What’s Happening in Our Church?

A seminary professor once told his class, “Do not take your problems into the pulpit with you. The congregation has enough of their own troubles without hearing about yours.”

Almost every Sunday I try to follow this counsel. However, today I am sharing a real burden on my heart.

What is happening in the church? This sermon could be preached in many denominations, but I speak today as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

I believe it is evident that we live in a divided church. Congregations leaving the ELCA are all telling the same story as they go: “This is no longer my church. We did not leave the church; the church left us.”

Because we love our church, it becomes the subject of conversation in our homes and with our families and friends. We might not always agree on the reason for the division, but we do agree that we are divided.

In the ELCA, we have discussed the fact that some feel we should bless same-sex marriages and ordain practicing homosexuals for years. This is a hot debate at the ELCA assemblies when they meet every two years. At least two assemblies have said no to this issue, but a strong voice in the church keeps the subject alive.

The floor debate reveals that the ELCA is divided, but the division goes deeper than the subject of sexuality. This causes us to ask what is it that is dividing our church?

One day our son, who has been a delegate to a national assembly of the ELCA, handed me an article written by Pastor Scott Grorud entitled, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Then he said, “This article answers the question for me.” After reading the article many times, I agree that it sheds great light on this question, which has been bothering many of us Ð What is dividing our church?

Pastor Grorud writes, “The division itself in the ELCA has arisen from an entirely different gospel that entered the ELCA as it was formed 20 years ago. It has often been couched in traditional Christian language, but has otherwise borne little resemblance to the Gospel as it has been handed down through the ages.”

Grorud gets some of his material on what causes division in the church from Dr. Philip Turner. Turner says two theologies are at work in many mainline Protestant churches that are causing serious divisions. He labels these teachings as a theology of divine redemption and a theology of divine acceptance. Let me summarize them for you.

First, The Theology of Divine Redemption.

Remember when you were young and attended confirmation classes. You learned about the Christian faith. Do you recall the story of Adam and Eve disobeying God’s command when they ate of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden? After my students and I had enjoyed this story, we became very serious and I asked them, “What happened when our first parents were disobedient to God’s command?”The answer was obvious. They sinned. That sin threw them out of a relationship with God, and from that time on all people were born with a sinful nature. Our church calls this the teaching of original sin.

However, in spite of our human sinfulness, God still loved us. So he came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered and died at the cross as a payment for our sins. On the third day God raised him from the dead. Our Lord offers complete forgiveness to all who will repent of their sins and receive him as their Savior and Lord. They are then restored into fellowship with God. We are one with Christ.

Although we are forgiven sinners, we continue to sin for our nature is still sinful. Human motives and desires are always corrupt. So God calls for believers to strive for holy living according to his Word.

Now, relate this doctrine to the debate on sexuality. If the practicing homosexual will repent of this lifestyle, which the Bible calls sin, they will be forgiven. That person should then be accepted as a rostered pastor of the ELCA.

Second, The Theology of Divine Acceptance.

This theology teaches that sin is not within people, but outside of humans. Sin is found in social norms or policies that exclude people from being fully accepted in their creative goodness. This theology talks about “created goodness” rather than original sin. The sin lies in the policy that excludes people from being fully accepted as they are.

If you relate this to the practicing homosexual, this person should be rostered and fully accepted as they are. It is sin for the church to exclude them.

Professor Turner says that there are five component parts to this theology of acceptance. They are:

1. God is love and God is only love. There is no wrath, judgment, or condemnation for sinners.

2. Significantly, the cross has all but disappeared from this theology. It really does not need it. Human sin has not been a problem, so no solution is necessary. What matters is that Jesus reaches out to those excluded in society, welcomes them and includes them in the kingdom. They are free to be themselves and give expression to their human nature and desire.

3. Since God is love and God is only love, and since Jesus’ ministry was all about love, his followers were to love others in the same way. Again, love is to be defined solely in terms of inclusion and acceptance. The result of this new gospel’s love is not repentance and death to ourselves, but instead love for and acceptance of ourselves because God has accepted and loved us.

