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The Rector’s Corner

Six Things You Should Know About Our Church!

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, September, 2017

Helping Someone to Find Jesus

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, July, 2017

Congressional Shootings, a High-Rise Fire, and the Kingdom of God

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, June, 2017

Your Identity, Your Place, and Your Purpose

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, June, 2017

How We Might Know the Bible is True

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, April 2017

Guarding Your Heart in Lent

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, March 2017

Is All Saints a Liberal or a Conservative Church?

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, January 2017

The Rector’s December Message

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, December 2016

Loving One Another After Election Day

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, November 10th, 2016

 

 

Six Things You Should Know About Our Church!

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, September 2017

1. Our Love and Embrace of All God’s Children. So many of us have heavy hearts over the tragic divisions among God’s people – with race, nationality, and religion being just three of many ways we have found to discount, diminish, and dislike one another. Grievous sin, all of it. If we are to be a Kingdom Church, we are to adopt God’s Kingdom definition of “race.” And to that there is but one race only, in God’s image. We are all of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). We are all descendants of Adam and Eve who were created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). And Eve was “the mother of all the living,” not just some (Genesis 3:20). Thus, to diminish any human being is self-destructive, if not self-nihilating. It is something akin to reverse-xenophobia – as I confess no knowledge of any precise word for “hating one’s own people.” Even more, hating another person is to hate God Himself, in whose image each of us is made and who is mystically a part of every soul. For the years I have been in Chevy Chase, the vicious divide between so many groups has been a prayer burden for me and I have sought out and nurtured relationships with pastors of congregations that don’t look like ours. Most recently, I find myself with upcoming encounters with three pastors who are graciously accepting me to come to them to open my own heart and that of our congregation. The hope is that we might together develop long lasting relationships and bonded affections in Jesus. All the recent calls for greater conversation and joint displays of unity are good to me, but I know that the King of the Kingdom requires far more. Nothing less than actual relationship, holy love, and genuine fellowship are commanded and required of us. If anyone has a like passion for this, I would be blessed to hear from you as I seek whatever the Lord may be calling us to do or sacrifice for Him. Stay tuned for upcoming developments. There is nothing optional about this vital Kingdom concern.

2. Our Superlative Office Staff. Did you know that All Saints is blessed with one of the finest staff rosters one might find in any church anywhere? The experience, education, certifications, faith, devotion, and overall strength of our staff members are exceptional and equal to most any profit making corporate staff one might encounter. Such qualities explain how our staff is able to provide for the incredible volume of ministry of All Saints Church, while still being understaffed and considerably underpaid. They are an inspiration to me every day, and I could not be more grateful to the Lord for their sacrifices and selflessness.

3. New Additions and Promotions! By the grace of God, private anonymous donations, and the financial sacrifices of our new hires, the Parish has been able to add sorely needed positions without breaking our limited bank. I suppose I should have added in “smoke and mirrors” among the hiring dynamics! We have been struggling a long time with the challenges of volunteer recruitment and oversight, new member welcoming and assimilation, parish vitality and fellowship, and a half-dozen related needs. In response to these needs, Liz McReady was promoted recently to a Director-level position as our first ever “Community and Connections Pastor,” and her impact has been immediate, exciting, and meaningful. Her levels of energy, innovation, and spirited faith have instantly injected new life and vision into a church that was at a high level of activity already. This is a huge relief to me as Rector because these needs have been weighing on me heavily. Having Liz to work with is a tonic and balm for what ailed me and us. Likewise, Shireen David recently joined us from The Falls Church Anglican as our new Director of Mission and Outreach. She has immediately and expertly injected vision, enthusiasm, and a new sense of mission consciousness and awareness. Our Local Missions, Global Missions, evangelism, and related ministries suddenly have new life and vitality, and we find ourselves thinking of possibilities we never considered before. Welcome Liz and Shireen to your new ministries in Jesus! How grateful to the Lord we are for you and how proud we are of you!

4. Most Valuable Player Nominations. With the baseball season drawing to a close, some are foisting the names of Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Max Scherzer as Washington’s MVP candidates. Others of us are championing the case for our Building and Grounds Manager, Bill Garner. What Bill has done this year is nothing short of heroic. He has partnered with our magnificent Building and Grounds Committee to oversee our once-in-a-century roof replacement project. He has overseen the renovation of our “Bride’s Room” entry to the church, made possible by a donation from the Pelesh family. He has overseen the complete renovation of the entire top floor of our Parish House, made possible by an anonymous donor. Following intrusions and thefts, Bill responded by coordinating a critical safety and security upgrade plan providing new surveillance cameras, controlled entrance glass doors for our preschool, new alarm features, and more. He is integrally involved with our Junior Warden, Paul Bradley, and our Preschool leadership regarding the installation of our new “Tot Lot” playground for our one and two-year-olds. He has worked with our HVAC contractor to alleviate excessive moisture conditions around our building. He has worked with parishioners and our landscapers regarding our tree and landscaping schemes, together with Village officials for the necessary permits and approvals. He has worked to alleviate flooding conditions and related clean-ups. And he has done all of this while doing his regular and ordinary maintenance, repair, and daily response work. Prepare yourself to be further impressed: Bill is only a part-time employee, or at least that’s how he is inadequately compensated. Amazing and wow! When it comes to the MVP race, the smart money is on Bill Garner, Washington’s 2017 Most Valuable Player.

5. Our Generous Giving Appeal. Jonathan Stroebel and our devoted Generous Giving Team blessed us last year with the best annual pledge campaign in the 119 years of All Saints Church. Amazing! As a result, our deficits and insufficiencies were decreased significantly, yet the Parish still operates in the red. Our Generous Giving Team needs help. They need open hearts and volunteers to help inspire gifts for the spread of the Kingdom of God. New gifts assist our mission by better providing for our parishioners in financial crisis, by increasing mission to those who don’t know the Lord, by greater outreach to those in need, by better meals for those who come to our door each day, by increasing our ministry to our elderly and infirm, and by improved resources for troubled marriages, the unemployed, and those in mourning. There are so, so many things that could be listed here. Please write or give us a call if you will join us!

