Archive for the category “Pastoral Ministry”

From Hitler’s Wolves to Christ’s Lambs: The Chaplain to Nazi War Criminals

 

They walked to the gallows together, pastor and penitent. Each step up took them closer to the abbreviated, fatal fall to come. The criminal stood above the trapdoor. Moments later, it would open to rope himfence-444416_1920 into eternity. An officer asked him if he had any final words. “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul,” he said.

Then he turned toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul, his confessor, his preacher, the one from whose hand he had received the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper. To this pastor, he said, “I’ll see you again.”

Then noosed, hooded in black, and legs tied, he dropped out of this world into another.

As gripping as this account is, no doubt many similar scenarios have played out in the course of history. Condemned men have found repentance and faith when certain death loomed nigh.

What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with others hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history. He was guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them. These were Hitler’s men. His closest confidants. His very own pack of wolves. Yet in the months leading up to their executions or imprisonments, many of them had been transformed from Hitler’s wolves into Christ’s lambs. Thanks to the ministry of a farm boy from Missouri, who grew up to be a pastor, and who reluctantly agreed to be the chaplain of the fifteen Protestant war criminals during the Nuremberg trials at the close of World War II, these men heard the Gospel.

Henry_Gerecke004

Chaplain Henry Gerecke

Henry Gerecke was in his early 50’s when he went, cell by cell, to introduce himself to his infamous “congregation.” He invited them to chapel services. Some refused, others wavered, and still others promised to be there. Of the fifteen chairs set up for the first service, thirteen of them were filled. Scriptures were read, sermons preached, hymns sung, prayers prayed. And, through it all, hearts were changed.

Soon some of the very lips that had once barked, “Heil Hitler!” spoke an Amen as they knelt to receive the body and blood of their forgiving Lord. They expressed a desire for their children to be baptized. One of them began reading the Bible to find justification for his unbelief, but ended up being led to faith by the very same divine words. So reliant did these men become upon their pastor that, when a rumor surfaced that he might be relieved of his duty and allowed to return home, they wrote a letter to Mrs. Gerecke and begged her to ask him to stay. On that letter were the signatures of all these former Nazis. Men who had enjoyed power and rank were now humbly beseeching a housewife in America, who had not seen her husband for two and a half years, to let him stay.  In her brief reply to her husband, “They need you,” is packed a whole volume about sacrifice and love.

Pastor Gerecke’s story has already been told (see links below), but it deserves to be retold, again and again, to every generation, for two very important reasons.

The first has to do with the men to whom he ministered, the ones who repented and believed in Christ. The scandal of Christianity is not that these men went to heaven; it is that God loved them so much that he was willing to die to get them there. Had it been a human decision, many would have thrown these men into the flames of hell. But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie, but because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross, and earned a place for them in heaven. Should an opportunity arise in the future for the Gospel to be shared with ISIS militants who have been captured, this same Good News would be for them. They too would need a chaplain like Pastor Gerecke to call them to repentance, to preach Christ’s grace, to declare to them the mercy of God. There is no one who is so vile that he is beyond redemption, because the redemption of Christ envelops all people.

Another reason Pastor Gerecke’s story needs to be remembered involves his vocation, and those who share it. What pastor, knowing he was about to visit men such as these, would not have struggled to find any hope in their possible repentance? But Gerecke visited each cell anyway. He invited each man to hear the Word and left it to the Spirit to do the work of making new creations of these hardened criminals. Nor did he mince words, surrender his convictions, or water down the truth for them. On the evening before he was to be hanged, one of the men, Goering, asked to be communed, just in case he was wrong and there was some truth to the Christian claims. But Gerecke refused to give the Sacrament to one who so obstinately refused repentance, who treated the Supper as if it were an edible, just-in-case, insurance policy. When Christ calls men into the office of the holy ministry, he calls them to be faithful—not successful, not popular, not practical, not winsome, not cool, but faithful. They are to preach even when they doubt it will bear fruit. They are to give the word of Christ to sinners, and let the Christ of that word do his work. And he does. He convicts, he calls, he saves, he baptizes, he feeds, and, finally, he welcomes one and all into his kingdom with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In 1961, at the age of sixty-eight, Pastor Gerecke passed from this life into the next. He entered that innumerable company of saints who had gone before him. Some of them had been among his flock during his years of ministry. One of them, standing atop the gallows, had promised, “I’ll see you again.”  And he did.

Online Resources:

I strongly urge you to click on one or all of the links below to read Pastor Gerecke’s story.  The details and quotes I included above are from these resources.

Gerecke’s story, in his own words, was published in the Saturday Evening Post, 1, September, 1951, pp. 18-19, under the title, “I walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs.”

Don Stephens, in War and Grace:  Short biographies from the World Wars, (Evangelical Press, Faverdale North, Darlington, DL3 0PH, England) devotes a chapter to Gerecke and his ministry.  The chapter is available online at:  http://www.messianicgoodnews.org/henry-gerecke-chaplain-to-nazi-war-criminals/

In 1950, Gerecke was called to be Assistant Pastor at St. JohnLutheranChurch, Chester, IL.  That congregation’s website includes audio files of Pastor Gerecke speaking about his experience.  These can be listened to by following the link below, and clicking on the audio files on the right side of the website. http://www.stjohnchester.com/Gerecke/Gerecke.html

Other Resources:

Tim Townsend, Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis, HarperCollins, 2014.

F. T. Grossmith, The Cross and the Swastika, Henry E. Walter Ltd., Worthing, England,  1984, which tells Gerecke’s story.

N. M. Railton, “Henry Gerecke and the Saints  of Nuremberg,” Kirkliche Zeitgeschichte,  Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2000, pp.126-7.