4. Given such assumptions, a new purpose then has to be found for the church to exist. Its mission cannot be proclaiming God’s justification of the ungodly, because the gospel of acceptance does not believe that people are ungodly, except to the extent that they exclude people. Instead, the mission of the church is to promote social justice. This is why the ELCA agendas have been so dominated by social and political issues.

5. Finally, the goal of this seeking peace and justice agenda has been to create God’s kingdom Ð that place on earth where all people would be accepted and affirmed as they are. This theology does not see the world as broken by sin so much so that God had to set forth a new creation.

This new gospel of acceptance has made massive inroads in the ELCA these past twenty years. It is why there can be no agreement on sexuality.

I believe that Pastor Grorud has given us the answer why our church is different from it used to be. This subject has been confusing to many of us. He has helped me immensely, and I pray his article answers some of your questions about why our church is so different from it once was.

Continuing with a quote from Pastor Grorud, “As these two theologies duel for the soul of the ELCA, the response of many of its leaders has been an appeal to the unity we supposedly share. This life-and-death issue has been portrayed as merely a difference of interpretation of Scripture, a healthful diversity that has opened the ELCA to all voices as a family squabble that should not have been allowed to threaten the unity of the denomination.”

Can there be unity? Should there be unity in a church where two contrary gospels are being proclaimed? As long as the ELCA tries to acknowledge two different gospels, we will never be united, it will never be at peace, and it will never settle the issue of sexuality.

On Mt. Carmel, Elijah exhorted the people of Israel, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, then follow him (I Kings 18:21).”

Grorud concludes, “A similar call confronts the ELCA today. If we intend to be a Christian church, we cannot go on limping with two different gospels. We can take our stand at the foot of the cross, or we can follow a different gospel than has been foisted on us by some in the church. But we cannot do both.”

Remember what St. Paul wrote to the Galatians? “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one that called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel Ð which is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6 – 7).”

We thank Pastor Grorud for his hard work on the subject of division in our church. If you would like to have a more detailed copy of Pastor Grorud’s paper, write to Word Alone, Suite #220, New Brighton MN, 55112 and ask for this article, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

While this sermon is quite different from what I usually preach, I pray you will understand why I felt it necessary to help you with an answer to the question, Why is my church so different from what it used to be?

My sermons the next few weeks on Christian Crusaders will show how this new gospel has reached far beyond sexuality. It has raised other disturbing questions such as, Are all people saved? and, Do we need a new Bible?

Speak Up!

Every so often it is necessary for an organization to ask itself that all-important question:

“Why do we exist?”

I once read in a leadership book that “vision leaks.” As time passes, it is easy to lose sight of the original intentions and get off track. Organizations often times get bogged down by a host of distractions. That is why it is so important to regularly visit that “why” question, in order to keep things moving in the right direction.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that the Church of Jesus Christ is no different. As the leader of a congregation, I have seen for myself how vision leaks, and how necessary it is to revisit that why question frequently. We are easily distracted and begin to major in the minors.

I once read a funny, but sad story about a church that started out as a mission for the kingdom and ended up a restaurant. Wow! Talk about losing purpose Ð they were distracted by chicken and profits! While this story is a little extreme, it serves the purpose of reminding us of what can happen to a church that forgets why it exists.

So, back to the question: Why does the church exist?

Jesus Christ provides the answer in this passage we just read in Matthew’s gospel. As he sent his followers out, he said these words to them:

“What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light;

and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.”

Jesus has given the church Ð you and me, if you are a follower of Jesus Ð the assignment of being his spokespersons in this world. The church is into communication!

God has had a variety of spokespersons in the past. In the Old Testament it was the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah who spoke God’s Word to a spiritually-confused nation.

Then Jesus came in the flesh. He, as no one else could, was the Father’s spokesman.

Now we see Jesus telling the disciples that they are going to be his spokespersons to the world he is talking about the Church!

And what does Jesus want the Church to proclaim to the world?

