Tag Archive for: Faithfulness

The brevity of Psalm 13 should not lead us to think that it is unimportant. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, presents us with a psalm that not only struggles with those moments when God seems silent, but gives us a beautiful model for prayer at the same time. David wrestles with those questions which beset all of us from time to time: why does God seem so far away in the midst of my troubles?

This psalm has three sections of two verses each, yet in these few lines David presents a remarkable transition. Psalm 13 opens with all the fury of a storm and closes with all the calm of a storm that is past.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long will I take counsel in my soul, sorrow in my heart day by day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

It is not certain what prompted David to write this psalm, whether his troubles with Saul, Absalom, or some other event. Whatever the occasion, the result is the same. God seems to be far off when everything is going wrong. As with all psalms which cry out to God in the midst of trouble, however, Psalm 13 should not be interpreted as moping or having an inward, depressed focus. The soul which despairs of God’s mercy would not pray. It is only the Christian who knows that God will answer, even in the worst of circumstances, that can pray. Even if the tone seems desperate, it still cries to God confidently knowing He will hear.

Yet this confidence doesn’t mitigate the intense struggle. These questions are not seeking answers, but rather giving vent to the state of the soul. For that reason, the first question is the most intense. It is not the problems of life that cause such distress, but God’s seeming distance and forgetfulness. This seeming absence sparks terror, because God’s face seems to have looked away. Deuteronomy 31:17-18 describes this looking away as God’s wrath, while in Numbers 6:25, God looking on us with His face is a sign of His favor. However, for the Christian, it only seems as if God looks away, because God sometimes withdraws Himself from His people (Song of Solomon 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:3-17). In this, we see a picture of Christ’s own anguish on the cross. The difference, however, is that Christ’s abandonment was real, not perceived, yet He still cried out to the Father with the trusting words of Psalm 22.

Look at, answer me, LORD my God. Light up my eyes lest I sleep in death.

Lest my enemy says, “I have prevailed over him.” My oppressors rejoice when I am made to stagger.

The distress of the first section has given way to the firm confidence of prayer. Having given vent to his soul, David calls on the Lord to answer him. “My God,” though frequently abused as a term, is a beautiful expression of our election in God. God has made us His own, and we belong to Him personally, even when it seems like He has turned away. The terror of God’s seeming absence cannot overwhelm the truth that He is “the LORD my God.”

Eyes may be regarded as dark for a couple of reasons. The first is that death is actually looming, and the eyes are darkening as a forerunner of the grave (Proverbs 29:13; 1 Samuel 14:27; indirectly in Ecclesiastes 12:1-3). Lighting up the eyes, then, is a call to bring back from the threat of death. Death is a place of silence, and therefore David could not praise the deeds of the Lord before the congregation there (Psalm 6:5). The other reason is that death is metaphorical for the deep distress of his soul (Ezra 9:8). I think either could work here.

David moves the Lord to action through this prayer, because he bases it on firm promises which the Lord has made. God’s glory and honor are at stake in this moment. If the enemy can say, “I have prevailed over him,” then it would seem that God either has broken His promises or that He is unable to keep them, both of which are manifestly untrue! Why should Egypt say that He brought them out to kill them (Exodus 32:12)? Why should the nations say, “Where is their God” (Psalm 79:10)? Why should the enemies of God blaspheme Him by triumphing over His people (Deuteronomy 32:27)? “It is not for your sake,” says the Lord, “that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name” (Ezekiel 36:22).

But I in your steadfast love have trusted. My heart will rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD who has shown himself to me.

All has now become calm, like Christ stilling the storm (Matthew 8:26). This trust is not based in emotions, though one may feel emotionally calm at the same time. Rather, this trust bases itself on God’s steadfast love. Nor should we understand steadfast love as an intense feeling either. This is God’s unwavering faithfulness, the love He shows to us and has promised to us. God cannot lie, therefore His steadfast love is unwavering. This is the ground of our confidence, because in His Son Jesus Christ, the Lord’s steadfast love for His people reveals itself. It is a peace and joy which comes in Christ and is like nothing else (John 14:27). Even if the troubles of life continue, they will not go on forever. We can put our trust in God’s promises, so that even when He seems far away, He has promised to hear us when we cry to Him.

Note also that while the wicked rejoice in the downfall of the righteous, the righteous rejoice in the salvation of the Lord. The wicked man trusts in what is ultimately fleeting and transitory, like putting his trust in his own destruction (Psalm 52:7). However, the godly man trusts in what is everlasting and sure, because the Lord will not forsake those who trust in Him. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).

As an addendum, the Septuagint interestingly adds the following phrase to verse 6:

[and I will sing to the name of the Lord Most High.]

Why it does this is not clear, though it is reflected in translations based on it and on translations based on the Latin Vulgate. The psalms frequently present ideas in pairs, and it may be that verse 6 is only “half” a verse. Perhaps the Septuagint took this from a unique variation in the texts it translated. Perhaps someone added this in order to fill in the “other half” of verse 6. Whatever the reason, the effect is the same: David praises the name of God for all that He has done in delivering him from trouble.

Our Lord at times desired to have time apart from the demands of His ministry. He was often entirely alone, retiring to mountains where He could not easily be found. Sometimes His attempt at seclusion was frustrated through the demands of others for His presence and attention. Sometimes He called his disciples to come with Him into seclusion.

This is all tremendously needful, refreshing, and helpful. Who does not desire some time apart? Who of us can say that at every waking moment he is entirely ready and willing to carry out the ministry of the gospel? No honest man could answer “Yes.”

But there is a danger in the desire for rest. Rest is not only the resort of the hard-working. Rest is also the refuge of the lazy man who is unprepared for life’s demands. Rest throughout the week, not only on the Sabbath, is what a man does with himself when he is not carrying out his God-given tasks.