Many of the primary sources about Gerecke, including his own My Assignment with the International Military Tribunal at Nürnberg, Germany, are found at Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis, MO, the official archive of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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We All Show up Late for Church

The earliest the McKenzie family ever made it to church was during the closing stanza of the opening hymn. Every Sunday something delayed them. Little James would spit up his breakfast all over his church clothes as they strapped him in the car seat. Lindsey would hog the bathroom and delay Garrett’s shower. Tom and Cindy would hit snooze one too many times. By the time they piled in the car, broke the speed limit, and pushed open the sanctuary doors, they were anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes late. Every. Single. Sunday. Their current record was sneaking into a pew during the wrap-up section of the day’s homily. Try as they might, the McKenzies just couldn’t seem to make it to worship on time.

Mrs. Schmitz could verify these details. In fact, she kept mental records of the family’s arrival times. As they entered the sanctuary, she would pivot in their direction, glance at her watch, narrow her eyes, and shake her head. Punctuality was next to godliness on her personal sanctification scale. She considered herself a patient woman; this behavior, however, was stretching her patience to the breaking point. One Sunday, when the McKenzies had the audacity to show up in the middle of her favorite hymn, she’d had enough. She stormed home right after church and fired off this email to the pastor.

Pastor Robinson,

I have a grave concern about a family in our congregation. As you have doubtlessly noticed, the McKenzies are perpetually late for worship. I find it distracting, inconsiderate, and rude. I’m sure many others feel as I do. I would think that since Mr. McKenzie is an elder in the church, and Mrs. McKenzie is the secretary of the Ladies Guild, they would try to show a little more maturity and respect. Please address this situation. We can’t simply ignore the fact that a family in the congregation that is supposed to be a role model can’t even get to church on time.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Schmitz

After a couple of days, Pastor Robinson sent her this reply:

Dear Mrs. Schmitz,

Thank you for expressing your concern about the McKenzie family. Yes, I have noticed that they are not the most punctual of families. But as they (and others) walk into church after the service has begun, I remind myself of two things. First, I’m simply thankful that they have come to the Lord’s house to receive his gifts, whether they show up on time or not.

Second, I remember that not a single person in this congregation ever arrives before worship has begun. Yes, you, me, the McKenzies—we all show up late for church. Every. Single. Sunday. When we begin singing the opening hymn, our voices blend with those of angels in heaven, who have been belting out hymns long before we rolled out of bed that morning. When we pray, our petitions join those of the saints above, who were praying for the church on earth even while we slept through Saturday night. When we come up for the Lord’s Supper, we kneel around the unseen throne of God, amidst angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, who have been worshipping the Lamb long before we took our place in the pew on Sunday morning.

In short, Mrs. Schmitz, you too are late for church every Sunday, just like the McKenzies. But don’t let it worry you. We all are. Our little congregation is part of a much larger church—the body of Christ, both here on earth as well as in heaven. And that church worships 24/7, never ceasing in its adoration of Jesus our Savior. As we gather here in this place on Sunday morning, we enter an ongoing worship service. And as we exit this sanctuary, we leave a divine service which will never cease.

Again, thank you for your email. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, as we all show up late to join in the worship of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end.

Peace,

Pastor Robinson

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christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Birds in the Pulpit

ravendoveWhen the preacher steps into a pulpit, he may carry a few things with him. A Bible. A sermon manuscript. A bottle of water. Perhaps a little something that’ll serve as an object lesson as he preaches. But whatever he brings, I hope every Sunday he includes two birds. For without these two birds, his pulpit, no matter how full it may be of other things, will be but an empty vessel. More on that in a moment. Let’s first talk about a story from long ago.

Near the close of his one-year-and-ten-days voyage on the ark, Noah sent out two birds: one a raven, the other a dove. And these two birds, in their own way, became emissaries that conveyed two different messages to Noah.

The raven “flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth,” (Gen 8:7). This bird did not return to the ark. It came back with no good news. It winged its way here and there around the surface of the earth, but it remained outside the ark. It was not a herald of peace, completion, and comfort. All it did was fly and noise abroad its caw.

The dove was sent out three times. The first time she “found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to the ark,” (9:9). The second time that Noah released her, she returned to the ark at “evening; and behold in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth,” (9:12). And the third time she did not return to him. The message was clear: the flood was over, the wrath was abated.

I have always found it intriguing that “pulpit” can also mean a raised platform on a ship. Here the vision is clearest. In this pulpit, as on the ark, Noah-like preachers stand to speak to those of us who await words from God. And flying from the mouths of these preachers are raven-words and dove-words.

He sends out the raven of the law. This bird is of God yet it cannot bring us to God. As Luther remarks, “It is characteristic of the Law that its teaching cannot make fearful consciences sure, strengthen and comfort them. Rather it frightens them, because it does nothing else than teach what God demands from us, what He wants us to do. Moreover, it bears witness against us through our consciences, because not only have we not done the will of God revealed in the Law, but we have even done the opposite,” (Genesis Commentary, AE 2:158). The law always flies about cawing its accusations against us for it always finds something within us to accuse. It announces no peace, no harmony, no forgiveness, no abatement of wrath. It is from God. God wants the raven to fly, to caw, to accuse. It is a dark bird with a dark message for sinners. One we must hear that we may realize how hopeless is our situation if left to ourselves.

