A Lesson for Writers

There’s a lesson to be learned when writing for public consumption. Once it is learned, the task becomes less burdensome, and the writer can perform at a much higher level.

The lesson is simply this: Sympathy for all readers, no matter how careful you are with the tools of the craft, will never be the antidote that cures the rage of those readers. If not even the Word of God succeeds in this, what would lead anyone putting a pen to paper to think it would be any different?


First off… #ashtag.

Second, is this really happening in 2020? Has Confessional Lutheranism lost its mind?

So, um, don’t participate in the practice of the Imposition of Ashes. No one’s coming after you if you choose not to do it. In the meantime, lay off of ripping into the people who do. You’re not being Lutheran. You’re trying to be an edgy intellectual in a clerical collar, and you’re only helping to further bury reverence in American Christianity as well as fan the flames of disdain for rites and ceremonies that point directly to Christ. At a minimum, by wiping the ashes from the foreheads of the countless Christians making their way to their jobs, schools, or wherever, you foolishly obscure a silent proclamation of the Gospel through the Church to the world. You strip her centrifugal nature of its clothing. You strip her of her stained glass. You remove her banners and paraments. You hide her church signs. It’s to keep the world from noticing in a visual way that Christ is still alive and at work in His world through people—that the salt is still salty, that the light is still burning, that we know our sins and we know the One who redeemed us by the cross…

…that there still exists a remnant of people who won’t roll over when the storms come, even if a few of the lightning bolts come from our own. How can I say this? Because we’re not fearful of donning an ashen cross on our foreheads in public. It’s not a flaunting of one’s spirituality. It’s a reminder to the self and a silent proclamation of the Gospel to others.

I suppose since we’re talking about it, maybe you should take off the clerical collar you’re wearing and put on a nice shirt and tie. You certainly wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re flaunting your spirituality before the world.


Irritable Jesus

Irritable Jesus? It can’t be. Our Lord is the Good Shepherd, patient and kind.

But looking ahead to the events of Holy Week, a different image emerges.

I suppose one way to see it is to imagine a policeman running to a crime in progress only to be cursed at by a man who only moments ago received from him a parking ticket. Maybe you could visualize a home on fire. One man races to join the bucket brigade while so many of the neighbors watch from their living room windows lest they need to brave the winter’s chill.

Maybe those images capture it a little. I don’t know.

Heading into the events of Holy Week, Jesus had a lot on his mind. He’s dashing to the rescue of the crime’s victims while so many mock Him. He’s running into the burning building to save the inhabitants, and yet so many could care less. He’s come to win for us salvation, knowing the danger, knowing just what it all entailed. The taunts and ridicule were before him. He would have to brace himself for the beating and lashes, the spitting, the crown of thorns, and then the nails. He would need to be mindful of the abandonment of friends, the complete abandonment by His Father.

I suppose when you have that much on your mind, you’re not going to put up with a lot of nonsense from those who appear to missing the whole point.

Clear out the temple.
Turn over the tables of the money changers.
Curse that fig tree that bears no fruit.

All of this is as if to say, “What are you doing, people?! Get off the couch! Never mind the sports tournament. Get your family in church! Receive what I’m winning by my bloody agony! By it, find yourself made new—stronger, vigilant, ready. Be strengthened to start speaking up for the unborn. Be enabled to give a damn about the Christians being martyred around the world. Find the muscle for showing you’re actually concerned that the LGBTQ machine is grinding up our families and the youth of our society. This mess I’m dying to redeem is for real! It isn’t a game! What’s wrong with you?!”

Now, you may say this is harsh. But then I suppose you could compare it with the familiar scenes of people who love you. Think about your parents, your mom or dad who want the best for you. Think about coaches you’ve admired, who pushed you when you didn’t want to be pushed. When we don’t care about people, we treat them with benign neglect. A government official would just as soon write you a meager check and send you away than do anything that requires him to govern according to your well-being. A negligent mother would allow you to be immersed in a family’s profanity while you play video games all night instead of teaching you respect and seeing you get the sleep you need.

Again, maybe those images work and maybe they don’t. I can’t say.

Either way, say what you will about our Lord. He’s a Savior, not an enabler. He’s faithful in the fight, and by no means a pansy. He has come bringing truth, not what makes you happy. He cares for your well being—actual and eternal—not just what makes you comfortable but ultimately leaves you to your deathly fate.

Lent is upon us. Follow it to its destination: Holy Week. You’ll see these things there.

Once there, take in all of it. Pay attention to the Lord’s warning. Stay awake. Be vigilant. Watch the Lord, but also watch with Him. Make His House your house.

We are approaching the hour of salvation. No more barren fig trees. No more couch potatoes.

This is serious stuff, Christians. At a minimum, treat it as such.