How much have we been resting from spreading the gospel? How much preparation time, reflection time, and downtime do we need until we are ready to spread the kingdom of God the Lord? How many books and conferences and modules and workshops on evangelism does one man need? How many years will pass in which we seek conversions only from other forms of Christianity rather than the ever-increasing number of people in our country who have never known Christ in the least? Godly rest and relaxation and meditation and prayer are one thing. Ungodly sluggishness and laziness and most of all apathy are another altogether.

How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
(Prov. 6:9-11)

We are most apt to rest prematurely when the work is hard. Calling up a friend and sharing ecclesiastical gossip is easily accomplished. Firing off a profound theological put-down on social media is easily accomplished. Assembling one’s theological books for an Instagram gem is easily accomplished. We are more apt to put off things like calling on a parishioner who has some beef with us or to do the hard work of engaging and evangelizing a completely new person because those things require hard, uphill, back-breaking, and at times spirit-breaking work.

But the Lord has said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We do not say these things only to condemn. We say this, as our Lord said what He did to his lazy, restful followers in Gethsemane: Would you not watch with Me? If our lazy, apathetic flesh could not remain awake for the betrayal of God’s Son, how likely is it to remain watchful for the hard but much smaller tasks of the ministry, including doing the work of an evangelist?

Honesty about our apathy is honesty about ourselves, about what we are most prone to love (our flesh) and most prone to neglect (our hardest tasks). Honesty about our apathy is like every confession the gate to a new path. We see head-on how ugly and untimely and niggardly our apathy about the gospel and the spread of the gospel is. We see how captivating and world-changing and bounteous is our Lord’s compassion for sinners. Knowing our hearts and knowing His mighty love and purposes, we set our hands to the hard tasks, the things we’d rather stay in bed than get up for, the things that call sinners out of their slumber into the wakefulness of the dawning light of Christ:

Awake, you who sleep,

Arise from the dead,

And Christ will give you light. (Eph. 5:14)

Of the bookshelves in my study, one entire shelf bears titles like “Planting Missional Churches” and “Church Planting for the 21st Century.” These books come from a wide variety of Christian confessions. “Church planting” has become a term as ecumenical as “stewardship” or “pastoral care.” Each of the books on that shelf means by “church planting” the establishment of a new Christian congregation where there was none before. No doubt, those books may recommend that the church planter should be bivocational or that he should seek out hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding before he begins. One book may insist that public worship services begin almost immediately; another may contradict that advice flatly and require that at least 200 people be on hand for the first public service. Yet each of those books presumes in common with all the others that there is such a thing as a “church planter” who establishes new churches, an activity obviously biblical called “church planting.”

It is surprising, to say the least, to read the Bible and not to find the phrase “church planting” in it. Is this like how the phrases “Holy Trinity” or “communication of attributes” also don’t appear in the Scriptures? Not really. “Trinity” unites the biblical data on the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in a single word expressing the essential divine reality for which we have no other single word. “Communication of attributes” expresses elegantly the relationship between the human and divine natures of the God-man for which we can cite all manner of passages. New congregations are established in Scripture. There is no question that Christian assemblies for worship and common life in Christ sprang up in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and so many other locations named in the New Testament. But does the Bible speak of “planting” churches?

It does not. It speaks rather about “planting” in a variety of other ways. Jesus speaks of the Pharisees in their obstinate opposition to him as “every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted” (Mt. 15:13) and the sowing of the wheat as “plants that came up” (Mt. 13:26) alongside the Enemy’s sowing of weeds. Here the action is God’s, and the means identified in Mt. 13 is the “word of the kingdom” (Mt. 13:18). In the parable of the tenants (Mt. 21, Mk. 12, Lk. 13) the master of the vineyard plants a vineyard that belongs to Him alone. Paul, the great missionary of the post-Pentecost church, says three times in 1 Cor. 3 that he has planted (3:6, 7, 8), as he has spoken of feeding the Corinthians with milk (3:2) and of himself and Apollos as “servants through whom you believed” (3:5). The object of that planting and Apollos’ watering and God’s gift of growth is explicitly the Corinthian people themselves, “You are God’s field, God’s building” (3:12). Paul’s aim has not been to establish an institution but to call men to faith by preaching Christ crucified.

What’s the difference? This is the difference between thinking of our evangelistic task as people-centered or institution-centered. The Bible speaks about gathering people, cultivating people, God’s field as people, God’s building as people, the temple of God composed of people. Paul plants not a church but the “word of the kingdom.” The sower in Mt. 13 plants not a well-funded institution but the same word that the man sows with good seed later in the same chapter. The focus is constantly on the spread of the word and the cultivation of the Lord’s vineyard, the Lord’s field, the Lord’s building which are the believers who receive that word and bear abundant fruit. Our task is not planting organizations. The organizations with their budgets and boards will arise to manage what has been given, as you can see the church’s forms of life develop in the Acts of the Apostles. Our task is rather planting the word of the kingdom in the field of this world so that the wheat, the good seed, the abundant fruit of the Lord may grow and flourish in His vineyard.

It was a truth universally acknowledged that a parish pastor in a free church should “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Providentially guided to flourishing in America, the early Missouri Synod was ardent in spreading the gospel and planting new congregations. A synod that began with a dozen congregations and scarcely fewer clergymen reached its fiftieth anniversary with many, many times that number of churches and ministers. Without the in-depth demographic research and financial backing that is our contemporary good fortune, they spread the kingdom of God the Lord widely and deeply. They had been freed from the unbelieving strictures of the state church. They were now free to preach the Word in season and out of season.