But the preacher does not merely send out the raven; from the pulpit flies forth the dove of the Gospel. This bird is of God and brings us back to God. In her mouth is the olive leaf, a token of peace with God in Jesus Christ. Again, Luther says, “God wanted the branch of a green olive tree brought to Noah by mouth, to make us realize that in the New Testament, when the Flood or era of wrath comes to an end, God wants to reveal His mercy to the world through the spoken Word,” (AE 2:162-163). This word that is spoken is from the Holy Spirit, who himself appeared in the form of a dove at the baptism of Jesus. He announces that the flood is over, the whole world has been reconciled to God, his anger has been forever put away in Christ. The Gospel dove never caws an accusation but always coos an absolution.

When the preacher stands within the ark of the sanctuary, in the pulpit, he is as Noah, who himself was a “preacher of righteousness,” (2 Peter 2:5).. He sends forth two birds with two distinct messages. Both from God, but one declaring us sinners and the other declaring us righteous. They wing their way through our ears into our hearts and souls. And by them God reveals who we are if left to ourselves and who we are in Jesus Christ.

With these two birds, the preacher is never in an empty pulpit, but one filled with words from God, whose flights preach us into the kingdom.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Called and Ordained Sheriff of the Word

The man was crouched down in the aisle of an Office Depot when I turned the corner and our eyes met. It was December, so the coat he wore didn’t look out of place. I had one on too, but it was unbuttoned enough to reveal the clerical shirt I was wearing beneath. I had dropped by to pick up a few items for my study. He had dropped by to pick up an item or two as well…and slide them inside the pocket of his coat. In fact, he was doing exactly that when I rounded the corner.

I stopped and stood there. Didn’t move. Didn’t utter a syllable. Didn’t even blink. Never unlocking his eyes from mine, the would-be shoplifter eased the product out of his coat, put it back on the shelf, stood up, turned around and walked quickly away. He cast one last glance over his shoulder at the pastor who had caught him red-handed.

As I’ve told this story over the years, it’s always prompted knowing smiles and laughter. I’d even wager that the man eventually laughed as well. It’s not every day a thief gets caught by a man dressed as the Almighty’s representative.

sheriffI wonder, though, upon further reflection, if there’s an unhappy side to this story. Unhappy not because the man was stealing—though, of course, that is, lamentable. Unhappy not because the man ran off before he could be collared. No, unhappy because though that thief fled from a man dressed as a priest, you’d have thought I sported a badge and brandished a pistol. And I wonder if his reaction sums up many people’s view of the pastoral office, as if a shepherd of Christ’s flock is actually a called and ordained sheriff of the word.

First of all, let me say that I understand his reaction, because I’ve been on both sides of the fence. On the one hand, when I was in the ministry, a few folks reacted to me as if I wore a Moses mask and lugged around two tablets of stone. They wouldn’t answer my calls, wouldn’t open the door when I knocked, because to them I was the embodiment of their guilty conscience. To some extent, that’s unavoidable. A pastor must preach the law. And that law causes some people to dive for the nearest cover. On the other hand, I’ve also been that sinner who fled from pastors. For a long time, I was carrying around an enormous amount of guilt and shame. So I avoided contact with men who, in my eyes, embodied so much of my pain. I fled from them like a criminal would a cop.

But I wonder, is it unavoidable that sinners run away from Christ’s shepherd as if he’s an officer of the law? Is there anything they can do to try and prevent it? Think of those questions in terms of Christ’s own ministry.

What is most amazing to me is not that Jesus welcomed public transgressors into his company. What astounds me is that they came to him with the full expectation of not being turned away. He is the holy one of God, after all. He’s a sinless priest, above reproach, the most moral man on earth. Yet these unholy people seek Jesus out. Lepers cry out to him. Whores weep on his feet. Tax collectors climb trees to get a peek at him. Some men even rip apart a roof to lower their friend into his midst! Far from running away from Jesus, sinners of all stripes run to him.

Why? Because Jesus never preached the law? No. Because he was soft on sin? Hardly. Rather, it’s because he not only beckoned the weary and heavy laden to come to him; he took a seat at their dinner tables, became their friend, accepted them as his followers, praised their faith, and defended them. And, perhaps most significantly, Jesus shrugged his shoulders at the name-calling and tsk-tsking of the religious superstars who were offended that he would lower himself to hang in the gutter with such unworthies. He was the kind of pastor who didn’t damn the woman caught in adultery, much less make a public example out of her. He sent her away to a new, unadulterated life, forgiven and loved. He made an apostle out of a hated tax-collector. Restored another betraying apostle. Chose a murderous, blaspheming persecutor to be the evangelist to the nations. There was really only one group to whom Jesus was harsh and unyielding: those who deemed themselves better than other sinners, who walked around flexing their spiritual muscles, whose treasure was trashing others whose lives were not as outwardly righteous as their own.

It’s a risky action to emulate this kind of ministry, to associate yourself with sheep that some consider wolves and others label goats. You’ll be lied about. Your morals will be questioned. You’ll be ostracized by some, laughed at by others, or simply stop hearing from those adept at toeing the religious-political line.

But you might also find yourself listening to hurting people pour out their hearts to you about how good it is to finally find a Christian who’ll listen to them and talk with them without sounding condescending. You might discover the outcasts and unwanted and branded and scarlet-lettered flocking to you because they perceive that in you they will find the sympathy and love and forgiveness of Christ. Rather than running from you as a called and ordained sheriff, they’ll recognize in you the kind of shepherd who doesn’t care how much mud and dung has defiled their wool. You stand in the stead of the one who washes clean every sinner, loves them, names them his own, and makes them part of his flock.

