This month the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod gathers in Milwaukee for the 66th Regular Convention. The theme that gathers us is “Upon This Rock,” pointing us to Peter’s confession of Jesus, and Jesus’ response to Peter in Matthew 16:18. We confess our faith in Jesus, and we do that through repentance, through proclamation and through praise. As the Synod meets in convention, this is the chief legislative group within our denominations, decisions are made, issues are addressed, and fellowship ensues. Occasionally things get heated…
Over the years I’ve attended a few conventions. I’ve seen the turmoil, I’ve experience the exuberance, and I’ve renewed acquaintances from years past. Conventions offer delegates the chance to see the church at its very best, and sometimes, struggling with our sinful humanity. I have often thought that when you move a group of LCMS people into a confined space for several days, while emotions can run high, we always ought to bear in mind the public witness that we portray. In a day when many have, by and large, already written off the church, how we live out our faith in the world matters. Jesus said, “By this will all men [and women] know you are My disciples, if you have love one for another” John 13:35. The world is watching us, and when what we proclaim doesn’t match how we live, especially with one another, it creates confusion.
Our witness is almost more important in how we treat one another within the household of faith. Even the world knows that if we can’t treat each other with love and respect, how can we love the world with the love of Jesus? John writes to the Christian community in 1 John 4, “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
When we become believers in Jesus He calls us to live for Him and to make disciples for Him. Our privilege and responsibility to live for Jesus isn’t meant to be only when it is convenient. His intent and desire is that we live it out every day. There really is no summer break from our faith, or at least there shouldn’t be.
One of the things I love about summer is that often schedules slow down, families go on vacation or at least spend more time together. I know companies that will flex their hours during the summer months, providing families an opportunity to travel. I remember how the traveling sometimes had a negative impact on the church attendance and that had an impact on the service. It always seemed like everyone picked the same week to go away. I remember certain members who would always bring back a bulletin from the place they had worshiped while away. I had one who used to say, “I may take a vacation from work, but I don’t take a vacation from church. Just because I’m not here doesn’t mean that I haven’t found another place to worship.”
I really appreciated his attitude. We never take a vacation from our faith! In fact, how we live our lives, whether at home, work or vacation, or even at a convention, should reflect the love of Jesus within us. Did you realize that each of us can impact how someone views Jesus? You might be the only representative of Jesus a person ever meets. How we live is important.
In May I had the privilege to travel with some of our Circuit Visitors to a training event in Charlotte, NC. One evening I was with a couple of other participants, and we decided to go to an Indian Restaurant. I have to be honest that I was a bit hesitant, simply because I know that Indian food can often be spicy, and I don’t always get along well with spicy food. The Lord had a plan. On our way into the restaurant we met one of the trainers, and he encouraged us to talk to the owner about his mother who had passed away recently. He told us that the man had a powerful story. So as we were seated we asked if the owner was there and if we could speak to him.
He came over to our table and we told him what our friend had said. The man had not been a believer in Jesus, but was converting to the Christian faith. Here’s why. His mother was sick with cancer, and they all knew she was dying. He told us of the small village where he was raised as a child. There were over 600 Hindu families in his village, but only two Christians in the whole village. They were kind of outcasts. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer the two Christian women came and visited her. One of them offered to pray for her every day, which she did. About two weeks before she died his mother made a profession of faith, and became a believer in Jesus. When he arrived about a week after his mother’s conversion he could immediately see a difference in her, even though she was being eaten away by cancer. He said that she had a joy and a peace, and she would offer prayers to Jesus. He had never seen her like this before.
The son was perplexed by the changes, but not completely convinced. Interestingly, he moved to Charlotte to marry a Christian woman from there who had a very conservative Christian background. He told us that his in-laws were very concerned at the wedding because he didn’t share her faith. Anyway, he spent about a week with his mother before she died and the Spirit was at work in him. He knew that death was coming, and that she was at peace with it, but when it happened he told us that he didn’t know what to do. So he immediately sent for the Christian lady, the prayer warrior. He said she came immediately, and was there within five minutes of his mother’s death. She prayed with him, and stayed with him, comforted him, and her witness, along with the change he saw in his mother, transformed his life.
Here was a man who was married to a Christian lady who was living out her faith, who had heard the stories of Jesus from his in-laws, who simply had no interest. What seemed to make all the difference was the love of Jesus flowing through this Christian prayer warrior. He was so deeply touched that he couldn’t wait to get back and tell his family. We saw him about two weeks after he arrived home and the excitement in his voice served to remind us all of our calling to be witnesses of Jesus. We prayed with him and for him. It was exciting to see that joy in him! And, by the way, the food was great—although I had the least spice you could possibly have…
How we live out our faith in the world should not be discounted. People aren’t often convinced by our words only, but when our actions support what we say, it can be a powerful witness. James, the brother of Jesus, expressed this to the followers of Jesus when he wrote: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas 2:14–18). James seems to be saying that faith is always expressed through actions that amplify that faith, not in order to earn or work for God’s grace or forgiveness, as if we could deserve it, but rather as an expression of one who has received these gifts.
Pray for our Synod in Convention, that we would stand “Upon This Rock” of Jesus and make a bold confession together to the world of our love for each other, and for all whom Jesus died to save. Pray for your church in these summer months when people are traveling and things sometimes get tight financially. Mostly, pray for your witness to the world right in your own community, that you would grow in imitating Jesus as you grow in His grace and love.
In His peace,