds us of that but concludes, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

How can anyone believe in what so many think is for fools? Only through faith can a person see its true wisdom and power.

Through Jesus’ humble death and glorious resurrection, we have become heirs of heaven. We are now sons and daughters of the King of all creation. Through faith, we have true understanding, but we can’t prove any of it. The world cannot see it. It seems foolish to them.

But instead of getting upset when the world calls us fools, instead of getting embarrassed, instead of feeling like you have to defend or prove what you believe, embrace the foolishness of the cross. Accept the fact that the world does not and will never understand. Jesus told us it would be that way. Some will mock us. Some will point and call us fools.

Don’t worry about it. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t back down. One day, God will reveal who the true fools really are.


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Seeing with the eyes of the heart

Glenn L. Schwanke

Before the opening hymn, I wondered, “What happened to our hymn boards? The white hymn numbers shimmer against the black backgrounds. Did one of the electrical engineering students in our Campus Ministry figure out a way to backlight the numbers?”

A split second after those thoughts flitted through my mind, I knew the hymn boards hadn’t changed. My eyesight had. After cataract surgery, my vision was no longer clouded over by the yellowed-haze that had developed on my 60+ year-old lenses, almost like fog and grime on a windshield. Instead, with new lens implants in each eye, I was finally seeing white again. Colors jumped out at me in a way I hadn’t experienced since I was in the third grade.

That was when I couldn’t read the blackboard in our classroom. I always had my nose in the book, not because I was exceptionally studious, but because I struggled to read the print. But after getting my first pair of glasses, I walked out from the optometrist’s office onto the sidewalk to bask in the brilliant sunshine that flooded South 8th Street in downtown Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I stood. Looking one way. Then the other. The colors took my breath away! Reds, blues, and yes, whites leaped at me like never before—almost as if I could reach out and touch them.

Cataract surgery for us older folks, or a pair of glasses or contacts for the younger generations, can make a night-to-day difference to our eyesight!

But there’s another type of clear vision that’s far more important. The apostle Paul tells us about it in his letter to the Ephesians: “I keep praying that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, will give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowing Christ fully. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, just how rich his glorious inheritance among the saints is, and just how surpassingly great his power is for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19 Evangelical Heritage Version [EHV]).

Paul prayed that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” because he knew how life’s struggles can fog our spiritual sight. Endless chemo or radiation therapy, a stroke that leaves us debilitated just as we were taking our first steps into retirement—all these things and more can jaundice our outlook on life. A failed marriage or the sudden, unexpected death of a child can so darken the mirror of our soul that we may even lash out in anger against our God.

How can our spiritual cataracts be removed? Only by God’s Spirit who performs surgery deep inside us with his sharp, double-edged sword, “the word of God” (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Through that Word, the Spirit brightens our outlook on life by riveting our attention on Jesus and enlightening us with the trust to see Jesus for who he really is. Jesus is the one who made you and me brighter than the white numbers on the hymn board.

Well, that’s the way I see it, and I think the prophet Isaiah would agree with me, although he used a different picture for purity. He wrote, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Because of the crimson blood Jesus shed on his cross, our sins are buried. When our Father looks at us, he sees nothing but shimmering, blinding white.

For you see, everything looks different when viewed through the lens that is Christ.


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


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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Men are pigs

Earle D. Treptow 

One big name after another showed up in the headlines accused of sexual impropriety, from harassment and groping to assault and rape. Included on the list were famous comedians, actors, and film producers, as well as leading politicians and journalists—men who took advantage of their positions and exploited others.  

The first story of a famous man abusing his authority and assaulting a woman might not have registered for many. It was the second, seventh, and tenth stories, following hard on the heels of the first, that sounded the alarm. Those who took the time to reflect on what had been alleged—and sometimes confessed—experienced a range of emotions, from anger toward the men who had perpetrated such crimes, to frustration with a society that enables abuse with its celebrity worship, to disappointment with a sex-crazed culture that suggests a woman’s body exists for the gratification of men. Exploit women and you show yourself to be despicable. Some men are pigs. Unfortunate, but true.  