If you go back to the beginning of Matthew 10, we find Jesus sending his followers out and instructing them to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of heaven. That was His message. As he pointed to himself he would say, “The Kingdom of heaven has come near. . . . Repent and believe the good news.”

Later, Peter in his first public sermon said God stepped into this world to rescue us from sin and death through Jesus Christ. “Repent and believe this good news!”

That is what God wants the world to hear Ð the Good News of Jesus Christ! Anything less than that will never do!

The Church exists to point people to Jesus and announce to the world who he is:

“Jesus is the Son of God. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. . . . Salvation has come in Jesus Christ.”

The Church exists to proclaim in all that it does Ð what Christ has done:

“You and I are sinners in need of a Savior. Sin separates us from God and the life he intended for us. The consequence of that is death. But here is the good news: God has taken care of our sin through Jesus Christ. He died upon the cross as a payment for our sins. God raised him up from the grave. He has purchased a place in heaven for us. Turn to Christ and trust in what he has done for you.”

In our pluralistic world, some in the church might chafe a bit at this. This could be offensive to others who don’t believe as we do. Don’t we need to soften this message a bit in order to be more effective marketers to get people in the doors of the church? I’m afraid we’re going to turn people off, and we might find ourselves shunned in the community as fanatics.

Typically, ths is FEAR speaking.

Christ’s call to speak up for him is given to the individual follower in the Church.

We must never let that truth fall by the wayside. I heard a well-known preacher say one time, bemoaning the lack of personal witnessing in today’s world:

“A kind of arithmetic has been spawned in the counting rooms of hell. This kind of arithmetic is always interested in reaching the masses, but somehow never gets down to a man or a woman. This kind of arithmetic always talks about winning the world for God, but doesn’t think much about winning a neighborhood for God. That arithmetic makes it valiant to cross oceans, and never really crosses streets . . .”

Each follower of Jesus is to share that good news with those who God has placed alongside of us in the various activities of life. If you listen and watch closely, you will discover that God has surrounded you with a mission field of people needing to hear of his great love for them. They need Christ in their lives. Often they need to be awakened to the dead end they’re headed toward, and the better and eternal life that God wants to give them through a relationship with Jesus.

For many, that thought strikes a note of fear in their heart. What will people think? How will they react?

Jesus understood that fear would be the response to this directive. He probably saw the anxiety in the disciples’ faces as he told them that it wasn’t going to be easy at all. In fact, they should expect to be maligned, persecuted, and rejected as he had been.

In the first part of today’s passage, he points out: “A disciple is not above a teacher, or a slave above the master.” No wonder they were afraid!

We know those disciples were persecuted and even killed for the sake of the Christian faith. It still happens in different parts of the world today.

Now, in the United States, with our religious freedom, we don’t face that consequence. But there is one form of persecution that does strike a not of fear in us: rejection and ridicule.

As human beings, we want to be part of the group. We want to belong, to be accepted. Bringing that message of Jesus up to someone could jeopardize all that. Those relationships are so important to us, and we fear rocking the boat. So, many fear and tremble as they consider this calling of Jesus upon our lives!

Jesus has a word for us. After assuring them in verse 26 that everyone would soon see that they were doing God’s will in speaking up for Jesus, and that they were on the right track, he gave them some instructions and then some reassuring words.

First, he instructed,

“Don’t fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.

Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

He is reminding them of the big picture. Who ultimately deserves your fear and reverence?

GOD!!!

The one who holds my eternity in his hand! FEAR GOD, above all things. Only he is worthy of my fear and awe! Only he deserves my obedience.

It was this episode that caused Peter and John later on to say to the religious authorities who had beaten them and ordered them to quit talking about Jesus in public: “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you, rather than God, you must judge; for we CANNOT keep from speaking about what we have seen or heard.”

It is this picture of an awesome God who is to be feared above all things that caused Martin Luther to stand before an emperor and a powerful religious council that opposed the gospel message of grace and say, “I cannot and will not recant. God help me.”

Let me ask you this: These days, who do you fear above all things as you live out your life? Has your vision of God’s power and might shrunk?