6. Our Sunday Meal Program. For a few years running, we enjoyed a magnificent ministry of food service from Chef Glenn Jahnsen, who left our part-time gig for a full-time position at a shelter in Northern Virginia. We celebrated Glenn’s new position, but lost the very special ministry he provided for us. Financially, I suppose it was a good thing the program ended because it did not pay for itself through contributions and there were logistical challenges. It has been at least two years since Glenn’s departure. In the interim we created a top-notch Continental Breakfast offering, brilliantly and sacrificially overseen by Sandi Rothwell, Liz Senior, and Tom Johnson (all heroes!). What a truly special ministry they provide for us each Sunday! This has been a most gracious successor to the full-brunch format we enjoyed under Glenn. Yet we note that most people don’t seem to stay and fellowship as long as they once did. Our crowds have thinned without the full buffet. Many have come to me, our staff, and our Vestry leaders over the past months urging a renewal of the full-brunch concept to give a jolt toward deeper fellowship. Last week, our Vestry challenged the Rector to coordinate with Sandi, Liz, and Tom to envision what a second-generation food service might look like. The hope is to capture the depth of the first full-brunch concept, but do it in a way that it might pay for itself. I need help. Of course, my first step is the good counsel and vision of Sandi, Liz, and Tom and I will reach out to them right away. But beyond that I and we surely could use your help. Would you please volunteer to be a part of our Sunday food program, whether it remains as a Continental Breakfast or returns to a full-brunch concept? Please write or call the church office, if you would be so good. We need help!

Helping Someone to Find Jesus

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, July 2017

Before I begin, I don’t even know if I agree with my own title operationally. Can someone find Jesus? Or does He find us? In his 19th Century poem, Francis Thompson admiringly nicknamed Jesus as the Hound of Heaven because of His relentless pursuit souls. Yet, scripture teaches us that, if we seek Him, we shall find Him. My finer sensibilities tell me that joining hearts with the Lord is a two-way street.

Is there someone you know and love who does not have faith in Jesus, but who you long to see with Him?

More than doing anything else, pray for that. Our part in evangelism is to witness and pray. The Holy Spirit’s part is to open the eyes of believers, to point to the Cross, to lead us to Christ, and to transform us for all of that to happen. I haven’t met a person yet who can do any of the Spirit’s part effectively. So, we witness and pray to our best. You might wish to augment your prayers for someone’s faith by giving our parish the name. Our prayer teams, clergy, staff, and parishioners will pray for the Spirit’s grace. We pray for all kinds of needs, hopes, and desires. How wonderful it would be for us to have an intentional and focused prayer ministry purely for those who do not know the Lord and the forgiveness, healing, salvation, joy, grace, and peace that flow from Him. Every church should have a ministry like that.

To be most understanding of how one comes to faith, we need to remember that ultimately, Jesus Christ must be one’s personal discovery, with the help of the Holy Spirit. No one can convince or force another person regarding who Jesus is or what He offers. Someone once wrote, “A man convinced against his will is unconvinced still.” That’s wisdom.

We need to also remember that God has no grandchildren. No one can piggy-back another’s faith to find Him. That resonated with me instantly when I read it decades ago. God has only children, not grandchildren. Theologically that means people cannot claim a standing in faith merely because their parents loved Jesus, or a spouse, or anyone else. Each of us is called to love Him of our own heart and desire. Likewise, no one can claim standing with Christ because of membership in a church or denomination of any stripe. Membership is not relationship. You can be a member of a church and attend every Sunday and still not have the relationship Jesus desires to have with you.

Nor can one approach our Holy God of one’s own merit, goodness, or intelligence. In Romans 3:10 Paul quotes Psalms 14 and 53 when he says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” Only by the work of Jesus on the Cross are we rendered “good.” We need Jesus, desperately and always. Fortunately for us all, it is the Holy Spirit who draws the human heart to Jesus and opens one’s eyes to see who He is. Those who try to gain God by their human abilities, or who attempt to prove or disprove the Person of God by the intellect, fail because the brain is not big enough to encompass Him. One of my favorite quotes is this anonymous declaration: “By the heart God may be gotten, by the mind, never!” The Bible makes clear that we are to hold the Lord in our hearts by faith. The scriptures also teach that such heartfelt faith precedes understanding. The well-worn phrase, “I won’t believe it until I see it,” is exactly backwards when it comes to the divine. Instead, saying “I won’t see it until I believe it” is the key to opening the doors of truth and light.

Martin Luther observed that the worldly mind sees a crucified figure on a Cross and thinks “pitiful victim, weak and defeated poor soul.” Luther taught that only by the draw and inspiration of the Holy Spirit can one look at that same broken figure and fall to the knees confessing and proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!”

Here’s the opening question once again: Is there someone you know who does not have a faith in Jesus? Surely you should witness your own faith to that person and make a gentle defense of the hope in Christ that is in you, as 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us. One of us may plant a seed in someone’s heart. Another may come along and water that seed somehow. But it is God who makes it grow, not us. Our prayers should be focused on God’s empowerment of that growth.

Remember too that intellectual sword fighting is highly unlikely to convince anyone that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world because these are matters of the heart first and mind second. The most effective and powerful weapon is to pray that the Holy Spirit will come into that person’s heart and make it soft and fertile for believing. It is undoubtedly our calling to tell others about the Name of Jesus and the Good News of His Gospel. After that, it is up to the Holy Spirit to warm hearts and transform lives. Humans cannot do that, yet God is not only able, but thrilled for every opportunity. One of the great illustrations in history is that of Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, who longed for her partying, unbelieving, and wayward son to take Jesus into his heart. She prayed for more than 30 years and her prayers were rewarded bountifully. My wife prayed the same way for me for 17 years, and though she was successful, the results were far less impressive to be sure.

Please give us a call or send an email with the name of someone you would like to have prayed over for faith in Jesus and conversion in the Spirit.

By doing something so simple, you just might be changing eternity for someone.

Congressional Shootings, a High-Rise Fire, and the Kingdom of God

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, June 2017

Our great nation has endured many tragic events in its history. Many more will come along. We don’t completely wonder why because God’s people know from Scripture that the world is broken or fallen and will remain so until we are fully reconciled with God and one another in Christ. That’s what the Catechism teaches us, too. On earth as it is in heaven is what we pray for, and we pray those words daily with longing and glorious expectation of the triumphal return of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what we endure, we are steeled knowing that Jesus has already won, and for reasons of love and grace alone He has chosen to give that victory to us.