The stories reported on national news emboldened other women to speak about the sexual abuse they had experienced at the hands of men from all different walks of life, many of whom had no fame or wealth to speak of. There’s one obvious link between the famous men and the rank-and-file men who have acted inappropriately toward women. They’re men. It’s not just some men who are pigs, but many.  

I’d rather not say that, of course, but I’m comfortable with it. I’m comfortable saying that many men are pigs, because it allows me to establish a safe distance between the pigs and me. The argument seems foolproof: Because I haven’t done what they’ve done, or haven’t been publicly accused of it, I’m different than the pigs. And better.  

Maybe I haven’t sinned in the same way other men have, but I do have something in common with the many pigs out there. I’m a man too. Worse, I’m a sinful man. I have the same sinful nature, capable of all sorts of disgusting thoughts and behaviors, even if I’ve been spared from committing the sins that make headlines.  

I must ask myself some questions that make me squirm: What have I done to contribute to the situation in which we find ourselves today? Where have I lived selfishly and self-centeredly, seeing women as existing for my benefit and purposes? How have I failed to be the salt of the earth Jesus designed me to be, to slow the decay in the world around me? When have I been silent when I should have spoken up about the continuing debt men owe to women, to love and serve and protect them?  

As it turns out, I’m part of those harassment stories, though my name hasn’t appeared in the articles.  

There’s only one thing for us men to do when we recognize our depravity and complicity: repent. We humble ourselves before the Lord each day, confessing that we are unclean pigs, thoroughly sinful by nature. And then we listen anew, with astounded hearts, to his word of full forgiveness in Christ. He absolves us of our failures and declares us righteous in his sight.  

Rejoicing in his steadfast love and continual forgiveness, we commit ourselves to being real men, men as God designed us to be. We take up with joy the task the Lord has assigned to us and for which he will equip us—to respect women and serve them, considering them better than ourselves.  


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon. 


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 105, Number 2
Issue: February 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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The heart of the issue

Andrew C. Schroer 

For nearly three years now, I have had the privilege of serving on the ethics board of one of our local newspapers. The ethics board consists of various personnel from the newspaper, including the publisher and editors, together with three at-large members of our community. We meet monthly to discuss controversial articles, concerns readers have voiced, and the overall ethics of journalism. 

Recently the newspaper published an exposé on a local politician who is now embroiled in controversy. Almost immediately people began accusing the newspaper of having a political agenda that was clearly biased. The complaints were that the editors were getting revenge for previous wrongs or just didn’t like the politician. 

Having been allowed to peek behind the curtain and listen to the discussions beforehand, I am fascinated by how painstakingly the editors sought to be objective and evaluated the ethical ramifications of what they printed. 

Are they always perfectly objective? No. Do personal feelings at times affect decisions? I’m sure they do. But overall, I’ve learned that they truly do seek to be honest and objective. 

The comments I read from various sources this last week remind me of something God once said to the prophet Samuel. “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). 

Only God knows what thoughts and feelings fill our hearts and minds. 

Yet, so often, we fall into the delusion that we are God. We fancy ourselves mind readers. We presume to know other people’s reasons and motivations. 

When your husband suddenly doesn’t answer you, he must be mad at you because of what you said to him in the morning. When your coworker doesn’t respond right away to your text, she must be ignoring you because she is a jerk. When the newspaper runs an article that says something negative about a certain politician, it must have a political agenda and is therefore biased. 

That could be true. Or maybe your husband simply didn’t hear you. Maybe he was distracted. Maybe your coworker’s phone died. Maybe the newspaper is simply trying to report the facts its journalists found in their investigations. 

One of my favorite phrases from Martin Luther comes from his explanation to the Eighth Commandment. As he expounded what it means to not give false testimony against our neighbor, Luther encourages us to “take [their] words and actions in the kindest possible way.” 