THE GOD WE SERVE IS BIG!!!! He holds our destiny in the palm of his hand!

After this instruction to see the big picture, Jesus offered a reassuring word to his fearful followers to encourage them. As he was talking, they were outdoors and he probably noticed a sparrow or two hopping around them. Those sparrows became his illustration as he said,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

It is a wonderful encouragement for the believer, for it says to us this: God knows you. You are valuable in his sight. He will never let anything separate you from him and his great love for you. You can never drift beyond the love and care of God. You are not alone in this. God goes alongside you and is involved with you in this.

By the way, the disciples went on to discover that there is power in the telling of that story of Jesus. People can be impacted by it. God = power! You will discover that for yourself as you speak up for him.

The other day a friend from my congregation stopped by the church office to tell me that he had just led two people to Christ the evening before. He glowed as he told me the story. Now he was on his way out to buy two Bibles for these individuals, and he would be walking alongside of them for awhile. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of a story from him. Years before he had gotten the message of God’s purpose for this church. He got some training in how to better tell the story of Jesus, and since that time he’s been having a ball ever since.

Of course, it’s not always like that. Often times the story of Jesus Christ seems to fall on deaf ears or leads to ridicule, even hostility, as Jesus said it would. But Jesus didn’t command us be to successful Ð just faithful and obedient.

I’d like to leave you with a personal challenge.

First, think of someone in your life who stands outside of a relationship with Jesus. Start praying for an opportunity to share Christ with that individual. Ask God to give you listening ears, courage to step out, and the words to share. When the door of opportunity opens (and it will), say something for Jesus to that person. Christ is counting on you. If you decide to trust God and take up this challenge, we at Christian Crusaders would love to hear about your experience.

I know, it’s not comfortable. Often times it’s not convenient.

But Jesus makes it clear that he is counting on us to speak up! People are hungry for the good news!

Know Your Audience

One of the best tips on preaching I have received came from one of my professors who told his students repeatedly, “You have to know your audience.” If we do not know the crowd, how can we minister to them?

Jesus knew his audience. Listen to these words from our text: “When he saw the crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ÔThe harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.'”

As our Lord went through their towns and villages, he attracted great crowds of people. They loved to hear him preach and teach. These masses of people were all created in the image of God, but they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were helpless and worried. The crowd was made up of all kinds of people Ð rich and poor, young and old, pious and outcast, healthy and sick.

Don’t you love a crowd? I do. If I can keep my cool, to be a part of the crowd is a study in human nature. Be a part of thousands of fans at a football game and you will see all kinds of behavior. Truly, many act like a sheep without a shepherd. Fans can be very selfish. Their only concern is that their needs are met. On the other hand, some can be extremely kind and concerned for others, especially for the disabled.

Another interesting crowd is the worshiping congregation on Sunday morning. All kinds of people have come. They are the young and the old, the wealthy and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the believers and the unbelievers. Their needs may vary. However, they all have one basic need, though many have not identified it in their own life. That need is a personal relationship with God, which comes only through Jesus Christ. We are all sinners, and that sin separates us from God until it is taken away.

The Bible says that when Jesus saw these people, “He had compassion on them.” He loved them. He hurt with them. He reached out to them. He healed every disease and sickness. He healed the paralytic, the blind, the mute, the leper. He also healed those who had no physical ailments Ð those who were well clothed and fed Ð but were burdened with worries driving them to despair.

If they would receive him as their Savior and Lord, Jesus would assure them that their sins were forgiven and they were restored into fellowship with God. If they were burdened, Jesus could say, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When the trials of the day are just too heavy to bear, he responds with words like these: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Jesus knew the frustrations of my soul about a month ago as I was driving behind the ambulance that was taking my wife to the hospital with the possibility of another stroke. For thirteen years, since she had her first stroke, I shuttered to think of her having another one. I prayed and committed my loved one into his care with the request that he would spare her from suffering. “Please either place your healing hand upon her, or let her come to you, Father.” Then I placed that worry into the Lord’s hand, for he has spoken through his Word: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” I felt a peace in my soul knowing I did not face this emotional experience alone.