God’s creation is beautiful and wonderful despite all the darkness and evil that try to spoil it. We find we are not left as orphans amidst trouble and calamities, but rather that Jesus has brought His Kingdom near to us and the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and protect us. The Kingdom of God is truly within us, taking residence in each heart that will have Him and it. We are truly and divinely a Kingdom people, individually, and a Kingdom Church, together.

On Wednesday, the media overwhelmed us with the news that a United States Congressman, Steve Scalise, and four others were shot by a hate filled assailant. The assailant wanted Congressman Scalise dead and his own purposes glorified. Ironically, the assailant is ingloriously dead and the Congressman will be honored for what he endured. He remains in critical condition at this instant.

Thanks be to God that Matt Mika, a lobbyist, and Zack Barth, a House staffer, are expected to fully recover from their wounds, though they too continue to fight for their health. We need to continue to pray – because prayer is our ultimate weapon. We must believe that.

To be honored most of all are the two courageous Capitol Police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who exemplified Jesus’ words, “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Though they thankfully did not die from the bullet wounds they endured, Crystal and David were surely willing to do so to save others. Love and glory are found in sacrifice – the great lesson of the Cross and the heart of what Jesus meant when He said, “you are to love others as I have loved you.”

On that same day, television screens were filled with even more devastating and horrific images of a residential high-rise fire in London. So many people seemed to be in peril, and the death count of 17 is mounting as I write. Heroic rescue workers risked their lives and did all they could to save as many as they could. Yet even more noble souls who were willing to lay down their lives for others. May God bless them all and relieve their suffering in the days to come.

We are God’s children. We are His Kingdom people. While society around us reacts in fearful or angry human ways, we are called to react in Christ, because whether realized or not, the remedy of Christ is the aching desire of every soul. All too often people speak and teach of Jesus without including His powerful and primary emphasis on the Kingdom of God. The message of the Kingdom is what people are aching for, not in some lofty theological sense, but in practical ways of daily living and facing the difficult challenges of life. This is especially true in times of crisis. Our faith in Jesus is not a philosophy or strategy among others, it is God’s answer to our questions and exists over and above every futile human explanation or definition of the meaning of life. We have been given the ultimate insight by the Ultimate Person. While we grieve and are hurt as much as anyone by these shootings and the London fire, we bring to them the love of Jesus, hearts of prayer, grace and peace, sacrifice and service, and a wisdom from above. As Scripture teaches, Jesus’ disciples do not mourn without hope as the world mourns.

When we say, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we are not merely expressing some vague, pie in the sky, end of times hope. We are instead joining in heart and the Spirit to live out our lives in love, sacrifice, mission, and service to the end that others might witness the glory of God and the Good News of forgiveness and love in Jesus. While the world and even some culturally minded churches use these occasions as opportunities to make political, social, and other agenda-driven statements, Kingdom people apply love, service, generosity, prayer, and sacrifice. These are the true, genuine, and Spirit blessed responses.

What we are to offer comes from God, and is far beyond and above human thinking and strategies. The Word of God teaches us to trust the Lord with all our hearts and to not rely on our own understanding. This is true even when applications of love, prayer, service, and sacrifice are counterintuitive to our human minds. For many, politics and social and justice issues are their religion, the courts their spirit, and the Constitution their Bible, especially after tragic shootings and other violence. People and churches of the cultural and political right often propose remedies of force and the right to carry guns as a means of diminishing such dangers. No doubt that might save some lives in the right circumstances. People and churches of the cultural and political left often propose remedies of gun control as a means of diminishing such dangers. No doubt that might save some lives in the right circumstances.

Jesus did not take up political positions. He did not come to bring a political or cultural revolution. He came to bring a spiritual revolution. He came to bring His Kingdom, by which He sought to change hearts not laws. He knew that, even if some government got something right in January, it would get it wrong in February. That is because governments do not bow the knee to the Lord. Our hope is not in government, though we should do our best to help governments be more gentle and helpful, especially to those who suffer. In the end, we need to recognize that a Kingdom church, and each of us as Kingdom citizens, is to be about the mission of changing hearts. By Jesus’ teachings and example, it would not matter if there are guns or not if the hearts of the people are of Him and His ways. Go ahead and give every human being a gun to protect themselves and there still will be tragedies – people will out maneuver one another. Go ahead and take away every gun from every human being and there will still be tragedies – people will find many other ways to kill one another. These are not the answers. The only authentic answers come through the Gospel and the changing of the hearts of a nation. Impossible you say? Not for God, and He has instructed us to dedicate our lives to His ways.

Jesus knew all of this. It is why He called us to not live as the world lives, but to live as children of God loving and witnessing to all. Let the world bang heads about the pros and cons of human methods to end evil. The Kingdom message comes directly from the Lord and the Holy Scriptures. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And I trust Him. This is especially true in times of unspeakable violence and calamity.

We waste our time and witness when we do anything other than live out and speak about the Good News of God to the world.

God has a plan to end violence, murder, racism, war, terrorism, and all other evils. The plan is Jesus, plainly and simply. The plan is for our transformation into His likeness by the working of the Holy Spirit. As a brilliant and faithful parishioner recently wrote to me, God is acting “on the scale of eternity, not the ephemeral notions which bedevil us at the moment. [Verb chosen deliberately.]” Jesus made clear that we will never cure the world of its ills before He returns and fully institutes the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. I’m okay with that because I trust Him. It doesn’t all have to be my way or for my comfort, and I can wait.

In the meantime, we can be His Kingdom emissaries as we act in His Name to provide for people burned out of their homes, reach out to national leaders with messages of love, call upon national leaders to behave as God would have them do, and listen to countless inspirations of how the Lord might like us to speak for Him as salt and light to a world that is hurting and lost.

May God today bless the people of our country and our brothers and sisters in the City of London.