Fidelity to Christ and love of the outcast neighbor go hand in hand. The mark of an orthodox pastor—indeed, of an orthodox Christian—is not, for example, making sure everyone knows you would never attend a homosexual wedding, much less bake a cake for it. Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t; I don’t care. But I would like to know if you would bake them a cake when you asked them over to your home for dinner, introduced them as your friends to your Christian friends, invited them to your church, and showed them in every imaginable way that they, like you, are dead in sin but loved and redeemed by Jesus Christ. It seems rather impossible to bring the Gospel to those we will have nothing to do with. Might this scandalous love result in being shunned by some within the conservative Christian community? Yes, but there is perhaps no clearer sign that you are being a Christ-like shepherd than when you are rejected by some because you embrace those the religious establishment keeps at arm’s length.

This week, in at least two seminaries, men who have been studying for the ministry will receive their calls into that sacred vocation. I pray for them and the congregations they will serve. And part of my prayer is that they will not see or portray themselves as called and ordained sheriffs of the word, but as called and ordained servants of the friend of sinners.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Pastors Don’t Always Want to Go to Church Either

I like the psalms, but I can’t pray some of them with a straight face. Psalm 122 is a prime example. David is a little too cheerful for me as he exclaims,

“I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”

sleepinginchurchThat certainly doesn’t roll off my tongue when I roll out of bed on Sunday morning. Maybe my wife and I stayed out a little too late on Saturday night. There’s still yard work and grocery shopping and laundry and a hundred other things that need to be done before Monday comes around. There’s a voters’ meeting after church that I’d like to avoid at all costs. I’m likely to get corned by Mr. Meddler or Mrs. Gossipalot and have to find a way politely to excuse myself from their logorrhea. Or maybe I’m just bone tired. I want to chill. I don’t want to see people. I just want to stay home on Sunday morning, drink coffee, and do as little as possible. I’m not always smiling at the thought of going to the house of the Lord.

What may surprise you is that your pastor or priest doesn’t always want to go to church either. Maybe between sermon and Bible Study preparations; hospital visits; committee meetings; counseling sessions; visitor follow-ups; late night phone calls; and typing, copying, and folding the bulletins, he’s worked his butt off the last six days. He’s sick of being cooped up in church; he could really use a day at the beach or a long walk in the park. He tried to write a good sermon, but, in all honesty, this one he’s going to preach today is a total flop. He might even fall asleep in the pulpit while he’s preaching it. He doesn’t want to see Mr. Changehater, who’s been bellyaching for three months straight about the church not singing his favorite hymns, who sits there with his arms crossed over his chest during every song. He knows Mrs. Gossipalot is probably going to corner him, too, and express “Christian concern” about the fact that she just happened to notice that the nice young unmarried couple who sit in the back pew are living together in sin and wants to know if pastor is aware of this fact? Honestly, some Sunday mornings he doesn’t even want to be a pastor. He wishes he had a different vocation. He has zero desire to stand in the pulpit or at the altar. For once, he’d like to leave his alarm clock unset on Sunday morning, sleep till the sun’s up, and do nothing but be lazy. The last thing your pastor would pray is, “I was glad when they said, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” What would make him very glad, however, is to stay at the house he calls home.

I’m not saying every Sunday, or even most Sundays, are like this for him. Nor am I saying that this is true of every pastor and priest—though I suspect most of them have been here more than they’d care to admit. But, for many, there are days when they’re as excited about going to work on Sunday morning as you are about going to work on Monday morning.

But here’s the point: he goes anyway. Glad or not, willing or not, he gets out of bed and gets himself to the house of the Lord. And in so doing, in a most unexpected way, he fulfills another duty of his office: he sets an example for his flock.

Nobody, not even your pastor, goes to the house of the Lord for entirely spiritually pure motives. Yes, he goes to church to hear the Word, but he also knows he has a mortgage and car payment due, not to mention tuition for his children, and those are hard to pay if he’s unemployed. Yes, he goes to the house of the Lord to receive the Supper, but he’s secretly glad to get out of his own house early since he and his wife had a disagreement the night before and there’s a bit of chill in the air. Indeed, he enjoys singing praises to the Lord, but the handshakes and pats on the back as his flock leave church leave him feeling a bit better about himself, too.

So, is he glad to go to the house of the Lord for the Lord’s sake or for his own sake? Yes.

In other words, your pastor is just like you are. He’s a deeply flawed human being, with an inflated ego, potentially thin skin, lust in his heart, selfish ambitions, and plenty of other nastiness hidden beneath his Sunday best. And for all those reasons, going to church is the best thing he can do, regardless of his motives. Because in church he’ll hear about the God who loves him despite his flaws, who calls him to repentance, and who stands ready to wash him in the waters of forgiveness. He’ll hear, in his own sermon(!), about the Christ who died and rose for him and Mr. Meddler and Mrs. Gossipalot and the young couple in the back of the church without wedding rings on. He will kneel at the altar and hear Christ say, “Take, eat, this is my body,” without ever questioning what his motives are for kneeling there. In the house of the Lord, the Spirit will apply the cleansing blood of Jesus to his heart full of bad and twisted and self-serving motives, so that his heart is pumped full of nothing but the pure, saving blood of Christ. And what God does for your pastor on Sunday morning, he does for you, regardless of whether you’re there for entirely right reasons or not.

Part of the vocation of your pastor is to go to the house of the Lord even on those hard days when he’d rather stay home. He sets an example for us who’d like to stay home many Sundays as well.

One thing is certain: when we’re not glad to go to the house of the Lord, the Lord is glad to have us there. And that’s really all that matters.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Preachers with Soiled Resumes

skeletoninclosetHeadhunters have a straightforward job. There’s a position to fill, usually in the corporate world, so they hunt down a candidate for that position. Of course, they’re searching for an employee with a top-notch resume, one who has the necessary experience and know-how. Headhunters don’t waste their time recruiting underachievers or amateurs. They’re matchmakers; they introduce just the right employee to just the right employer so that they’ll enjoy a healthy, thriving relationship.

