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No Sunshine Soldiers, No Sunday Saints

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Letter from a Missionary

A letter from a missionary out in the jungles of New Guinea writing to his friends at home caught the nature of spiritual warfare:

“Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn’t waste time on a lukewarm bunch. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you’re on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No, sir. That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah! The old fellow’s getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. ‘Will he stick with it?’ And as they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We’re not going to run away. We’re going to stand.”

Prayer

Prayer

The unnatural position used in crucifixion made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries—especially at the head and stomach—became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself—of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most—bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.
Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

Prayer

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a Word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
Matthew 8:27–30 ESV
And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them.
Mark 8:27–30 ESV
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
On it’s surface, this is a curious turn of events. Most of us understand that we should at some level, “be witnesses of Christ.” Yet here, Jesus actually tells His disciples to say … nothing about Him.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes wrote in that
A Time for Everything
Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
Sometimes, the Lord does need to restrain us from what, in other times and situations, He needs to push us into. Our zeal and passion can lead us in a direction that is actually contrary to the will of God, and, if we aren’t careful, can lead us to do that which might interfere with God’s Mission instead of advancing it. Jesus knew that He was beginning to move towards that confrontation in Jerusalem that He would enter against sin that would require the shedding of His pure blood for victory.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mark 8:31–32 ESV
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
The work that we are doing in the LCMS Office of National Mission and in the LCMS Indiana District is work that smart guys would counsel against. I know that the smart guys, like the ones who run Gary’s Roman Catholic Diocese, think that it’s time to shut things down, to cut God’s losses so to speak, and to look for greener pastures, where there is money, upwardly mobile families, and quiet communities free from the scourge of poverty and violence.
The work that we are doing in the LCMS Indiana District is work that smart guys would counsel against. I know that the smart guys think that it’s time to shut things down, to cut God’s losses so to speak, and to look for greener pastures, where there is money, upwardly mobile families, and quiet communities free from the scourge of poverty and violence.
People tend to shy away from that which increases stress, pain, or hardship. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan, and difficulty is his brother. Even in ministry, it’s easier to get support for “successful” ministries that are large, financially stable, and well-spoken of in the community. Church plants, mission work, and small congregations, by contrast, need to show that they “deserve” support from those who believe that they are being good stewards by managing their giving to places that promise a good “return on investment.” Sunshine Soldiers and Sunday Saints don’t like ministries and missions that involve lots of prayer, lots of serving, and little gratification.
Mark 8:34–38 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Jesus began preaching the Gospel with 12 men. Later He sent 72 others on a “short-term mission project.” By the morning of the Day of Pentecost, there were 150 people in a little room, hiding in fear, but who had not completely lost all hope, and there was one who had, reacting to his sense of failure by extinguishing any chance for redemption. Over 2000 years later, Christianity is a defining aspect of Western culture, a major contributor to cultural and ethical formation, and yes, a message of a Kingdom that will never pass away, even though churches may close, ministries may seem to fail, and ministers suffer from burn-out, crises of confidence, and seeming failures to launch. We have a message that is bigger than our individual contributions to the Mission of God, a promise that transcends our ability to direct or redirect resources to meet temporal needs.
Jesus began preaching the Gospel with 12 men. Later He sent 72 others on a “short-term mission project.” By the morning of the Day of Pentecost, there were 150 people in a little room, hiding in fear, but who had not completely lost all hope, and there was one who had, reacting to his sense of failure by extinguishing any chance for redemption.
God is in control of this mission - we are the Church of Jesus Christ. You don’t answer to me, or to your pastor, to your DP, or to President Harrison, when it comes to how well you have run your race and fulfilled your course. Our churches are not in competition, either with each other or with other congregations that name the name of Christ. We aren’t even in competition with the Devil, since he is already twice-defeated.
Romans 8:37 ESV
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:37 ESV
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:35–37 ESV
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
These are truths that are not apparent to the natural man, the Old Adam, who operates according to what the Bible calls the wisdom of this age, and what I think many people refer to as “common sense.” When someone tells me, during a church meeting, or when we are making a decision regarding ministry, that “you need to use common sense,” I have a sense of how Jesus felt at Caesarea Philippi as Peter opened his mouth and let Satan use it. Common sense doesn’t show you the things that are given to us by God - the Holy Spirit has to do that.
1 Corinthians 2:12–14 ESV
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
[Concerning the Office of Preaching] [1] To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. [2] Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. [3] It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe. [4] Condemned are the Anabaptists and others who teach that we obtain the Holy Spirit without the external word of the gospel through our own preparation, thoughts, and works.
[V. Concerning the Office of Preaching]
[1] To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. [2] Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. [3] It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe.
[4] Condemned are the Anabaptists and others who teach that we obtain the Holy Spirit without the external49 word of the gospel through our own preparation, thoughts, and works.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 40.
The reason why you cannot hope to revitalize a community without a revival of the Church is because otherwise you are only doing a half job.
Ezekiel 37:11–14 ESV
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
Matthew 23:15 ESV
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
We do Gary IN, Miami FL, Ferguson MO, Brownsville TX, and other places a disservice when we think that politics, economics, and education can solve the problems brought on by a dead, sin-enslaved soul. They play a part, but like the dry bones of , without the Gospel, there is no breath, no life in a community that lacks the pure proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the announcement that God’s love for you is demonstrated in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Repent and believe the Gospel. Please turn with me to p. 323 of the Lutheran Service Book, and let us read together from Part II, Article III of the Small Catechism:
Ezekiel 37 ESV
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”
The Book of Concord The Third Article: On Being Made Holy

[5] The Third Article: On Being Made Holy56

I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian church, the community of the saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life. Amen.

[6] What is this? Answer:

I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my LORD or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers. On the Last Day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

Mission Field: USA
Thank you for supporting the ministry that the Lord has given us to do in Gary and the Indiana District. Your support in the form of time, talent, treasure and prayer is not only appreciated, it is received with thanksgiving as we pray for the continued fruitfulness of Faith Lutheran Church of Lake Forest, IL. and our other partners and friends in ministry.
In return, I am committed to preaching the pure Gospel, engaging in Witness - Mercy - Life Together with your brothers and sisters in Northwest Indiana, and speaking God’s message of the His Kingdom to those who only want to build up their own. Here I stand, God help me. Thank you, and God bless you, for standing with me.
And may the peace of God, that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
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