Your Identity, Your Place, and Your Purpose

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, June 2017

Your Identity, Your Place, and Your Purpose
Through Jesus we have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,
but you are fellow citizens with the saints,
and members of the household of God . . .”

Ephesians 2:18-19

Do you know that the constant theme of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of God? Some wrongly think He spoke of money or sin more than any other topic, but His principal focus was on the Kingdom. In major part, here’s why.

No doubt your life is sometimes hard and difficult, but sometimes joyful and delightful. Happiness and security are moving targets for you when you are on your own. Such ups and downs can be unnerving and unsteadying, even terrifying. In futile attempts to balance ourselves, we grab onto things of the world that seem strong and dependable – human leaders, worldly philosophies, political movements, financial security. You get the idea. But those things are as wobbly and shaky as we are ourselves. This world has nothing reliable or certain to offer us. That’s solely God’s role and place in our lives. Compounding this reality are the culture’s ever-shifting standards and measures of right and wrong, of goodness and evil. We try to fit in and find our place and purpose in a society and culture that are flawed and broken themselves. The Bible describes us as sheep without a shepherd, as orphans, and as lost wanderers. Do you feel that way sometimes? I hope not all the time!

Jesus is joyfully proclaiming that you have a Shepherd to protect you and it is Him. You are not an orphan, you are a blessed child of God the Father. You are not a lost wanderer, you are a traveler headed surely to your magnificent home. And perhaps most significantly of all, Jesus is telling you that you can stop trying to conform, twist, and contort yourself to the world around you because you are a citizen of a wholly different World. You are not an ugly duckling, you are a beautiful swan. You are not a bedeviled citizen of a defective society, but rather a blessed subject of a perfect King and Kingdom, passing through society with an opportunity to demonstrate the love, sacrifice, and holiness of our King and His Kingdom. Although the Kingdom of God will not be seen fully until Jesus comes again, it is in our hearts, in our midst, and has been brought near to us by Jesus already. He calls us to be faithful subjects and to live by its holiness and glory.

When you live out your identity as a Kingdom subject, you are able to stand strong and even joyful despite the circumstances around you. The King’s subjects are not tossed to and fro by the convulsions presented by current events and the news media. When the entire community around us is in panic or crisis, the subjects of God’s Kingdom remember who we are, whose we are, and why we are here. No matter your vocation or social standing, you are ultimately safe and assured of your eternal future in Christ. Your purpose in life is to glorify our King by living according to His standards of love, sacrifice, and holiness.

Jesus knows the turbulence of the world and lived among it all. His unlimited compassion and care for you includes His desire to free you from confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty. He wants you to know who you are and, even more, whose you are. He came to bring you God’s love and forgiveness, the certainty of your purpose, and a sense of belonging and identity. Simply put, He came to bring you His Kingdom and your promised place in it with Him.

How We Might Know the Bible is True

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, April 2017

Last week I watched the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance for the 3,126th time. Or maybe the 3,127th time, I’m not sure. John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, Andy Divine, John Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Edmond O’Brien, and directed by John Ford. Give me a break. Jimmy Stewart rises to fame and becomes a United States Senator upon the mistaken reputation that he outdueled a ruthless outlaw. When he reveals to a newspaper writer decades later that John Wayne was the true vigilante, the scribe begins to walk away in rejection of the revelation. Leaving the scene, the reporter poignantly offers, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” My take is that the quote is a variation of the better phrased, “When legend and fact disagree, print the legend.”

Skeptics and challengers will charge that the Bible is very much legend and myth ripened into fact. They will rail against the marvelous truth that, in God, a sea can be parted to save God’s people, that a Baby can be born to a Virgin, that a dead Man can be resurrected and walk out of a tomb, and that there is eternal life beyond the grave. There is a wide denial of the divine, which surely exists behind everything ordinary. There is pretense and pride for the ability of mankind, claiming credit for the same blessings God has given us. The Scriptures are maligned as being filled with fable and religious folklore contrived to be the Gospel, sometimes sweetened by a “however well intended” patronization. In this vein, Jesus was not God, He was just a holy man and a wise teacher.

The Bible is true. Of course, we recognize that within its pages are stories, parables, and myths intentionally employed as literary devices to explain the things of God. But the principles, doctrines, revelations, promises, miracles, messages, events, and happenings contained in the Scriptures are true and reliable and comprise the most glorious of all gifts to the world except for Jesus Himself, (Abraham Lincoln’s description of the Bible). In fact, they are so true and reliable that the Bible is our ultimate standard, measuring stick, mirror, test, ruler, and measure of the truth of everything else. It is the very standard of truth against which all things are to be measured. If someone advances a particular belief or teaching and you wonder about its truth, simply hold it up to the biblical mirror and it will be shown as authentic or counterfeit. Jesus is Truth, with a capital T. Did you catch that? It is not merely that He speaks Truth or represents Truth. His very Being is Truth and no falsehood or darkness can exist in Him. In light of His light, the Holy Spirit will bring us into all Truth and never tell us or lead us into anything inconsistent with biblical teaching. Once we slip away from that reality, we fall into the spurious practice of making legends into facts and we are lost.

How do we know the Bible is not just legend made fact? Many, many ways. Here though, I would like to highlight just one. Here I would like to use the warts of the Bible as evidence of its honesty, candor, and authenticity.

If one wished to deceive the world into believing a fake revelation of God, human nature would cause the deceiver to put forth a text so winsome, lovely, clean, pure, divine, and holy that many would embrace it readily and with delight. Even if the trickster did a poor job of it, anyone succeeding him in the fraud would make the necessary edits and emendations to eliminate any obstacles to winning new converts. The legends would be crafted so appealingly that they would become treasured fact over time and perhaps further the hoax for centuries.
The Bible does just the opposite. While it surely has its winsome, lovely, clean, pure, divine and holy characteristics, it also has its warts. Instead of being a brainwashing manifesto that makes everyone in the Lord appear heroic and perfect, it underscores truth and fact by eliminating and preventing the legends. If one were conjuring a false revelation of God designed to lure followers, the text would not mention the cowardice of Abraham, the disobedience of Moses, the adultery of David, Jeremiah’s defiance, Noah’s drunken nakedness, Hosea’s prostitute wife, the murders or executions of Moses, David and Paul, John the Baptist’s doubt, Peter’s denial, the Apostles’ gutless moments, the impurity of Jesus’ bloodline, and so many more humiliating and embarrassing family truths. This is not the stuff of legends, though so many of them had heroic moments and vitally faithful lives in the final analysis.