In other words, don’t assume the worst. You cannot read minds. Only God can do that. You don’t know why they did what they did or said what they said unless they tell you. 

Remember that, especially when you and your spouse are having an argument. You can’t say, “You said this or did that because. . ..” You can’t see into your spouse’s heart. Don’t assume you know why. Talk about the behavior. Ask why. Tell your spouse the impression it gives you, but don’t assume you know. Only God can see into people’s hearts. 

Are people, politicians, and news organizations at times driven by selfish and nefarious motives? Of course. In this sinful world, all of us at times are moved by misguided motivations. But be careful. As sinful human beings, we tend to assume the worst about people—particularly those who have hurt us or with whom we disagree, and especially in our politically charged world. 

May God forgive us our sinful assumptions and give us generous hearts that take other people’s words and actions in the kindest possible way.  


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 105, Number 1
Issue: January 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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“God” is not enough

Jeffrey L. Samelson 

“Dad, I don’t understand why you’re so bothered by my boyfriend not going to church or being a Christian like us. He believes in God, and that’s enough for me.” 

“People keep complaining that this isn’t a Christian nation anymore, but if you check the polls, it’s clear an overwhelming majority still believe in God.” 

What do those two comments have in common? They equate believing in “God” with being Christian. While it is true that belief in a deity separates the religious from the nonreligious, believing that there is a “god”—even one who bears quite a resemblance to the God of Scripture—is not the same as having faith in the one true God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. 

Which means not only that a person with such a limited faith is not a brother or sister in Christ but also that that person is not saved, not a child of God, and not someone we will see in heaven. James gives a rather sharp reminder to anyone comfortable equating monotheism with true Christian faith: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder!” (James 2:19). 

Yet still many people who call themselves Christians and attend Christian churches—even some of our own—will echo the opinions of our compromising culture and say, “All that matters is that you believe in God.” This kind of “faith” not only conveniently does away with the differences between denominations but even unites Christians with cults, Judaism, Islam, and countless other religions. Perhaps even more conveniently, this “lowest common denominator” approach to belief also does away with about 99 percent of the Bible: everything that reveals the Lord as the one, true, triune God; everything that expresses his particular will for the world; everything that records his unique dealings with humanity; and, most important, the exclusive truth that heaven is gained only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, without any role for one’s works or merit. 

But it is only in the Scriptures—the Word of God—that the Lord has revealed himself and his salvation to the world. Denying those truths is far from a neutral thing. We do no one any good by considering a “god enough” belief “good enough,” because that kind of “faith” dismisses most of the Bible and makes God a liar. Ironically, some may think love means not judging that anyone’s faith is insufficient, but God’s judgment on an insufficient faith is an eternity apart from his love. 

This season is an ideal time both to remember and to act on this. Even though much has been done in our society to take Christ out of Christmas, it is still an effective occasion to introduce or reintroduce others to what exactly we celebrate: the particular and personal intervention of the one true God in the life of the world as not just a vague or fill-in-the-blanks deity, but as “the LORD [who] saves.” That’s what “Jesus” means (Matthew 1:21). He became flesh and blood just like us, was born in Bethlehem, and is Christ the Lord. That is good news of great joy for all people.  

That there is a god is not news, and mere belief in “god” will never be good enough. Let’s instead profess and promote a rich, deep, and complete faith in the One in whom all the fullness of God dwells, who came to earth “to reconcile to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). 


Contributing editor Jeff Samelson is pastor at Christ, Clarksville, Maryland. 


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Author: Jeffrey L. Samelson
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 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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Needed

Earle D. Treptow 

I’m needed. 

Maybe that sounds a bit arrogant, but I have it on good authority. The American Red Cross regularly tells me so—by personalized e-mail. I know what you’re thinking: “I hate to burst your bubble, but all the Red Cross really needs is your blood.” True enough. However, since they need something from me, they still need me. I’m needed.  

You are too—and not merely by the Red Cross.  