We cannot recall their fervency without a mixture of confusion and of shame, confusion due to the sea-change in our common life and shame due to our lukewarm efforts by comparison to our fathers who were threadbare in the things of this life and rich in the things of the life to come. Everywhere we look, congregations are struggling mightily, and pastors are drowned in busyness, when they do have the means to be supported by the church. When they do not, the church’s work suffers so that the minister can put some food on his family’s table. Everywhere we look, we hear that the Faith is receding from our shores and going elsewhere, that the “passing shower of the gospel” has passed us by. What has become of us? Where has all our fathers’ resolve and confidence and joy gone? Yet we cannot recall their fervency only to bemoan our degeneration. The saints are our examples for imitation, not the occasions of our piously mournful recollection. This cloud of witnesses spurs us on to look afresh at how we might yet in our own time fulfill our calling and do the work of an evangelist.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look closely at the evangelistic nature of the office of the ministry as the New Testament teaches it. We’ll do that in the firm conviction that if the Lord has placed us in a difficult field, yet it is here that he has given us the work that is his to bless. We do not find Saint Paul bewailing the difficulty of his task or being at all daunted by the ideological and political forces arrayed against him. In the firm conviction that “now it is the opportune time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2) for all mankind, we preach in season and out of season the Word of reconciliation also here and now in America, also here and now to the actual neighbor next door.

Here and now God has put our free church, our confessional church, our church of the pure Gospel, to proclaim that Gospel and to fulfill our calling to teach and to baptize all nations, including this one, including the spiritual-but-not-religious, including the less-than-exotic auto mechanics and coal miners and sugar beet farmers. We know that God works by calling something out of nothing and not by the wisdom of the world. We know that Christ died for us while we were yet his enemies and committed to us the Word that in Christ God was reconciling the world, even present-day Americans, to himself (2 Cor. 5:19).

Elijah has been very zealous for the Lord of Hosts.  The reading for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity is part of a larger section beginning in 1 Kings 16:29.  “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.  And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him” (1 Kings 16:30-31).  Ahab is deliberately wicked, and Elijah is sent to proclaim the Word of the Lord to him.

Elijah therefore proclaims a drought upon the land.  He does not predict that one will come, but rather that it will not rain “except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1).  This is the first of several signs in this conflict, all with the same ultimate end.  Elijah is provided bread and water for a time by the ravens by the brook Cherith, because it is the Lord who provides (1 Kings 17:2-7).  The widow at Zarephath receives the miraculous jar of flour and jug of oil “until the day that the Lord sends rain,” because all things come from His mighty hand (1 Kings 17:8-16).  Her son is raised from death, because the Lord is the Lord of life and death, and His Word is in Elijah’s mouth (1 Kings 17:17-24).  The altar of Elijah is burned up in the sight of all, because “the Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39)!  Finally, the Lord sends rain again upon the land (1 Kings 18:41-46).  All of these signs point to the same thing:  the Most Holy Trinity is the Lord of heaven and earth, and beside Him, there is no other.  “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

But Elijah doesn’t yet understand this.  Jezebel threatens to kill him because he put the prophets of Baal to death, and Elijah flees.  He has seen the hand of the Lord again and again throughout his life, and especially throughout the time of the drought.  But he is now afraid of the threat of a woman.  As Jesus says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  But Elijah fears for his life.

A few notes about the passage itself.  Elijah strives to present his fear as zeal, as if he was the only one left who was faithful in Israel.  He has apparently forgotten the widow and Obadiah who hid the prophets in his fear, among others.  He is convinced that there is no future, because he thinks that the Lord’s Church will die out with him.  Yet the Lord reminds him that He will leave seven thousand in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).  Not seven thousand who have chosen to remain faithful or even a count of those still faithful at the moment.  The Lord declares “I will leave seven thousand in Israel,” because it is His Church.  The Church does not continue because of men, but because of the will of God.

The end of this chapter should not be excluded in this consideration.  Elisha’s call follows right on the heels of Elijah’s experience at Horeb.  God still sends men to proclaim His Word from generation to generation.  His Church will continue her mission in this age until Christ brings it to a close.  But this should remind us, as it probably did for Elijah, that the Church does not depend on us.  There will not be a “hole” when our time is ended.  Our talents, our gifts, our zeal, our ability are useful for the time in which God wills to use them for His purposes.  But the time allotted to each will come to an end, and the work of the harvest will pass to others.  We should not think of ourselves too highly and imagine that God will lack something when we are gone.  It is His Church, and He will never fail to provide for her.

The song of Isaiah 12 actually forms the last part of a long subsection beginning in Isaiah 7.  Isaiah is sent to Ahaz in the face of an impending invasion from Syria and Israel to tell him that they will come to nothing.  Ahaz, however, does not believe, even when the Lord invites him to do what is normally forbidden by testing the Lord (Isaiah 7:12).  God gives the sign of Immanuel both as a promise of future deliverance in Christ (Matthew 1:23) but also to show faithless Ahaz that He will still do what He said by bringing the invasion to nothing (Isaiah 7:16).  However, the Lord declares that Assyria will come to sweep faithless Judah away (Isaiah 7:17-20).

Though Assyria will wipe away Judah, yet God will also bring Assyria into judgment, a promise which He emphasizes beginning in Isaiah 10.  Even though God will send His people away into exile, He will also bring them back (Isaiah 10:20-23).  The righteous Branch, that is, Christ will come forth “from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), the seemingly dead remains of the tree of the house of David.  Jesus will be “a signal for the peoples” and “in that day the Lord will extend His hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of His people” (Isaiah 11:10-11).  Just as the Lord would bring back His people from exile, so He would also gather together His people from all the ends of the earth.

This, then, is the greater context for Isaiah 12.  “In that day,” that is, in the day when the Lord gathers His people in the second time, “I will give thanks to You” (Isaiah 12:1).  This is closely related to last week’s reading in Lamentations 3, where Jeremiah declared his hope in the Lord even in the face of the Lord’s wrath.  God will turn away from His fierce anger which lasts but a moment and bring His favor which has no end (Psalm 30:5; Job 13:15).

Isaiah 12:2 is unusual in that the Lord’s name is repeated twice in a row, first in a shortened form and then in its usual fuller form.  The NKJV renders it the most literally:  “For Yah, the LORD, is my strength and song.”  This form also occurs in Isaiah 26:4.  Perhaps this doubling is used for emphasis, especially since both references speak of the Lord as “strength.”