A most significant proof of the Bible’s honesty, candor, truth, integrity, reliability and divine inspiration is found in its warts and blemishes. Instead of whitewashing the family shame, the shame is put right out front for all to see, that we may better grasp our desperate need for a Savior. Instead of sanitizing, laundering, sterilizing, purifying, and scrubbing the biblical story, God has chosen to leave in all the filth, defilement and sin. Instead of opening the possibility that we might become worshippers of Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, or Paul, God uses the Bible to eliminate the legends before they begin. We are to be true worshippers of only the One.
The media may hold as a maxim that “When legend and fact disagree, print the legend.” But the Holy Spirit of God holds that “When legend and fact disagree, the Bible is the printing of the fact.” And the ultimate fact is that God is Truth and His Holy Bible is His truthful Word for all His people.

Guarding Your Heart in Lent

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, March 2017

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:23-27

Some people tend to be more paternal or maternal than others. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am among them. The welfare, safety, fulfillment, holiness, and joy of those around me matter enormously. To a confessed fault, I sometimes will do extreme things to watch over those I love and sometimes people I don’t even know. It has always been that way. Maybe it comes from an oldest child syndrome or just from an overblown sense of self-importance. I hope it comes from the Lord’s calling on my life.

What I know for sure, though, is that people are blessed by God more when I pray and yield to His direction than when I reactively assert myself into situations. What I know for sure is that I am most effective helping others when my own heart is right. To be right, my heart must be desirous of goodness and holiness, filled with the Word of God from the Bible, and tempered at length by prayer. When those things are aligned within, amazing and extraordinary things happen, all well beyond my own abilities.
The simple and only way to achieve these exclusively God-given conditions is by inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts directly and intentionally. Each day, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will create in me a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). Each day, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will not only come into my being, but that the Holy Spirit will fill me to overflowing as He did for Jesus, Mary, Elizabeth, the Apostles, and others. A short study of the Scriptures reveals the big difference between receiving the Holy Spirit (as in Baptism) and being filled with the Holy Spirit (as in Pentecost). It is not a selfish or greedy thing to want it all in this. In fact, it delights the Lord to hear such a lovely and holy desire.

Not only does one’s heart need to be filled with such holy gifts, but each of us needs to guard our hearts at all points along the way. The world and everything evil are all too delighted to assault God’s goodness within us. We must be ever vigilant to protect the treasure we have been given in the Lord by not letting anything or anyone ungodly to tamper with it. The wonderful Proverbs 4 passage atop this message teaches to “above all guard your heart” because everything we do flows out of it, both good and bad. The passage makes simple that our mouths, eyes and feet are the keys – what we say, what we look at, and where we go. No one of us can honestly examine what we have said, desired, or sought without wincing and lowering our heads. Although I don’t know it personally, there is a Sunday School song that roughly says “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little lips what you say, be careful little feet where you go, because there’s a Father up above who is looking down in love.” That’s good advice. And it doesn’t need to be made any more intellectual than it is.

Guarding our hearts, especially during Lent, means that we should be shedding all harsh and unkind speech, turning away from all unholy writings and improper images, and avoiding places that are further away instead of nearer to Jesus. We instead should be longing for God’s holiness, reading holy words, praying tenderly and seriously, and inviting the Holy Spirit to fill us within.
Do that for forty days and you won’t recognize yourself at Easter. In fact, both you and the Lord will be thrilled at the outcome. But even then, guard your heart. Always guard your heart because everything you do comes out of it.

Is All Saints a Liberal or a Conservative Church?

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, January 2017

Christ the King. Emmanuel. The Christ Child. Jesus, which means “God saves”. The Son of God. The Savior. The Word made flesh. Wonderful Counselor. Immanuel (Hebrew) and Emmanuel (Greek). Mighty God. The Prince of Peace. The Light of the World. The Lord of lords. The King of kings.

Coming to worship over the past six weeks, from Christ the King Sunday, through Advent and Christmas, and now into Epiphany, you would have heard all these titles and names for Jesus, and even more. Of them all, I cannot get past the first and the last – standing as royal bookends of the list. Jesus is a King. Better, Jesus is THE King. Closely, Jesus is my King. Widely, Jesus is King over us all.

Kings have kingdoms. Jesus’ Kingdom, called the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, was established within our hearts and throughout the universe upon His mighty incarnation, death, and resurrection. Our love for Him, our baptisms, and our calling upon His Holy Name, are among the means by which we have become His disciples and thusly subjects of His Kingdom. We may be temporarily citizens of an earthly country, but we are permanently, eternally and simultaneously citizens of the Kingdom of God. Like a traveler visiting a foreign country, we respect and deeply care about our earthly host nation and its people, but our identities, hearts, and loyalties are of our Kingdom of origin. Our earthly citizenship is subordinate to our Kingdom citizenship. We are Jesus’ people and subjects. He is our Ruler above all.

Time and again I have vocalized that All Saints must strive to be a Kingdom church. But aren’t all churches Kingdom churches? Sadly, no. Many churches speak of and include the Kingdom, but operate more politically and culturally as they seek to serve the values and zeal of the world around them. All too many churches are affected by well-meaning political or cultural ideologues who honestly believe that their worldly interests and views need to be given priority in the church, instead of the reverse. A brilliant young member of the clergy recently wrote that churches go wrong when they quietly harbor a spectrum of divergent teachings or opinions and instead find their common bonds in some societal concern. Finding our commonality and passion in anything other than Jesus is wrong, but it happens on both the conservative and liberal ends of the societal spectrum.

The concerns of God’s children throughout the world are of enormous importance and matter to God more than we think. The Gospel of Jesus is focused on the physical, emotional, spiritual, and eternal needs of us all. However, instead of taking the Gospel out into the world, the world is often taken into the Gospel. Instead of filtering the world through the Gospel, the Gospel is too often filtered through the values of the world. Instead of the Bible informing the church’s view of the world, the church often is called upon to subordinate the Bible to the views of the world. Churches pick and choose Bible teachings to suit themselves. And thusly enters the contaminating and Gospel choking conservative/liberal polarization that plagues us. No doubt Kingdom churches sometimes slip into the same cultural trappings, but if healthy, they quickly recognize the error and return to their true identity.