Jesus did not often tell people what to pray for, but he does so in our text when he tells them to pray for workers. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send workers into his harvest field.” The work that Jesus did while on this earth, he has now turned over to his Church. I believe this is one reason for being challenged when we see the crowds. God wants these people to be in a personal relationship with him. We are his ambassadors, and he makes his appeal to them through us. He calls us to share this Gospel with the crowds. What a challenge Ð to bring the Gospel to all people!

What are the world’s needs? While it has many, its basic need is to know Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Does the Church know its audience? We know its physical and social needs, and we reach out to minister to the unfortunate. Yet do we know the spiritual needs of millions who are away from the Savior?

Read your denominational periodicals. We are told about the physical needs of people, but hear little about spiritual awakenings and conversions. Are people being saved in large numbers? If the answer is no, then we must ask if it is because the Church has not addressed the problem. Is this because we do not know the spiritual needs in our audience each Sunday?

Jesus Can Be Disturbing

Before Jesus can be comforting, he may be disturbing. That is why some people ignore him. This thought is the basis for my sermon today.

Jesus was in Capernaum, a town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. In his early ministry, Jesus made this town his headquarters. At the time of our text, it was also the seat of a tax collector, a man by the name of Matthew.

In order to collect the tax owed by the citizens living in those parts of the empire, the Roman government auctioned geographical areas to wealthy people or corporations. Whatever money was collected over and above the government’s assessed value belonged to the collectors. Those who collected the money often charged more than the people thought was fair, which is why they became some of the most hated people in the community. The tax collectors were considered sinners of the worst kind.

Matthew was one of those hated tax collectors. It is reasonable to believe that he was well acquainted with Jesus’ preaching. His words touched Matthew’s life, and so on the day Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me,” Matthew left his old job and become one of our Lord’s disciples.

Shortly thereafter, Matthew entertained Jesus at his house and invited other tax collectors to eat with them. It was a great opportunity for Jesus to share who he was and to tell them about his mission to this world.

However, the Pharisees standing outside of Matthew’s home, asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard their question, he had an answer, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This remark disturbed and angered the Pharisees. They wondered why Jesus would have anything to do with sinners, to say nothing about calling one to be his disciple.

From the day that Matthew made his decision to follow Jesus, his life was different in many ways. He gave up many material possessions, yet he experienced a richness and a peace no amount of money could give. Matthew followed Jesus all the way to the cross. He heard Jesus speak the answer to his question, “Where shall I go for help?” These words brought peace to his soul: “Come to me, all who are worried and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, it is believed Matthew lived in the Jerusalem area. This is where he wrote his gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, one of the most important books ever written; and it is this book through which Jesus speaks to us in this sermon. In one way, the book of Matthew could be considered an autobiography of Matthew’s life, telling us how he came to Christ and what Christ did for him.

I love to sit in our church on a Sunday morning and recall how Jesus has changed the lives of many of us who come there for worship, just as he changed the life of the tax collector, Matthew. It is a blessed experience to live in that personal relationship with Christ. However, before many people make the decision to follow Jesus, there has to be some disturbing experience that convinces them of their need for a Savior.

In my home congregation is a man who hurries out of the sanctuary with a Bible under his arm on the way to teach a high school Bible class. He says that time with his class is the highlight of his week. I remember when Christ meant nothing to that man.

A few pews ahead of me, I see a couple who are with their grandchildren at the worship service. They make sure these children know the story of Jesus. Years ago, these same two people would have been sleeping in after celebrating a Saturday night on the town. But then they met Christ and life changed Ð but it wasn’t until they saw the need for a Savior.

I see Eric, a disabled young adult, who greets us every Sunday morning, because two people pick him up at his group home to attend worship. And so the list goes on and on. The Holy Spirit is at work where the Word has entered into the hearts and minds of people.

Yet, many have not yet made the decision for Christ, even though they belong to the church. But we thank God they are there, for when a disturbing experience comes into their lives and they know not where to turn, Christ will be there to comfort them.