The imagery of “water from the wells of salvation” finds important parallels in passages like John 4 where Jesus speaks of living waters to the woman of Samaria; John 7:37-19 where He speaks of the Holy Spirit as “rivers of living water”; Ezekiel 47:1-12, where the prophet sees the river which flows forth from the temple; and Revelation 22:1-5, which speaks of the river of life in New Jerusalem.  On that day, when the believer draws water, he will call upon the name of the Lord and praise Him for what He has done (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13; 1 Chronicles 16:8; Psalm 9:11; 105:1).

Two other words are noteworthy in this text.  The first is “gloriously” in Isaiah 12:5.  This word has the most basic meaning of “rising,” and it is used in this sense in Isaiah 9:17 where it describes smoke rising into the sky and in Psalm 89:8 where it describes the raging of the sea.  Both a column of smoke and a raging sea bring to mind a sense of awe, a rising that brings with it a sense of power.  It can also describe the rising of pride, that is to say, presumption and arrogance, as it is used in Psalm 17:10.  But the word is most often used to describe the exaltedness and the “rising” of God:  Psalm 93:1; 110:6; and Isaiah 26:10.  If the sea and smoke are exalted, how much more so the Lord!

The other is “cry aloud” or “shout” in Isaiah 12:6.  It is used in several other places, like Isaiah 10:30; 24:14; 54:1; Jeremiah 31:7; and Esther 8:15.  But its most colorful usage and the one which shows its most basic meaning occurs in Jeremiah 5:8 and 50:11, where it describes the cry of stallions.  While the translation “to neigh” doesn’t make much sense in relation to men, it is an extremely intense shouting, much like a stallion crying aloud.  Perhaps it is related to the loud whinnying of a horse who sees a long lost companion returning.

Jehoshaphat, faithful king of Judah, and Ahab, wicked king of Israel, sought a word from the Lord.  The Syrians occupied Ramoth-Gilead in northeastern Israel.  Ahab sought the aid of Jehoshaphat in reclaiming this part of the inheritance of Gad, the Levite city of refuge (Joshua 21:38).  It was shameful for Ramoth-Gilead to belong to a foreign people, even if Ahab only wanted to expand his own authority.

But Ahab still limped between the idolatry of his wife and the worship of the Lord.  Elijah had brought him to repentance some years before.  He recognized that a king should consult the Lord before attempting to retake the city, because all things were in His hands.  Therefore, they called together a great assembly of prophets and sat in the gates of Samaria, sitting on their thrones dressed in their royal robes.  What a sight it must have been!

And what a powerful and favorable message these four hundred prophets brought to the kings!  “Go up, for the Lord will give the city into the hand of the king!”  Ramoth-Gilead would belong to Israel again!  The kings would return in triumph!  Zedekiah, son of Chenaanah, who was likely their leader, even made two horns of iron, a strong and powerful symbol that the Lord was with these kings.  How could they fail?  Four hundred men all said the same thing.

But Jehoshaphat, faithful king of Judah, recognized that something seemed a bit off.  Doubtless, it was a pleasant message to hear, and Ahab delighted in hearing it.  Nevertheless, he asks “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?”  There is indeed another man, Micaiah, son of Imlah.  He, however, never speaks a pleasant word.  Ahab kept him away intentionally.

At Jehoshaphat’s insistence, however, they call him.  Micaiah is even coached beforehand how to respond.  How could four hundred prophets be wrong?  But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”  He wasn’t impressed by the kings sitting in all their splendor.  Four hundred prophets all saying the same thing meant nothing.  Even when he sarcastically said what the other prophets said, they knew he didn’t mean it.  Rather, he faithfully spoke a word of judgment from the Lord.  Satan, that lying spirit, had deceived these four hundred men, because it was the will of the Lord to put Ahab to death.

Micaiah spoke a faithful word, even when everyone was against him.  He prophesied faithfully, knowing full well it would cost him his life.  After all, he was thrown into prison, and the Bible says nothing else about him.  He most likely died there.  But Ahab, despite his best efforts to avoid the judgment, met his death at Ramoth-Gilead.  All Israel was scattered, just as Micaiah had said.

The time will come for all when a faithful Word must be spoken.  They will drag you into courts.  They will drag you before kings.  It may cost you a fine.  You may be impoverished for the sake of the Truth.  It may cost you your job.  You may have to speak a faithful word even against those you know best.  But in that hour, do not be afraid, “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:20).  Micaiah knew this, and therefore he was not afraid.  Even though he stood alone, the Lord of Hosts was with him.  Micaiah died speaking the Word faithfully.  May we also be ready to leave everything behind—house, job, family, a retirement plan, even our very lives—in search of a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

1 Kings 22:1-40 and 2 Chronicles 18

Date: April 7, 1935

The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the Law knew Me not: the pastors also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal and walked after things that do not profit. Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead.Jeremiah 2:8-9

A FEW short years ago in St. Louis the moaning whistle of a tornado sounded its alarm. Within a flash great squares of our city lay in terrifying ruins of splintered wreckage, twisted steel, uprooted trees—a hideous picture of death and destruction. But with an indomitable will our city cleared away the wreckage and undertook an extensive program of rebuilding, and today one seeks almost in vain for traces of that harrowing disaster.—In the Civil War, when Sherman pushed his way from Atlanta to the seaboard, his marching columns burned villages, destroyed crops, cut down orchards, and altogether blazed a trail of ruin sixty miles wide, which, it seemed, would leave an ineffaceable scar. But today, as you survey that fair Southland, you see that the hand of time has dealt soothingly and that the wounds of the war-torn areas have been healed by the benediction of peace.—After the Thirty Years’ War the exhausted European nations lay prostrate. In Bohemia, where compatriots of John Huss arose to defend the cause for which he had been burned at the stake, of over 35,000 villages hardly 6,000 remained; and in Germany the toll of that religious butchery was so terrible that in some sections the population was diminished by two-thirds. Yet those nations tied up their wounds, set their faces to the task of reconstruction, and ultimately recovered.