This week the Washington Post featured a piece titled “Liberal Churches are Dying. But Conservative Churches are Thriving.” Several parishioners spotted it and one even asked if All Saints is being blessed because it is a conservative church. Let us be perfectly clear that All Saints is not a conservative church. Nor is All Saints a liberal church. Both designations are cultural impositions and not biblically birthed. Our identity and hearts are to be of a “Kingdom Church” – the only proper self-image for any congregation of disciples of Jesus. While the article’s author undoubtedly exceeds my own academic standing, I know what I know. And what I know is that, while recent research may be correct that “conservative” churches thrive while “liberal” churches die, the true determinant is whether a church is Kingdom focused or culturally focused. Without denigrating the accomplished writer a bit, the article could have been more aptly titled “Cultural Churches are Dying. But Kingdom Churches are Thriving.”

So called conservative and liberal churches BOTH will wane soon enough unless each submits to being a Kingdom church devotedly walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that brings churches to thrive, not conservative or liberal viewpoints. Churches identifying as conservative or liberal will often illegitimately and fallaciously marry some part of the culture with the Gospel and then lift up that improper union. Syncretizing the Gospel with any part of the liberal-conservative cultural continuum is simply not the Gospel and not what the Holy Spirit blesses. We see that all too often in the Old Testament as Israel repeatedly flirted with and appropriated the pagan world around it. If we want to be like Jesus, we must be Kingdom oriented, identified, and purposed. And if some people utterly insist that they must be like Jesus in some wrongly imposed liberal/conservative sense, they are challenging themselves to be at once the most liberal social people who ever lived and the most conservative moral people who ever lived. Because that is who Jesus is when He without exception lovingly accepts every person who comes to Him, while steadfastly maintaining and never compromising the holiness of the Father. One cannot have one of those sides of Jesus’ beauty without having the other.

By branding, styling and contorting a church to accommodate any cultural affection, we dilute the power of the Holy Spirit and diffuse and corrupt the Gospel message. Identifying a congregation culturally or politically instantly limits the demographic possibilities of membership by narrowing the roster of people who would be willing to be a part. Unwitting counter-evangelism at its best. But when a church is Kingdom based, it provides a place to unite together in Christ for ALL people, no matter their political and cultural stripes.

All Saints is among the more diverse congregations one might find anywhere. Although we often mess up and get things wrong, such across the board harmony and accord are only possible when a Kingdom identity is claimed in the power of the Holy Spirit under the banner of Christ our King. God’s will can be done on Earth as it is in Heaven only when the children of God surrender their own self chosen agendas, call upon the Holy Spirit, and single mindedly focus on Jesus, His Gospel, and His Kingdom.

The Rector’s December Message

Stained Glass

Written by Ed Kelaher, December 2016

“I love you.” How much of a stumbling block is that phrase for you – to dread hearing it, to dread saying it, to long to hear it, to long to say it? Sadly, for all too many of us, as givers or receivers, these words are emotionally or relationally unavailable, though they are essential ingredients of our healing tonic.

“I love you” is a precious phrase intended to be extravagantly and regularly spent, though genuinely and sincerely. Frivolous or insincere use dilutes its power and leaves the hearer wondering just what was meant of something of which there should never be a speck of doubt. Telling others you love them builds, strengthens, heals, emboldens, affirms, and delights them. While earlier damage makes it difficult for some to hear they are loved, it is still the very balm they need. If saying you love someone causes you to cringe and wince, lift a prayer for God’s help and then say it anyway. Not only will you overcome your dread, but the cost of withholding your expression of love will bankrupt your relationships.

Saying I love you out loud presents the actual Spirit of God, warms the atmosphere, enriches the quality of present relationships, brings fruition to family, and creates family out of mere acquaintances and bonds out of loose tethers. We need to hear that we are loved – some of us desperately. The old story is told of the wife crying to the minister that her husband never tells her and surely doesn’t love her. The husband rebukes her in defense, “Why are you starting trouble over nothing? I told you at our wedding 38 years ago that I love you and that, if that ever changed, I would let you know!” Oy vey!

How do I know all this? God taught me and all of us. Better, God showed me when His love came down at Christmas. When Jesus came into this world at the Incarnation, the Lord was saying “I love you” right out loud to all of us. The result was that the world was built up, strengthened, healed, emboldened, affirmed and delighted. Later would come the eternal blessings of forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

Jesus came to love us at Christmas. At a gathering of some of our parish’s faithful women, we talked about Jesus turning to His disciples in John 1 and bluntly asking, “What do you want?” The same question might timely be posed to you this way, “What do you want for Christmas?” People might give all sorts of good answers such as health, family, prosperity, friendship or peace. But the only proper answer the disciples or we might give is, “I want you, Lord Jesus.” To love Him and to want only Him is the singularly correct response. To have Him is to have everything. And having Him while lacking something else is to not lack anything at all. Gaining Christ in our lives is of such ultimate worth that the value of everything else can be considered as loss or even as garbage in comparison. Saint Paul taught us this mind-blowing truth in his letter to the Philippians.

As your pastor, with Christmas approaching, I tell you with all my heart that I love you, genuinely and with all the gifts the Holy Spirit has given me to do so. While that might be a pleasing thing for you to hear, it is a small and merely reflective gift of the Christmas love God has given us in Jesus. Isaiah 43:4 especially delights me where God speaks, “. . . you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you . . .” Elsewhere Jesus said, “You are to love others as I have loved you.”

Do you hear that loudly and clearly? God loves us! He says He loves us! He has shown He loves us! He will always love us!

This is all more glorious than any of us can articulate or even imagine. Here in the holy season of Advent, the Holy Spirit raises our hearts to delight in our overwhelming expectation and anticipation of the love of God coming into the world through Jesus at Christmas. He comes to bring us goodness and light and joy and peace and forgiveness and everlasting life, all punctuated by His eternal and life assuring message, “I love you.”