Even if no one has expressed that thought to you directly, it’s true. People all around you need you—and that’s exactly the way God designed it to be. In each of the callings the Lord has chosen specifically for you, be that as friend, neighbor, congregation member, sibling, employee, spouse, parent, or child, he has surrounded you with needs. The needs vary dramatically. Your employer needs an honest day’s work. Your child needs a ride to her piano lesson and your insistence that she practice. Your grieving friend needs your support and a sympathetic ear. Each of those needs is a God-given opportunity to glorify him and bless others. While God doesn’t need your good works—“[God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything” (Acts 17:25)— your neighbor definitely does.  

Sometimes the needs of others overwhelm us, because the opportunities far outstrip our time and abilities. We want to be needed, but on a more modest scale, with needs that are more easily met. We desire opportunities to serve, but would prefer to schedule them at more convenient times. As the needs of others pile up around us, the sinful flesh proposes the logical solution. “Withdraw,” the sinful nature suggests. “Let others deal with those needs.”  

The one who masquerades as an angel of light chimes in: “You need to step back from the needs of others and focus on your relationship with God. Those stressful interactions demand energy that really should be spent on prayer and meditation.” The devil is oh-so-sneaky, offering what appears to be a pious reason to disengage from the needs of the people around us. But the devil is an inveterate liar.   

While God invites us to spend time with him in his Word each day so that he might bless us with his love, he never describes it as an “either-or” proposition. Allow God to serve you through his Word, absolutely, just as Mary did while sitting at Jesus’ feet. But then, because you have been served by the One who loves unconditionally, you are eminently qualified to demonstrate that unconditional love to others. The people God has placed around you need you and the unconditional love you have experienced in Christ. Desperately.  

You are needed even by people who think they don’t need you; they may have told you so in no uncertain terms. You’re needed by the coworker who belittles Christianity because he had a bad experience with the church in the past. He needs your patient, persistent love. The friend who stridently speaks against the Bible’s “outdated teaching on morality” to justify his sin needs you. He needs your gentle instruction in the Word of the God who loves him in Christ. The neighbor who insists that Christianity provides nothing more valuable than any other religion needs you and your positive witness to Christ her Savior, who died that she might live.   

Disengaging from people in their need, even when they plead with us to do so, is simply not an option. Christ stopped to serve us in our need, though by nature we wanted nothing of the sort. We who bear Christ’s name can’t help but do the same for others.   


Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Calvary, Thiensville, Wisconsin.  


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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 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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Semper reformanda

Andrew C. Schroer 

Let me tell you a little parable: 

An elderly man sat as his kitchen table with his pastor. He had invited his pastor to celebrate with him. 

“Raise a glass with me,” the elderly man, who was obviously inebriated, said to his pastor. He had been an alcoholic for as long as the pastor had known him. 

“I’m celebrating,” the old man continued. “Fifty years ago today, I gave up alcohol completely. I was sober for over 25 years of my life. That’s something to celebrate!” he exclaimed, as he sloppily sipped his beer. He did not mention the other 25 years he was not so sober. 

Right now, Lutheran and Reformed churches around the world are raising their glasses to celebrate. They are singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” They are remembering Martin Luther. Some are traveling to Germany to see the Reformation sites.  

Five hundred years ago, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in an attempt to reform the church. 

The Christian church had strayed from the truth of God’s Word. Corruption and error abounded. The good news of forgiveness and heaven that Jesus won for all people had been muddied by rules, rites, and regulations that were supposed to earn the gifts God freely gave. 

Martin Luther and other reformers sought to bring the church back to God’s Word, back to the gospel, back to Jesus.  

We are also celebrating the Reformation. We are raising our glasses and celebrating our heritage as Lutherans. But we need to be careful. Many of those who are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation are like the elderly alcoholic celebrating his past sobriety with slurred speech and unsteady legs. A number of Lutheran and Reformed churches today are mired in the false teaching and legalism that Luther and the other reformers so strongly opposed. Already in the generation directly following Luther’s death, some of the great reformers began to stray from God’s Word. 