You can see from all this that a city, a state, a nation, or a group of nations can emerge from any catastrophe which destroys only external power; they can convalesce from epidemics; they can rise, Phoenixlike, from ashes; they can regain their stability after earthquakes. But there is one catastrophe which is final and irremedial, and that is the neglect or the choking off of true Christian faith and the rejection of God’s Christ—particularly through the apostasy of the spiritual leaders and the degeneracy of the clergy. Wherever proud churchmen wilfully spurn the grace of the almighty God in Christ; wherever the clergy, self-absorbed and self-sufficient, turns away from the Cross, there history inevitably records the reverberating rumble of God’s dynamite as proud national structures totter into irreparable ruin.

Because we in our country must hearken to this repetitious warning of wide human experience, let me discuss with you this afternoon under the guidance of the Spirit of God


This discussion is suggested by the words of our text, recording as they do in summary the cause of Israel’s national decline and tragic end.


Why was it that Israel, blessed as no nation since the beginning of the world, could fall victim to swift destruction and be exiled from its homeland? God answers in the words preceding our text: “I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but . . . ye defiled My land.” And if we ask how the land was defiled, the words which I read to you declare: “The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the Law knew Me not; the pastors also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal and walked after things that do not profit.” A misguided and materially minded priesthood was responsible for Israel’s collapse, a clergy that forgot its spiritual duty and drifted over into crass, worldly scheming, that thought more of foreign alliances than of Jehovah’s help, more of political plots than of the sovereign will and mercy of the Almighty.

Today, in this crisis of tremendous proportions, one of the master menaces to American happiness is that growing company of spiritual leaders who, as the priests and prophets and ministers in Jeremiah’s day, ask not, “Where is the Lord?” but, “How about the World Court?” “Where can we find a new monetary program?” “Shall we place colored citizens on the jury lists of our Southern States?” and similar questions, which seem to involve almost all topics except those that pertain to God. We shudder when we picture Nero fiddling while his capital burned to the ground; we shake our heads at the unconcern of Marie Antoinette, who, when confronted by the famished mobs that had stormed out to the Tuileries, suggested that, if the Parisians had no bread, they could eat cake. But all this is a mere gesture of indifference when compared with the unconcern toward the spiritual needs of our nation as demonstrated by uncounted clerics. We have almost 250,000 churches in this country, more than any other nation ever had; yet God alone, whose Spirit drove St. John to write his letters of warning to the seven congregations of Asia Minor, knows how sorely modern American Christianity needs the rebuke of stern disapproval for the seven follies of present-day church-life and the adamant indifference to the fundamental work of the Church, that of saving souls.

Here we have, first of all, the political Church, which asks not, “Where is the Lord?” but, “Where is power?” which attempts to constitute itself a bloc in American governmental affairs; which rides ruthlessly over the Savior’s pronouncement “My kingdom is not of this world”; which surrenders the Scriptural constitutional principle of the separation of Church and State; which tries to mold the influences of American legislators by professional lobbyism; which foists upon the free and sovereign people of our nation a program of selfish and sectarian ambitions; which not only pleads for a platform of purely secular issues, but also systematically organizes a bloc of millions of American votes in the name of religion and rewards financial support with religious medals. To all of those who today would perpetuate on the shores of this tolerant nation the spirit of the Inquisition, the brutality of St. Bartholomew’s Night, the ruthless rule and rote of Puritanism, the conception of a Christian nation established by legislative and judicial force,—to all these the Savior declares: “Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

Then there is the social Church and the preacher who in effect maintains that the Church’s field of first duty is not to bring men into the presence of a merciful God, hut to solve race relations, to fight against industrialism and capitalism, to investigate coal-mines, to picket steel strikes, and in general to present a panacea for the evils of the day by social reform in its varied ramifications, by working for the body instead of for the soul, for the here rather than the hereafter; preachers who have the glitter, but lack the gold, who are more concerned about minimum wages than about the wages of sin, more interested in industrial codes than in the Christian’s code. To all such the Savior, who first forgives sins and then removes the consequences of sin, who first purifies the heart and then the life, raises His voice in reproach and says: “Cleanse first that which is within the cup.”

Again, we have the Church with a financial complex, whose clerics make the end justify the means, who institute raffles and roulette wheels and resort even to the most patent violations of the law of the land. They are the real money-changers in the temples of today, these prophets who have “walked after things that do not profit,” who wheedle unwilling contributions from unbelievers and coerce the indifferent into giving grudging support to the cause of Christ. To them the Savior, who made a scourge of small ropes and lashed the Temple merchants of His day, repeats those words of holy indignation: “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”

Then there is the sensational Church, which uses the spring-board of lurid publicity and theatrical drivel to hurl itself into public attention; pastors who “transgressed against Me,” the Lord says,—who feature atheists in their services, children in the pulpits, and dogs in the pew; who seek to lure the unwary into their churches by beauty contests, dramatic productions, the baptism of dolls, an endless list of catchy phrases, and an inexhaustible catalog of bizarre attractions. To all those who thus play while people perish, who, instead of going out on the highways and byways, compelling men to come in, invite notorious celebrities to hear soft sermons, the Lord of Truth declares in rebuke: “My house shall be called the house of prayer.”

The fifth folly is found in two extremes of modern worship. On the one hand, we have the epileptic Church, which, disregarding the Scriptural admonition that everything be done “decently and in order,” works in convulsive jerks and fitful gyrations, with ministers who win endurance prizes for preaching the longest sermon in history, acrobatic pulpiteers who froth and kick and scream, pulpit clowns who make their churches ring with boisterous applause or rock with hilarious laughter, while the Prince of Peace looks on in wounded wonder at these prophets, who also walk “after things that do not profit.” And, on the other hand, there is the opposite extreme, which freezes the warmth of vibrant faith under the chill of emphasized ritualism, sweeps aside the sterling simplicity of the Savior’s worship, and lays inordinate stress on the cut and color of clerical robes, the technique and formalism of worship, the ceremonialism that often leaves worshipers groping for an answer to the fundamental question, “Where is the Lord?”