Church

Loving One Another After Election Day

Written by Ed Kelaher, November 10th, 2016

I am an undershepherd with a firm grip on the obvious. Today the Shepherd’s sheep are in different places due to extraordinary current events. The Shepherd wants the flock together. To accomplish that, there is a need for love and compassion requiring a doubling-down on the Shepherd’s practices, wisdom, teachings, and highest values. There is a need for us to remember who we are and whose we are. Only that can bring us the oneness and love intended for us.

Drawing wisdom from biblical truths, we remember that we are subjects of The Kingdom of God just as we are children of The Father. As subjects of Christ the King, we know that we are aliens in this earthly life, being in the world but not of it. We are strangers in a foreign land, sojourning on our way Home. But as we pass through, we recognize that what happens here and now is important to God and matters greatly toward the Lord’s will that there be peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind. As children of God, we are to bring God’s love as light and salt to loving the world, sacrificing for and loving those who are hurting, marginalized, forgotten and oppressed.

The Kingdom is the LORD’S and He rules over the nations. Psalm 22:28

The United States of America is a great nation and by God’s grace it has not dissolved despite the extraordinary crises of its near 250-year sestercentennial existence. We hold our country to be one nation under God. That means an enormous amount to me and to many others, though we have shown ourselves historically to be quite capable of ungodly behavior. Perhaps the greatest of our Republic’s democratic mechanisms is our constitutional right to choose our leaders. Most every election brings celebration and disappointment, but this time the divide between those emotional dynamics is particularly acute – thus the Shepherd’s sheep being in different places. The joy and exultation of some draws a sharp contrast against the dejection and pain of others. This is evidenced right here in our parish and in virtually every corner of our society. We need to ask, what does our Lord want us to do?

The Lord has given us great and precious promises that enable us to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4

Very often, parishioners will look to a pastor to see how to accept or react to something. If I am that to anyone, my hope is that you will see someone standing on the rock of God’s sovereignty and truth, believing in Him alone and in every promise He has made. We repeat frequently that we strive to be a Kingdom people at All Saints Church, not a cultural or political people, without discounting the relative importance of culture and politics. Despite how some might live, politics, sports, finances, vocations, and other such worldly endeavors are merely things intersecting our lives, but they are not our lives themselves. God is our life, individually and in common. Daily we are called to put self to death that Jesus may be our identity and purpose. We are crucified with Christ and we no longer live. Jesus Christ lives in us. Galatians 2:20 A message I have offered throughout the campaign season is that, no matter which candidate prevailed on Tuesday, we would awake on Wednesday to a world in which Jesus Christ remains its Lord and King. That message is not of my own imagining. It is inspired directly by the Word of God. Today I witness to its truth and the knowledge that it is Jesus who rules over our lives and world, not any person, party, or government.

All of you shall be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

God’s Word also inspires something I repeat frequently, hopefully not ad nauseam: “I do not have to agree with you to love you.” We are to love one another no matter our different opinions. We are children of God. This requires us to make our own preferences subordinate to the needs of others. When one encounters someone deeply grieving what the other is celebrating, it is an opportunity to be tender, to listen, to encourage, and to console. Likewise, when one encounters another celebrating what the other is grieving, it is an opportunity to be generous, to be charitable, to be gracious, and even to congratulate. If we cannot be those things in our respective positions, then the fault and sin are within ourselves. Most of all, these are not times to revive campaign talking points to convince or reason with the one who is hurting or celebrating.

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18Attendance

Some might quickly retort that their level of partisan or personal conviction goes far beyond simplistic notions of tolerance for the opposing position. Jesus does not give us that option or rationale. We are commanded to love one another, not requested if it is convenient. While we are not required to abandon our prayerfully held positions, we are commanded to act in accordance with the Spirit of God and not of our own notions of how we should act. Thus, even in disagreement and extreme opposition we are to exhibit love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As God’s children, we are not permitted otherwise. Galatians 5:22

With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

God’s highest order of spiritual discipline for our relationships is sacrifice and loving prayer – for friends and enemies alike. Everyone celebrating right now should be praying for everyone who is disappointed. Everyone who is disappointed right now should be praying for everyone who is celebrating. The greatest undertaking would be that we might even pray together. Again, we are children of God. Those who are celebrating should be praying for God’s direction and help for the new President who holds their favor. Those who are grieving should also pray for God’s direction and help for the new President whom they disfavor. Indeed, every President needs our prayers, perhaps more now than ever before.

Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another,
even as I have loved you, you also shall love one another.”
John 13:34

Take heart that God will act to save this great nation, if we are faithful to God’s loving ways. The Holy Spirit will bless us despite good or bad leaders, if we are faithful to God’s loving ways. Our hope is in the Lord. Even a dollar bill reminds us that it is in God we trust – and in no one else. We remember that God loves us and protects us, that He is the ruler over all things, including the leadership of the United States, and that as children of God and citizens of His Kingdom, we can be joyful in all circumstances because of what Jesus has done for us.

May the God of all hope bless the United States of America, now and always.

And thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

Your Identity, Your Place, and Your Purpose

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, June 2017

Your Identity, Your Place, and Your Purpose
Through Jesus we have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,
but you are fellow citizens with the saints,
and members of the household of God . . .”

Ephesians 2:18-19

Do you know that the constant theme of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of God? Some wrongly think He spoke of money or sin more than any other topic, but His principal focus was on the Kingdom. In major part, here’s why.

No doubt your life is sometimes hard and difficult, but sometimes joyful and delightful. Happiness and security are moving targets for you when you are on your own. Such ups and downs can be unnerving and unsteadying, even terrifying. In futile attempts to balance ourselves, we grab onto things of the world that seem strong and dependable – human leaders, worldly philosophies, political movements, financial security. You get the idea. But those things are as wobbly and shaky as we are ourselves. This world has nothing reliable or certain to offer us. That’s solely God’s role and place in our lives. Compounding this reality are the culture’s ever-shifting standards and measures of right and wrong, of goodness and evil. We try to fit in and find our place and purpose in a society and culture that are flawed and broken themselves. The Bible describes us as sheep without a shepherd, as orphans, and as lost wanderers. Do you feel that way sometimes? I hope not all the time!