And that’s why God would be, quite possibly, the world’s worst headhunter. Yes, often He does find people to work for Him who have extraordinary skills that they use for service in His kingdom. I have many friends and colleagues who are gifted in this way, and for them I thank God. But we cannot deny that the Lord also has a tendency to call people to do jobs for which they have little or no experience, not to mention few of the skills requisite for the task. In fact, some of them don’t want anything to do with the position. And, to make matters worse, when God strong-arms them into service anyway, much of the time they wind up making fools of themselves, making a mess of the work, or even telling God that He can take this job and shove it. It’s as if sometimes the Lord asks Himself, “Now who would most people think would be a miserable candidate for this mission?” Then He goes headhunting precisely for that individual.

Case in point: Jonah. Calling this man to be a prophet makes about as much as sense as hiring an executioner to be the CEO of a hospital. To begin with, he doesn’t want the job, period. He lets his feet do the talking. When God says, “Go preach in Nineveh,” he boards a ship sailing away from Nineveh. Is he afraid of the people in Nineveh? No. Does he doubt his abilities as a preacher? No. Rather, those people he’s supposed to serve—they sicken him. Nothing would make him happier than for God to fry those fiends with fire and brimstone, to play the ole Sodom-and-Gomorrah card. They’re his people’s sworn enemies. They’re infamous as butchers. They make ISIS look tame. The problem is simply this: Jonah knows that if he preaches God’s word to them, they may actually repent and believe. And if they do that, God will do the very thing which angers Jonah most: He’ll forgive them. In His audacious, scandalous love, He’ll let them off scot-free. That Jonah can’t stomach. And if you remember the rest of Jonah’s story, that’s exactly what happened.

So why would the heavenly headhunter choose someone with such personal animosity towards his mission field? We could ask the same type question of any number of the Lord’s other choices, many of whom have rather soiled resumes. Why would He choose Moses, a man with Egyptian blood on his hands, to lead one of the greatest act of redemption ever accomplished? Why would He let David, a renowned murderer and adulterer, remain on the throne of Israel, and even use his words of repentance in one of the most widely sung psalms in Christendom? Why would He fill Samson with His Spirit, a judge who’s always getting caught with his pants down? Why appoint Peter as part of the apostolic foundation of the church, a man who publicly denied three times that he even knew Jesus? Why call Saul, a once blaspheming, murdering, Christian-hating Pharisee, to take the Good News throughout the Roman world? Why would the Lord of wisdom make such foolish choices?

Someone might say that the messenger doesn’t matter but the message does. I disagree. In fact, the messengers do matter—they matter greatly. In fact, they are part of the word that God is speaking. And that word is that God is the God of the cross, the cross that is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” (1 Cor 1:18). God has chosen the foolish things and foolish people of the world to shame the wise. God has chosen the lowly things and lowly people of the world to shame the high and mighty. God has chosen the weak things and the weak, broken, soiled, despised people of the world to shame the powerful and self-righteous. He chose tax collectors and prostitutes and renegades and doubters to show the religious establishment that they didn’t know their theological ass from a hole in the ground. He even chose a mule-headed prophet named Jonah to demonstrate that He can be as stubborn in love as people can be in judgement.

God’s kingdom is a wild and wacky place. It’s pregnant with seeming contradictions. A God who’s a man. A king who’s a servant. A priest who’s a sacrifice. Shepherds who get fed to wolves. Men and women with scars proclaiming His healing. Pastors with skeletons in their closets revealing a bodiless tomb. Preachers with soiled resumes uttering words that wash us white in the blood of the Lamb.

All this seemingly contradictory work God does, however, not to be vague and sneaky but to show us that it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to be broken. You don’t have to fix yourself so you’re good enough for God. Christ loves you in your brokenness. His light shines through the cracks in your soul. His cross is for you, where He was broken to heal you, to cleanse you, to make you better than okay. In Christ not just your resume, but your whole body and soul are as pure as snow.

Blessed are the soiled, for in Christ they are clean.
Blessed are the weak, for in Christ they are strong.
Blessed are the despised, for they leave the temple justified.
Blessed are the Moseses, Davids, Samsons, Sauls, and Jonahs, for in Christ they are God’s chosen leaders, poets, warriors, apostles, and prophets.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, please check out my two books: Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons and The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. They are both also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you!

Preaching from a Wheelchair: The Amazing Story of Dan Chambers and the Unhandicapped Gospel

1956663_10152586599962912_5271414222728836737_oWhen he stepped out of his church on December 25, 2011, Dan Chambers had no idea that he had just preached his final sermon at that congregation. All he knew was that he needed a vacation. Most pastors do after the hectic, sermon-filled Advent and Nativity seasons. He and his family were heading south, to the Texas hill country outside San Antonio. There they’d unwrap presents with family, get a little R&R, and drive back to Illinois in a week or two. That was the plan—the plan that never happened.

Dan never made it back to Illinois. He never made it back to his home, his parish, or his pulpit. In fact, until this past Sunday, October 5, 2014—almost three years later—Dan wouldn’t preach in any church at all. Four days after he’d proclaimed that Christmas sermon, he would go to a hospital in San Antonio because of severe stomach pains. He would be admitted. Doctors would discover that, due to complications stemming from a prior surgery, an infection had spread throughout Dan’s abdomen. And, very soon, he would come face-to-face with death while lying on a bed in the ICU. He would endure countless surgeries over the next few months and years to help repair damage caused by the infection. He would suffer a stomach wound that has not fully healed to this day. And, the deepest blow of all, he would lose his ability to stand on his own two feet and walk wherever he wanted to go. All in all, Dan would spend the next 580 days in the hospital.