But equally calamitous is the inactive Church, the smugly self-sufficient, socially secure Church, which takes its talents, the time and the money and the prayer that should be employed in rescuing perishing souls for eternity, wraps them in the napkin of indifference, and buries them in the cemetery of neglect. To those who live on without raising their gaze from the four walls of their narrow environment to look out compassionately into a world crying for its deliverance, who remain impervious to their responsibilities toward a perishing world and indifferent to their duties as Good Samaritans in a world of poverty and hunger and suffering, who do not realize that the Church today must offer its best and widest energies even as the Savior gave His all, the Lord says: “Ye are unprofitable servants.”

The final folly is the worst. The seventh sin of contemporaneous churches is the craving for an up-to-the­minute creed, the passion for creating a new Christianity. This is the subtle and sinister poison that is paralyzing the spiritual hopes of the nation, the brazen pretense creeping over churches built and paid for by believing fathers and mothers, only to be desecrated by the leaders of their children, who do not ask, “Where is the Lord?” who, although they handle the divine Word, do not know God; who deliberately transgress against the Most High; who claim that the essence of religion is not God’s great and free gift to man in Christ, but man’s intelligent and repeated gifts to God; not divine atonement, but human attainment. There, in this infidelity of modern pulpiteers, in the cutthroat preaching of these surpliced buccaneers who have boarded the ship of the Church, thrown overboard every one of its sacred doctrines, and are now (and not altogether unsuccessfully) trying to seize its helm and make those who refuse to join with them walk the plank of church politics into the depths of discard,—there you have the great issue and challenge confronting all Christians who by the grace of God have refused to bow their knees before the Baal of modern unbelief. When preachers can publicly and brazenly reject the inspiration of Scriptures, the deity of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the reality of sin, the blessed redemption, the resurrection of our Lord, and His second coming; when church alliances and church federations can legislate against the Scriptural teachings on the most intimate and sacred aspects of family life; when American churches have finally attained to the unbelief which flooded Europe a generation or two ago, we do not need to seek far afield for an explanation of the sorrows that have flooded our country.


Now, as God, in the face of the tragedy which followed the misguided prophets and preachers of that day, promised: “I will yet plead with you” and “with your children’s children will I plead,” so He rises up on the ramparts of our nation to plead with His Church, beseeching this generation, as He will continue to entreat the next, to disavow each and every approach to worldly-mindedness in the Church. Because there is no other foundation on which the Church may be permanently established than that foundation which “is laid, which is Jesus Christ”; because, as the indisputable evidence of experience shows, all human foibles substituted for the uncompromising preaching of the Christ-centered hope ultimately must collapse, God’s Word pleads for loyalty to the faith once given and for a deepening spirituality in our hearts and lives.

Now, if this appeal of God is to be heard; if churches are to be aroused from the lethargy into which they have dropped; if they are to be the salt in our American life and the leaven in our national existence; if our churches are to be what Christ wants them to be, His holy, precious, spotless bride, then they must come back to the old paths, back to the Bible, back to the plain preaching of sin and grace, back to those two decisive doctrines: the divine and inspired authority of the Bible and the full and free grace of Jesus Christ as the never-failing antidote for our personal and collective sins. The Church must offer, not education and culture, not legislation and force, not medicine and surgery, not changed environments and changed diets, not a program of salvation by character and accomplishment, but, thank God, the highest happiness, the truest truth of all ages, the most precious promise that human ears have ever heard, the foundation and cornerstone of all Christian faith and hope, this “faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” There, in the miracle of divine love that Luther has immortalized in his explanation of the Second Article of the Christian Creed: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true,”—there, in this changeless Christ for a changing world, the Church finds its hope, its usefulness, its glory, its promise.

Emphasizing the power and the glory of that promise, I appeal especially to you prophets and priests of the truth who this morning again have proclaimed the message of the Crucified to your congregations: “Hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown.” You are not earning public plaudits by your loyalty to your Savior; but this loyalty spells blessing for you and your nation. You will not be rewarded with Congressional medals for the spiritual battles which you may fight, but those conflicts mean more to the nation than victories on the bloodiest fields of conflict. You will not find selfish profit and private advantage by being determined “not to know anything save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”; but one day, by God’s grace, you will hear this benediction: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

And you who are enrolled in the great army of Christ’s militant Church, will you not look upward to the Captain of our salvation, take heart in His promises, and march on, under His leadership; for the advancement of the highest objective to which any human effort may be dedicated, the coming of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the everlasting Son of the everlasting Father and the Savior of your souls? Will you not, shaking off the fetters that would chain you down to the low levels of doubt and inactivity, climb the heights and, kneeling down before the cross, pledge this promise of loyalty: “Whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s”? Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 10, 1935

Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set.Proverbs 22:28

THERE is a timely ring and a modern message in these words of venerable wisdom: “Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set.” In the Israel of old, as throughout the Orient, property lines were marked with inscribed stones, which often specified the size and extent of fields and property. These boundary pillars remained unmoved from generation to generation; and the warning of our text, solemnly repeated in other Old Testament passages, is an emphatic appeal to safeguard the inherited right of ownership and to maintain the heritage of the fathers in unbroken lines of descent.

Today, with our laws on property rights and our land titles, we need erect no boundary stones between our homes or fields; for it is all but impossible successfully to remove or to alter our boundary lines by fraud. But much greater is the danger that we may permit landmarks raised by our fathers as the confines of our national and spiritual heritage to be removed by sinister and subversive forces, which conspire to destroy the fundamental blessings of our Christian inheritance. The startling upheavals of this new age have not only altered national frontiers and realigned international confines, but, besides many and commendable changes, the new order has brought bewildering innovations, which systematically seek the overthrow of time­honored and cherished institutions.