Jesus is joyfully proclaiming that you have a Shepherd to protect you and it is Him. You are not an orphan, you are a blessed child of God the Father. You are not a lost wanderer, you are a traveler headed surely to your magnificent home. And perhaps most significantly of all, Jesus is telling you that you can stop trying to conform, twist, and contort yourself to the world around you because you are a citizen of a wholly different World. You are not an ugly duckling, you are a beautiful swan. You are not a bedeviled citizen of a defective society, but rather a blessed subject of a perfect King and Kingdom, passing through society with an opportunity to demonstrate the love, sacrifice, and holiness of our King and His Kingdom. Although the Kingdom of God will not be seen fully until Jesus comes again, it is in our hearts, in our midst, and has been brought near to us by Jesus already. He calls us to be faithful subjects and to live by its holiness and glory.

When you live out your identity as a Kingdom subject, you are able to stand strong and even joyful despite the circumstances around you. The King’s subjects are not tossed to and fro by the convulsions presented by current events and the news media. When the entire community around us is in panic or crisis, the subjects of God’s Kingdom remember who we are, whose we are, and why we are here. No matter your vocation or social standing, you are ultimately safe and assured of your eternal future in Christ. Your purpose in life is to glorify our King by living according to His standards of love, sacrifice, and holiness.

Jesus knows the turbulence of the world and lived among it all. His unlimited compassion and care for you includes His desire to free you from confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty. He wants you to know who you are and, even more, whose you are. He came to bring you God’s love and forgiveness, the certainty of your purpose, and a sense of belonging and identity. Simply put, He came to bring you His Kingdom and your promised place in it with Him.

Helping Someone to Find Jesus

Written by Father Ed Kelaher, July 2017

Before I begin, I don’t even know if I agree with my own title operationally. Can someone find Jesus? Or does He find us? In his 19th Century poem, Francis Thompson admiringly nicknamed Jesus as the Hound of Heaven because of His relentless pursuit souls. Yet, scripture teaches us that, if we seek Him, we shall find Him. My finer sensibilities tell me that joining hearts with the Lord is a two-way street.

Is there someone you know and love who does not have faith in Jesus, but who you long to see with Him?

More than doing anything else, pray for that. Our part in evangelism is to witness and pray. The Holy Spirit’s part is to open the eyes of believers, to point to the Cross, to lead us to Christ, and to transform us for all of that to happen. I haven’t met a person yet who can do any of the Spirit’s part effectively. So, we witness and pray to our best. You might wish to augment your prayers for someone’s faith by giving our parish the name. Our prayer teams, clergy, staff, and parishioners will pray for the Spirit’s grace. We pray for all kinds of needs, hopes, and desires. How wonderful it would be for us to have an intentional and focused prayer ministry purely for those who do not know the Lord and the forgiveness, healing, salvation, joy, grace, and peace that flow from Him. Every church should have a ministry like that.

To be most understanding of how one comes to faith, we need to remember that ultimately, Jesus Christ must be one’s personal discovery, with the help of the Holy Spirit. No one can convince or force another person regarding who Jesus is or what He offers. Someone once wrote, “A man convinced against his will is unconvinced still.” That’s wisdom.

We need to also remember that God has no grandchildren. No one can piggy-back another’s faith to find Him. That resonated with me instantly when I read it decades ago. God has only children, not grandchildren. Theologically that means people cannot claim a standing in faith merely because their parents loved Jesus, or a spouse, or anyone else. Each of us is called to love Him of our own heart and desire. Likewise, no one can claim standing with Christ because of membership in a church or denomination of any stripe. Membership is not relationship. You can be a member of a church and attend every Sunday and still not have the relationship Jesus desires to have with you.

Nor can one approach our Holy God of one’s own merit, goodness, or intelligence. In Romans 3:10 Paul quotes Psalms 14 and 53 when he says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” Only by the work of Jesus on the Cross are we rendered “good.” We need Jesus, desperately and always. Fortunately for us all, it is the Holy Spirit who draws the human heart to Jesus and opens one’s eyes to see who He is. Those who try to gain God by their human abilities, or who attempt to prove or disprove the Person of God by the intellect, fail because the brain is not big enough to encompass Him. One of my favorite quotes is this anonymous declaration: “By the heart God may be gotten, by the mind, never!” The Bible makes clear that we are to hold the Lord in our hearts by faith. The scriptures also teach that such heartfelt faith precedes understanding. The well-worn phrase, “I won’t believe it until I see it,” is exactly backwards when it comes to the divine. Instead, saying “I won’t see it until I believe it” is the key to opening the doors of truth and light.

Martin Luther observed that the worldly mind sees a crucified figure on a Cross and thinks “pitiful victim, weak and defeated poor soul.” Luther taught that only by the draw and inspiration of the Holy Spirit can one look at that same broken figure and fall to the knees confessing and proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!”

Here’s the opening question once again: Is there someone you know who does not have a faith in Jesus? Surely you should witness your own faith to that person and make a gentle defense of the hope in Christ that is in you, as 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us. One of us may plant a seed in someone’s heart. Another may come along and water that seed somehow. But it is God who makes it grow, not us. Our prayers should be focused on God’s empowerment of that growth.

Remember too that intellectual sword fighting is highly unlikely to convince anyone that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world because these are matters of the heart first and mind second. The most effective and powerful weapon is to pray that the Holy Spirit will come into that person’s heart and make it soft and fertile for believing. It is undoubtedly our calling to tell others about the Name of Jesus and the Good News of His Gospel. After that, it is up to the Holy Spirit to warm hearts and transform lives. Humans cannot do that, yet God is not only able, but thrilled for every opportunity. One of the great illustrations in history is that of Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, who longed for her partying, unbelieving, and wayward son to take Jesus into his heart. She prayed for more than 30 years and her prayers were rewarded bountifully. My wife prayed the same way for me for 17 years, and though she was successful, the results were far less impressive to be sure.

Please give us a call or send an email with the name of someone you would like to have prayed over for faith in Jesus and conversion in the Spirit.

By doing something so simple, you just might be changing eternity for someone.