The first time I stood beside Dan, he was still in intensive care. We had some catching up to do. I had been one of his professors at the seminary several years before. I remembered him as a second career student, a hard worker, a BBQ aficionado, and one of those guys who had a knack for always making you smile. We visited a few minutes in the hospital that day. We shared a word from our Lord. We prayed together. He was weak, to be sure, and had difficulty talking, but everyone was optimistic that, any day now, his condition would improve.

It didn’t. The next time I saw Dan, he was barely responsive. I put on my game face while I was speaking with him and praying for healing, but when I walked out of the hospital I lost it. I sat in my car and wept. All I could pray were questions, every one of which began with, “Why, O Lord, why…?” I’ve never told Dan this, but on that day I was sure I wouldn’t see my friend alive again in this world.

Oh, the things we think we’re sure of. Little did I know what a fighter that man was. Little did I realize that the Lord was far from finished using this minister of the Gospel. And little did I comprehend how much Dan, who once sat in my classroom, would teach me—would teach me about bearing the cross, about the grace of Christ, and about how the strength of the Lord is made perfect in our weakness.

Over the course of those 580 days in various medical facilities, Dan lost many things. He lost his health. He lost his call to his congregation. He lost his ability to walk. But even in the midst of these losses, Dan kept many gifts that are more, much more, precious. He kept his family. His amazing wife, Karen, and their teenage children, Drew and Delani, have walked beside him and upheld him every step of this long, arduous journey together. He kept his dear friends. The people who love Dan—his BBQ brethren, his classmates, his lifelong buddies—have prayed for him, called him, visited him, raised funds for him and his family, did whatever they could to show him that he was far from alone in his sufferings. He kept his brothers in the ministry. On a regular basis, Pastor Mark Barz of Crown of Life Lutheran Church in San Antonio and Pastor Tom Winter of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Pearsall, have shared God’s word with him, brought him Holy Communion, spoken forgiveness and grace and healing to him.

But not only has Dan kept his family, his friends, and his brothers in the ministry; he has given back to us all tenfold. If you know Dan, you have your own story of how the Lord has used him to bless you (and, please, add that in the comment section below). Let me tell you what he has done for me. He reminded me of who I really am. I lost my way several years ago. And when I first started visiting Dan, the Lord was still gently shepherding me back into His fold. Dan reminded me—in his words, in his patient suffering, through his unwavering faith in Christ, by his confidence in his baptism—that Jesus Christ does not abandon His own. No matter where they are, no matter what they’re going through, He is there. He crawls into hospital beds with us to hold us as we quake in pain. He sinks down into the pits into which we have fallen to carry us back out. He squeezes all of who He is into faith as tiny as a mustard seed. Dan welcomed me as a friend when others have treated me as spoiled goods. In a word, he was, and still is, one through whom the Friend of Sinners speaks to me. And if you are someone who has, in any way, benefited from my blog, meditations, poems or hymns, you can thank Dan Chambers, because he encouraged me to take up my pen and begin writing again.

Today Dan lives in his own home in San Antonio with his family. Although he has made great progress toward recovery, he still faces many serious health problems. His prayer, and ours, is that one day the Lord will work enough healing in his body so that he can walk again. He worships, when his health allows, at the congregation where my family and I attend: Crown of Life Lutheran Church. And this past Sunday, Pastor Dan Chambers turned his wheelchair into a pulpit at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Pearsall, TX. As the guest preacher, he proclaimed the Good News of the crucified and resurrected Lord who has carried Him through these last three, trying years. He preached a Gospel that is not handicapped—a Gospel that is powerful in its seeming weakness, wise in its seeming foolishness, the story of God who became one of us, that He might redeem us as His own.

In that wheelchair sat a pastor whom the Lord raised up to bear witness to all of us that, no matter what we lose in this life, we cannot lose life itself, for He who is our life—Jesus the Christ—will never let us go.

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, then please check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

“Angels and Men the Lord Ordains”: A New Hymn Written to Celebrate Twenty Five Years in the Ministry

The pulpit is a blessedly dangerous place to stand. He whom the Lord places there is to speak truths that have got some men killed. Yet speak them he must. They are fire in his bones. They are the nouns and verbs of heaven. They are as sharp as flint, as soft as oil. They crucify and resurrect. Some will love the pastor for what he speaks, some will spit in his face. His is a lonely way, fraught with danger, yet punctuated with joy over sinners who repent, lost lambs carried home. He is a messenger, like the angels, sent by the Lord to announce Christ to the world.

trinitysheboyganGiven the challenges faced by those who serve as pastors, it is good to celebrate milestones in the ministry of these men. This past Sunday the believers at Trinity Lutheran, Sheboygan, WI, did just that. Their senior pastor, Timothy J. Mech, was ordained into the ministry 25 years ago. They celebrated his anniversary in conjunction with the celebration of St. Michael and All Angels, which was uniquely fitting since God uses the ministry of men and angels alike to shepherd His flock. The Rev. John Pless of Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, was the guest preacher. I was privileged to write a hymn for the occasion (see below), the tune of which was composed by Ken Kosche.

Thanks be to God for the ministry of Pastor Mech, along with the ministry of all others whom the Lord has called to serve as His under-shepherds.

“Angels and Men the Lord Ordains”
Hymn for the 25th Ordination Anniversary of the Rev. Timothy Mech
St. Michael and All Angels

Angels and men the Lord ordains,
To guard His flock with heaven’s sword.
This blade of words by which Christ reigns,
Will keep at bay the devil’s horde.
Angels above, shepherds below,
The Lord sends forth His grace to show.