Thus we have a landmark for the Christian home to show the extent of its blessings and to mark its many happinesses. These ideals of our family life glorify marriage and frown upon divorce; they extol parenthood and lament childlessness; they exalt the blessings radiated from the hearth and strenuously protest against every influence that would contaminate the home basis of human happiness. But now malicious, poisonous, antimoral propaganda is prying loose this landmark; and uncouth agitators from coast to coast and from street corners to penthouses are preaching—and too often practising—the claims of facile and frequent divorce, free love, childless marriages, and the untrammeled pursuit of lust. With more than one out of every three families in our country childless and with more than one out of every seven marriages terminating in divorce courts, it must be conceded that millions have already moved the landmark of the home into the treacherous quicksands of immorality.

In American education the landmarks set two or three centuries ago by the founders of our large and wealthy universities represented a higher cultural life that was genuinely Christian in thought and in expression. Today campus scoffers are placing academic dynamite under this landmark and have repeatedly succeeded in sliding the boundary stone of American education into the swampy shadows of intellectual atheism. And the leaders in this revolt are often paid by tax levies and rewarded with popular plaudits as they transform plastic, impressionable freshmen, the favored sons and daughters of your homes, into sneering seniors,—scoffers and sophisticators.

Even the landmarks of our governmental ideals are endangered. A century and a half ago men fought and bled and died in desperate struggle on American soil to lay the boundaries of a divinely endowed nation, with free and representative government, national and individual liberty, the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech, the State separated from religious interference, and the Church safeguarded against secular domination,—a people endowed, under God, with the inalienable privilege of the pursuit of happiness through personal initiative, constructive labor, and frugal, virtuous living. But these boundaries, imposed by the wisdom of our fathers, are pushed aside by wilful groups, who would place our ancient landmarks on new lines, which approach European dictatorships or the Red rule of Russian Communism. Sinister clerical hands, feverishly employed in removing the line of demarcation separating Church and State, would extinguish the torch of liberty that towers as a distinctive beacon of our freedom. Rabble-rousers who fan popular prejudice to white heat, professional politicians who wax wealthy by plundering the tax levies paid by our thrifty citizenry, mercenary magistrates and renegades in the legal profession who, as in the days of the great prophets of the Old Testament, are swayed by bribery and corruption,—these are among the leaders in the assault on our American landmarks of liberty and justice.

Of all the changes that are made today in violation of this divine warning: “Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set,” the most destructive is the deep-rooted and wide-spread endeavor to remove God’s landmark, our Christian heritage, from our hearts, our churches, our country. As I appeal to you this afternoon and ask you to


I remind you that this appeal brings us face to face with the most serious issue of the present crisis.


The Cross of Jesus Christ is God’s landmark on this earth. Towering o’er the wrecks of time, its radiance penetrating into earth’s remotest darkness, its invitation extended with ever-renewing grace, its blessings offered without money or price, without conditions or credentials, that Cross, once the crude, gory instrument of earth-shaking injustice, but now the glorious trophy of love victorious, proclaims this everlasting verity: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Whenever men penitently discover in the Crucified the height and the depth of God’s forgiving and renewing love; whenever men hear this proclamation of divine amnesty, “Christ died for our sins,” and with all their heart and soul accept and believe the limitless treasures of grace contained in these five short words, then and there the kingdom of God has set up its landmark; its borders have been extended, its confines enlarged.

Let there be no misunderstanding, then, about this basic, fundamental fact of faith—the central landmark of the Church is the Cross. It is not the high-vaulted cathedrals, the pretentious carvings and statuary, the vibrant organs, and the chanting choirs, the robes and processions, the renown of the preachers and the social position of the members that proclaim: “Here is the kingdom of God.” But in the sob of a disconsolate soul that has fled for refuge to Calvary’s crest: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me, grant me Thy peace,” in the faith that accepts Christ’s magnificent self-giving as the eternal escape from the consequences of sin, we find God’s landmark, the memorial of His loving heart.

One might think that because of the immeasurable mercies represented in the Cross of Christ the combined resources of human ingenuity would be drafted for the preservation of this landmark of Christian faith; that men would recognize in the Savior’s Gospel a creed that forgives and saves, soothes and heals, comforts and sustains; a faith that regenerates, binds the passions of men, restricts the bigotry of hatred, and offers a superhuman incentive to the higher emotions and the noblest accomplishments,—one would conclude, I say, that, since Christ died that we might live, and live more abundantly, and since the entire course of history has been but the sustained evidence of His grace and power, men would rally with zeal and fervor for the protection of His kingdom; that only abnormal and irrational minds would stretch out unholy hands in the attempt to remove the landmarks of His Church. Yet, by a shocking contradiction, a survey of America today reveals well­organized and highly financed strategy and warfare attempting to eradicate the landmarks of God from this nation. In the greatest demonstration of unbelief this country has ever witnessed, regiments of Red Communism, battalions of blasphemy, armies of atheism, have been mobilized against the Gospel of Christ. And while Christians in the United States have not yet suffered unto the blood, as Christians in the capitals of Sovietism have, they are often the targets of sarcasm, hatred, or condescending pity by these infidel destructionists in their fanatical efforts to undermine Heaven’s landmark on earth.

After all, however, this blatant atheism sings its own doom; for in that prophetic picture of its inevitable defeat, in the Second Psalm, we are assured: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Far more pernicious than this twentieth-century folly, which mimics the ancient absurdity “There is no God,” is the termite boring from within the Church which eats away the pillars upon which all Christian hope and faith must rest. Great denominations have permitted their leaders to question the Bible, to sow seeds of doubt as to its validity, and then brazenly to deny its authority. Teachers in some of the influential divinity schools profess and acknowledge only a caricatured Christ, reconstructed from vague and vapid theories, as far removed from the almighty, all-dominant Savior as stunted human souls are separated from the gleaming glory of God. Preachers, eagerly bidding for the salvos of mass applause, pollute their pulpits by open denials of Christian truth or by sensational, but ill-founded discussions on social and economic issues, which completely eliminate the Crucified and repeat the hoary pagan delusion of salvation by character and through accomplishment instead of by grace, through faith.