Throughout the history of the Lutheran church—and really the Christian church as a whole—there has been a constant need of reform. False teaching and legalism continually rear their ugly heads. 

Reformed churches today love to use the Latin phrase “Ecclesia semper reformanda est” (“the church is always being reformed”). What they mean is that the Christian church is in constant need of reformation. 

Some misuse that phrase to say that the church constantly needs to change its teaching to be relevant to its times. As heirs of the Reformation, we reject that idea and stand firmly on God’s never-changing Word and its eternal truths. 

Yet, we can understand the phrase correctly. The church is in constant need of reformation lest it falls back into the addiction Luther opposed. As sinful human beings, we need to continually repent of our sins and reform our sinful ways. 

In the same way, as a church body, we need to be humble and vigilant. Just because our ancestors were sober 500 years ago, don’t think that false teaching and legalism can’t worm their way into our churches and pulpits. 

Go ahead and raise your glass to celebrate. Thank God for our great heritage. But then stay vigilant. Stay humble. Go back to God’s Word. Keep the focus on Jesus. Give God the glory. 

That’s what reformation is all about. 


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


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
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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Not caring is not an option

Jeffrey L. Samelson

Imagine that in the news today you hear newly released numbers of casualties from a civil war being fought in a foreign nation. You are shocked to learn that more than 900,000 people were killed in just the last year—almost one out of every five people. Since the war began, almost 60 million lost their lives. How would you respond?

With a “little war” killing only hundreds or thousands, you might easily say, “Well, that’s their business, not ours.” But with numbers like these—even if it were only about 100,000 in the last year—you would likely say, “Something must be done! This can’t continue!” You and other citizens might pressure your government to intervene—to do whatever it takes—and to do it quickly to stop the senseless deaths. As a Christian, you would pray earnestly for an end to the killing, recognizing that God’s heart is broken by that evil even more than yours. You would seek other ways that you could help. You might even get your church involved, sharing God’s love and concern together as his family.

Another option might be just to say, “Hey, that’s just life and death in this messed-up world. I’ve got plenty on my mind as it is, and I’m sure that if God cares he doesn’t need me telling him what to do.”

What if those deaths were all happening in your own country?

They are! About 900,000 innocent human lives were snuffed out by abortion in the United States last year—roughly one out of every five pregnancies. And yet many leaders within the Christian church treat it as something that “just is”—a reality to which we simply have to adjust. Some suggest that there is nothing more we can do, and the deaths continue to mount.

Perhaps you too simply conclude there is nothing you can do. Maybe the reason is that you don’t know anyone who’s ever had an abortion, so it’s not really worth your attention. Or perhaps you do know someone close to you who has had an abortion, and so you don’t feel comfortable being “judgy” about it. Or maybe you just don’t want to think about abortion.

Yet what breaks God’s heart should break the hearts of his people. We, as Lutherans, strongly affirm that infants need Baptism because they are sinners. We should understand the tragedy of abortion as well as anyone: It is taking the life of another person. That murder also eliminates that child’s opportunity to gain salvation through Baptism or hearing the gospel. Thank God, then, that Jesus won for us forgiveness on the cross—forgiveness for those who get, perform, or just encourage abortions as well as for those who have become complacent about the mass murder going on around them every day.

With the remission of those sins in Christ and the reminder of what abortion really is, we, as God’s people, find that not caring is not an option. You can get active politically or just speak up among friends. What you choose to do as a citizen is up to you. As Christians, though, we are all compelled to pray and to give witness to the truth with our teaching. We also can take some additional steps. We can volunteer at pregnancy centers, help unwed mothers, and do many other things to try to influence others and to stop the killing. We are God’s salt and light in a sin-darkened world.


Contributing editor Jeffrey Samelson is pastor at Christ, Clarksville, Maryland.


Christian Life Resources is a WELS-related ministry devoted to educating and mobilizing Christians on beginning- and end-of-life issues according to God’s Word. Learn more at christianliferesources.net.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

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

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

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

 

Author: Jeffrey L. Samelson
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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