As Michael wars ‘gainst hellish foes
To stem the tide of evil’s flood,
So pastors strive, lies they oppose
With truth that’s steeped in Jesus’ blood.
For us our shepherd fights this fight
With Scripture’s sword, the Word of light.

He does not preach to itching ears,
But shows to all their guilt and sin.
Then heralds Christ, who calms our fears,
And by His cross grants peace within.
Ordained to stand in Christ’s own stead,
He echoes words our Lord has said.

With lips of grace our shepherd speaks.
He bathes us in baptismal streams.
The wand’ring lambs, in love he seeks.
When wolves prowl near, he thwarts their schemes.
Christ chose this man; He placed him here
To shepherd us in grace each year.

All praise to you, our faithful God,
For men who bear our Savior’s yoke,
Who guide us with Your staff and rod,
Your love proclaim, Your name invoke.
With angel hosts to You we sing,
The Lamb who is our shepherd King.

If you’d like to read more of my hymns and poems, please take a moment to check out my book, The Infant Priest. This collection of hymns and poems gives voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

God, You Lied to Me: A Pastor’s Struggle

priestcollarIt happens to almost every pastor at some point in his ministry. He may not even realize that his words and actions indicate that he is working with this assumption. And if he becomes aware of it, he is probably too afraid even to admit it to himself, much less to accuse God of it. Some may even get so angry as to directly accuse the Lord of it. But voiced or assumed, felt or confessed, the pastor begins to think that God has been lying to him.

Why would a pastor, of all people, think this? Because the man in the pulpit is the man within whom the devil erects his own pulpit. The Rev. Lucifer preaches sermons all day, and all night, to the pastor from this inner pulpit. They are homilies that praise the life of freedom enjoyed by those who aren’t encumbered with the crosses peculiar to his ministerial office. They are sermons about the stinginess of some of the people whom he serves, how spiteful some of his parishioners are to him, and how ungrateful they are for all that he is forced to do even when he is so overworked and underpaid. But these are the simple, everyday homilies.

The Rev. Lucifer saves his most eloquent, and most dangerous, sermons for those occasions when the pastor is at his lowest. These are the homilies from hell that depict God as the Grand Deceiver. God promises that the Word which goes forth from His mouth will not return to Him void. “Indeed, He does,” the devil proclaims, “but look at the attendance over the last few months and years. More and more pews are empty, offerings are way down, and everyone is whispering that maybe…possibly… probably it’s the pastor’s fault.” God promises that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, but, though the pastor has preached the Gospel till he’s blue in the face, it seems to make absolutely no impact on his people. In fact, sometimes it seems like the more Gospel he preaches, the worse people become, the more people attack him, the lonelier he feels. God promises all these great and wonderful things, but his ministry is anything but great and wonderful. It’s squeezing the life out of him. He feels isolated, a failure, and—worst of all—like the Lord whom he serves has lied to him. His God makes promises that He doesn’t keep.

These inner pastoral struggles are nothing new. Jeremiah the prophet struggled with the same temptation. At first all was well in his ministry. He says to God, “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts,” (15:16). So it is with most pastors when they begin in the ministry. But, over time, after doors are slammed in his face, brothers in the ministry betray him, his salary is cut, or the pews get emptier and emptier, he joins Jeremiah in lamenting, “I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you become to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (15:17-18). That last sentence says it all, for behind that question is an assumption based upon real doubt. “Will you become to me like a deceitful brook—one that promises water but pours a cupful of hot sand on my cracked lips? Because, dear God, I’m dying of thirst down here and the river of joy and hope you once were to me has run bone dry.”

At this point it looks like all those sermons that the devil has preached have finally reached their climactic Amen. For surely when the pastor voices this lamentation—questioning God’s honestly if not outright calling Him a liar—the Lord will smite him. So all the devils are on their feet, like fans during the last few seconds of a game, ready to whoop and cheer for one more victory.

But instead of raining down fire and brimstone upon this called and ordained and doubting man; instead of unleashing His fury at this servant who dares call His integrity into question, the God whom we call Father addresses His child as only a Father can. “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before Me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as My mouth,” (Jeremiah 15:19). In other words, our Father calls His son back to Himself. He has wandered away into the darkness of his doubting, got lost in his grief, confused by the pains he’s suffered. It happens. Shepherds sometimes become lost sheep as well. So the Shepherd of shepherds seeks them out. He bids them remove such worthless doubts from their mouths and once more find His words and eat them, so that those divine words became the joy and the delight of His heart (15:16).

But that’s not all. The Lord casts Satan out from that inner pulpit. He takes a hammer and crowbar and goes to work dismantling that pulpit within which the father of lies spewed forth his deceptive sermons. And in its place the Lord preaches His own sermon. He declares, “I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless,” (15:21). I can just hear the Lord pausing to say these words more slowly, more emphatically, than all the others, “I. Am. With. You. To. Save. You.” Seven words that contains a week’s worth, nay, a life’s worth, of promise. What are these words to Jeremiah, to pastors, indeed, to all people, but the promise embedded in two of our Lord’s names. “I am with you,” for He is Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” And “to save you,” for He is Jesus, which in Hebrew is the name Joshua, which means, “the LORD saves.” I am with you to save you for I am Emmanuel Jesus, the saving, being-with-you God.

Emmanuel Jesus never lies. He is as true to His word as He is true to you. He has poured forth His truth in the crimson colors of love, baptizing you in the red sea of His cross, washing you in the Jordan of His compassion. He is no deceptive stream. He will bring forth water from the rock when the time is right. Indeed, He already has. The staff of justice struck that Rock and split it open, so that waters gushed forth from Golgotha—waters within which you were baptized, in which you quench you thirst, which desalinate the dead sea of doubts within you. God is not lying to you. He is the God who is with you to save you and deliver you. And He will. His promise is as certain as the scars that betoken His love for you.