Let no one make the mistake of minimizing the influence of those who are thus busily engaged in removing the ancient landmarks of Christian faith. They have been supported by the lavish millions of American plutocrats; they enjoy the acclaim of prominent sections in the American press; they have a stranglehold on much of chain broadcasting. Their infidelity has pervaded the realms of youth­training, discolored much of the literature that will serve as a guide for tomorrow’s fathers and mothers, compromised with the ugly sin of our day, and altogether made itself the greatest menace to our national blessing and welfare.

Yet there is a spiritual hazard that may tend to tear down our landmarks even more quickly than the self­centered unbelief in some of America’s pulpits; and that is the apathy and indifference which church-members themselves show toward Christian doctrines and practises. We should be entitled to assume that those who have experienced the forgiving compassion of God in Christ would be guided by a fiery zeal and an unquenchable desire to defend the faith; but instead we behold disheartening evidences of stolid unconcern and insipid lukewarmness. Thus we have the landmark of our Christian faith which appeals for the reverent worship of Christ in our homes; but the family altar falls into continually greater neglect. We have the landmark which requires Christians to “show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”; but how many of us are there who meet the obligations of this personal missionary privilege? We have the landmark of Christian stewardship, which asks us to contribute for the increase of the Kingdom with cheerful and grateful hearts; but in some churches there is so much of money-raising through the long catalog of entertainment projects, even through beyond-the­law methods, that the sense of individual responsibility is drugged into a perpetual coma. Now, with one landmark after the other pushed aside by church-members themselves, we find another reason for the depressing days that have overtaken our country and the Church. No nation that forgets its God, not even the United States, is large enough and wealthy enough and resourceful enough to escape divine judgment. Analyze the tragedies of these last years by whatever process you will, and no matter to what cause the economist may ascribe the many pressing problems and the disappointments confronting tens of millions of Americans, the Christian sees the hand of God reaching out for divine vengeance upon those who tear down the ancient landmarks. If this blatant raging against God continues, we have no assurance that the destiny of America will be other than that which has inevitably overtaken every Christ­denying, Bible-ridiculing, Church-destroying people.


It is high time, then, that we rise to the defense and preservation of our Christian landmarks. Let there be no apologies for our faith, no weak-kneed, thin-blooded compromise with the indifferentism and laxity of our age. Rather let the followers of Christ rally with loyal hearts and defiantly shout at those who would assail our Christian landmarks: “You shall not pass!” The time for parleying is over. The days of dormant inactivity have passed. The call to arms rings throughout the Church: “Guard the landmarks of our faith!”

This loyalty springs only from twice-born souls, strengthened by the Word of God, by the Sacraments, by prayer,—souls whose allegiance to Christ must express itself in preserving the landmarks of the Christ-centered home. Restore the Bible to our American hearths, rebuild the family altars that have fallen into neglect, invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit upon our family circles through daily study of the Word, through hymns and prayers, and a spiritual fortress will be created that can withstand the savage onslaughts of unbelief, multiplied as they may be.

American churches in no small numbers must demonstrate a far greater allegiance to the revealed truth. If I am now speaking to members of congregations that have drifted wide from the Christian mooring and are being tossed about on the seas of sensational and Christless preaching, as ships without keel or rudder, I ask these friends who would keep Christ in true faith to follow the sacred obligations of protest and defend the truths of their faith with unshaken conviction. A docile, inexpressive laity, which can witness the destruction of foundation truths Sunday after Sunday without crying out in defense of the faith, is judged by the Word of God: “He that is not with Me is against Me.”

To the pastors who this morning have preached the invitation of the Crucified to their congregations and who may be alarmed at the tidal waves of unbelief that sweep over sections of the nation, this appeal for safeguarding Christ’s landmarks comes with redoubled force. For the clergy plays a decisive role in the human promotion or decrease of Christian loyalty and in the advancement of personal faith. It will be hard for Christian leaders to preach the plain, unsparing message of sin and grace; it is no light, pleasant task to indict iniquity in individual lives and in public trends. It will take courage in this age of easy morality to sound the ultimatum of God: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!” There will be little public recognition for the Christ-centered sermon which, expounding the old Word of God, refuses to turn either to the left or to the right from the foundations of God’s truth as it presents the divine antidote to sin. But we can remind all preachers of the Word in the earnestness of this Scriptural appeal that, if they weaken or hesitate or surrender one jot or tittle of their loyalty; if they can behold Modernism and clerical unbelief in high places without protesting and warning their flocks; if they can walk in the counsel of ungodly doctrines and stand in the way of sinful compromise and sit with scoffing doctors of divinity, they have betrayed their trust and permitted the landmarks of God to be moved.

Because more people in this country are without the Christian Church than within, I appeal this afternoon particularly to every unchurched person within the range of my voice and ask him to realize that today and forever Christ promises: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” You who have lived on under the delusion that you could get along without God and know deep in your souls how utterly hopeless this is; you who were born in Christian homes of Christian parents and in your early years marched with Christian soldiers under the royal banner of His Cross, but in later years denied that allegiance and permitted the pleasures and sorrows of life to crowd out from your selfish hearts the impress of your early Christian training; you, the unbelieving husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter (in a home where your acceptance of the Savior would bring untold joy and happiness as well as be an uplifting moral force and a beneficent example), all of you who in word, in deed, by neglect, or by stolid indifference have been arrayed against the Church and against Christ,—to you these landmarks of God may rise up as monuments of grace and truth which can bestow a radiant newness of life, a peace in Christ that hallows every day. But these blessings cannot be yours without sincere repentance, without the heart-deep faith that Christ, and He alone, can save you from the terrifying consequence of your sins. Will you not, as you now hear this invitation, come to Him with contrite and penitent hearts, resolve that, God helping you, you will cross the boundaries from sin to grace, from unbelief to faith, and, rallying with those of us who would defend these eternal landmarks, pledge yourselves for time and for eternity to the Savior of your souls? God grant that you may! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.