There is no question that Jesus can be disturbing when he shows us how dependent we really are on him. It is during these times that he forces us to examine our lives, until we can finally acknowledge our frailty and say, “I have sinned. I am weak. I need a Savior.” Then Christ will make us new people in him.

Listen to What He Is Saying

Jesus had just finished preaching His sermon on the mount, which is recorded in Matthew 5-7. In this sermon he had covered a multitude of topics concerning the Christian life. He had talked about his followers being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” He had talked to them about the importance of God’s Law and let them know that He had not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. He condemned the sins of adultery, murder and hatred. He talked about loving all people, including our enemies. He challenged believers to feed the poor and refrain from judging others.

Jesus concluded his sermon by telling a parable on how to build our lives. It would be well for all to listen to what Jesus is saying to us here.

Parenthetically, it is sad to see how many people never give Jesus a serious listen. They are quick to criticize him and the Christian faith, while not having a clue what Jesus actually teaches. They are Biblically illiterate. William Barclay said it well: “The most honorable person does not condemn either a person or an institution without knowing them.” Today, that is what many are doing regarding Jesus and the Christian faith.

Here is the parable taken first from the biblical text and then retold in a modern setting.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. The rain came down, and the stream rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine, and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Now let’s retell this same parable using a modern setting.

A certain family lived in our town who had three children. They needed a little more room in their house. All around them were big, beautiful houses, so one night mom and dad decided to see if they could afford one of these houses. So they found a realtor and began looking. Soon they had found just the house they liked. The price was $400,000. (In our town this is a very expensive house.) However, they were not hasty and continued looking.

Soon another house caught their eye. It was even more attractive than the first house that had interested them. So they asked the realtor the price and he smiled and said, “You will not believe it, but this house can be purchased for $350,000.”

This astonished the potential buyers and they wanted to know how the price could be less than the first house, which was very plain in comparison to the house they now looked at.

The realtor explained to his customers that the first house was built of quality material. The shingles on that house were the best available. The foundation had been constructed and treated so that there would be no seepage when the storms came. The less expensive house that was very appealing to the naked eye did not possess these qualities. That builder had spent the extra money in making the house more impressive on the outside. He reasoned, “Who looks at shingles or a guaranteed water-resistant foundation?”

To date, the two houses stand in the same neighborhood. But the storms have not yet come. It remains to see how the two houses will weather the storms. But Jesus’ purpose in this parable is not to give counsel on how build a house. Rather, he is counseling us on how to build a life.

Now what was Jesus saying to his congregation? He was not contrasting Christians and on-Christians. Both had heard and knew the words He had spoken.

Let’s say two families were faithful members of the same congregation. On Sunday mornings they regularly attended worship and generally remained for the Bible class. However, it was evident that there was a difference between these two families’ relationship with Christ. One family knew the basic teachings of God’s word. They were also acquainted with the catechism but had not taken the final step of asking the Lord Jesus Christ to be part of their lives. When asked, “Do you know for sure that if you died today you would go to heaven?” their answer was, “I hope so.” They still believed that they had to make a contribution to their salvation in spite of the Biblical teaching, which clearly tells us that “we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Months and years later, a storm hit the other family, who was deeply committed to the Lord Jesus. One of their children was killed. The family mourned; their hurt was great. They too asked, “Why, God?” They didn’t believe in the emotional statement that God had sent the accident. They resented strongly the statement that some poor soul made, saying, “God knows best.” The father said to me following the funeral, “I know we will get through this terrible shock. God has promised He will be with us.”

They lived in a personal relationship with their Savior. They clung to the words of Scripture, which said to them, “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” If ever those words brought meaning to their lives, it was in the hour of their unbelievable grief.

Their house is built on the rock and the rock is Christ.

The depth our relationship with Christ is evident is in tough days.

Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is the wise person.”

We are not saved by good works, but when faith is living and vital it becomes evident in our behavior, especially when the storms come.

Listen! Listen to what Jesus is saying to us.

Build your life on the Rock.