ChristAloneCoverIf this reflection was helpful to you, and you’d like to read more–many more–like it, then take a look at my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

Anniversary of a Dead Marriage: The Painful Lessons of Divorce

wedding-ringsAlthough I wrote this article almost a year and a half ago, someone reads it almost every day. Readers stumble upon it when they Google phrases such as “divorce anniversary.” That’s just one small token of the multitudes of people who struggle to recover from a broken marriage and the lifelong scars that violent separation can bring. I am reposting it on my blog today so that perhaps it will reach some who haven’t seen it. This is my own unedited, raw reflection upon what divorce did to me, as well as what I learned from it. I’m sure some will take issue with my disagreement with St. Paul, but that’s okay. Perhaps I misunderstand the apostle and need to be corrected. If you are reading this as one who suffers the ongoing pains of divorce, know that I am praying for you, that Christ may work healing in you, as He has in me.

Today, December 29, would have been the twenty-second anniversary of my first marriage. Five years have passed since our divorce—years raw with emotion, scarred by mistakes, scabbed over with hints of hope. Every year, when this day rolls around, I turn over the stones of remembrance that litter my mind, to see what lurks beneath. I see things there I don’t want to see, learn things about myself that I never wanted to know, but do anyway. I also see there lessons learned, painful but positive lessons. This piece is more for me than anyone else, though you are welcome to tag along and spy on my thoughts.

1. The Undivorced Don’t Get It. I’ve never stood by the freshly dug grave of my beloved wife. Never has the blood of a fellow soldier been showered on me during a firefight. I’ve never been bankrupt or homeless or had cancer. I don’t know about a lot of things, because I haven’t experienced those hells. The happily married, undivorced man or woman knows nothing of the agony of divorce, and should never pretend otherwise. This includes pastors, and all those who may seek to counsel the divorced. They should never assume they “get” what the divorced person is going through. Every loss, every grief is unique, and to make it generic by universalizing it cheapens the hurt the divorced feel.

2. I disagree with St. Paul. When he writes to the Corinthians, Paul says, “One who is unmarried is concerned with the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,” (1 Cor 7:32-33). Not for me. Most men who are unmarried are concerned with finding a woman whom they can marry. And until they do that, most of their thoughts, energies, time, and, yes, money, are directed toward that end. I was much more concerned about the things of the Lord when I was married than when I became single. It is not good for the man to be alone, and so long as he is, it won’t be good for him personally, or his service to the Lord. With notable exceptions, men are created for women. And it is in the vocation of husband that they serve the Lord best, for they are completed by her.

3. Lonely, Hurting Men Make Bad Decisions. I made the mistake many men do immediately after their divorce: the first woman I dated, I “fell in love with” and soon we were making wedding plans. I later broke off the engagement as the reality that this was a rebound relationship slowly sank in, although, of course, it was at an additional emotional cost to both of us, as well as our mutual children. Every relationship is a risk, but the risk skyrockets when the man is still nursing wounds from a failed marriage. He wants nothing more than a restored wholeness, to recreate a past that either did exist, or exists only in his nostalgic imagination. And in this state of yearning for healing, he tends to idealize a woman, seeing in her the wife he wants her to be instead of the woman whom she really is.

4. Divorce Unveils the Monster Within Divorce brings out the worst in people. It certainly did in me. I was little aware of the fathomless depths of anger, spite, depression, regret, pettiness, and selfishness within me until my marriage ended. Then it all came oozing, or exploding, to the surface, in various ways and at various times. I remember late one night, while working in the oil field, having a conversation with another driver who was going through a divorce. His wife had left him for another man. He described how his every waking moment was consumed with fantasies of revenge, murderous payback, horrid thoughts he’d never entertained before. Divorce can do that, unearthing new evils within. It’s a dark journey of self-knowledge. And although, thank God, most of the time these monsters within us remain caged, never acting out the evils of which they are capable, the sheer fact that they are there at all is enough to make me scared of the man I have the potential to become.

5. Healing Will Begin, But It Takes Its Sweet Time I’m fortunate because I survived divorce. I didn’t put a gun to my head and pull the trigger, though on my darkest of days I held the pistol in my hand. I didn’t become addicted to something that would dull the pain, though I did my fair share of self-medicating with alcohol. I came through, wounded and scarred to be sure, but at least alive. Not every one is so lucky. God placed into my life a few select friends without whose love I would not have made it. Not surprisingly, these friends are divorced as well. They get it. I am at a point of healing now, five years later, that I thought I’d never reach, even if I had five lifetimes. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’ve made progress. Baby steps are steps nonetheless. I have two children, a son and daughter. They live with their mother and step-father. I see them four to six days a month—days that mean the world to me. As heart-breaking as my time apart from them is, I have grown to thank God that, in the aftermath of our divorce, our children are still provided with a stable, secure, Christian home in which to grow up. Indeed, they are blessed with a good mother and a caring stepfather.

The very fact that I can write that last sentence, and mean every word, is proof positive that, five years after my divorce, the Lord has made a little progress in putting this shattered man back together again.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. If you’re looking for feel-good, saccharine devotional material, you’d better keep looking because you’re not going to find it here. If you’re looking for moralistic guides to the victorious Christian life, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed by all the Gospel in this book. But if you’re looking for reflections drenched in the Scriptures, focused through and through on the saving work of Jesus Christ, and guided by a law-and-Gospel approach to proclamation, then I daresay you’ll be pleased with this book. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

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