Take Care How You Hear

We’re set upon the very eve of Lent. We’re preparing to recall the most intimate work of Jesus of Nazareth—the Son of God—as He makes His way into Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. We’re preparing to take in the details, as affronting as they may be.

We’re preparing to wonder at this great, but disfigured, spectacle.

The Gospel text for Septuagesima, Matthew 20:1-16, helped to get us ready. By it, Jesus presented the backward story of a Master who rewarded the workers, not according to their labors, but according to His generosity. He didn’t give them what they deserved, but according to what flowed from His kindly heart concerned for their well-being.

There goes Jesus. He’s entering into Jerusalem. He’s being kindly. He’s being generous. He’s not leaving us to our demise—to what we deserve—but rather is giving Himself in our place. He’s being as generous as anyone would never be—the innocent One giving Himself for the guilty so that we would be declared innocent by His work.

Then there was the Sunday of Sexagesima. The text from Luke 8:4-15 continued the preparation. It considered the backwardness of the Gospel Word of God and it whispers, “Do you even believe a word of it?”

It set before us a parable of a sower who goes out to sow seed. It tells of various types of soil, each a recipient of the seed. And as each soil receives the seeds, only one is considered good soil. Only one takes the seed into itself and produces a hearty crop.

The disciples don’t understand, and so they ask Jesus to explain. And He does, finally telling them that seed is the Word of God, and the good soil are those who hear the Word and hold fast to it, who bear fruit by it. All the other soils either despised it, found little use for it, or accepted it according to their own determinations.

But again, not the good soil.

Interestingly, there’s a summarizing verse in this parable that seems to bring the entire section of parables together. It’s verse 18, and in it Jesus concludes, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

Then there was Quinquagesima Sunday. Luke 18:31-43 was its voice. There we were prepared to see the One going into Jerusalem to save us. As we beheld Him, we were implored to take Him for all that He is—namely that he is the Word made flesh dwelling among us. To reject His Word is to reject Him. To reject Him, is to reject the all-availing sacrifice He made on our behalf.

This is to be any soil but the good soil.

“Take care then how you hear,” Jesus urges. As Lent takes hold of you and pulls you toward its center, receive the Law and Gospel—the stinging and chastising and cultivating, as well as the reinstating and comforting and healing. The whole of it is good. It’s given in love from a God whose desire is to save you rather than give you what you deserve.


I apologize for the tardiness of this note. I’m at home and a little under the weather, so I’ll do my best to give you something worth starting your week.

I was telling Jen that even though there’s not a whole lot I can do about the setbacks that come from being sick, I still have this innate sense of guilt that rides my conscience when it happens. The feeling of there already being so much I feel I can’t see through to the finish line, if I slow down now, the progress I have made will be for nothing as everything becomes irreparably disjointed.

I’m sure many of you feel the same way. You feel as though one small change of plans is all it takes to send the world spinning into chaos. In such moments, I experience a course of self-questioning, one from which I continue to learn and relearn. Essentially, as I may be feeling a sense of guilt, am I really in charge of anything? Yes, steady faithfulness of the Lord’s servants matters for His Church, but does everything come undone when I come undone?

It’s pretty pompous to think things might.

And then strangely, I find myself down for the count and facing an involuntary recalibration. The guilt is suddenly shown to be illusionary. When the illusion fades away, I discover a few things. First, I’m still here. Second, so is God. Third, I’m not Him. Fourth, His world is still spinning, and with the pace I’ve been keeping, I’ve missed some grand opportunities for truly living. Fifth, my pompous Sin-nature has carried me very close to the edge of thinking I can somehow fill God’s divine shoes—as though I can do all things and bring about every targeted outcome in every effort I set my head and hands to.

I’m sort of in that recalibrating spot right now. I’m sick. Even typing this eNews makes me a bit nauseated. I suppose one could argue the fact that since I’m so stubbornly typing it anyway instead of laying on the couch doing nothing is another betrayal of the Sin-nature’s tenacity. Although, give me some room on this one. I’m observing it through the lens of faith. I don’t feel an obligation to share this with you, but rather I sort of want to. Perhaps the Lord thinks you need this recalibration before Lent kicks into full gear just as much as I do.

In one sense, I say this because if you are at all familiar with how Lent unfolds around here at Our Savior in Hartland, then you know we take it pretty seriously. It’s all-immersing. It’s devotionally intense. It contemplates the depths of our sorrowful woe, and yet it keeps one’s eyes fixed on Christ’s deepest efforts to win a Sin-sick humanity back to God. It reminds us in every way that we cannot save ourselves, that we are completely dependent upon God and His graciously reaching to us in our despair—His carrying us in all things by the sacrifice of His Son. From a pastor’s perspective, if I continue to make my way into this, the heftiest of seasons, thinking I have to hold it all together for everyone until Easter, I’m done for. Christ will rise at Easter and I’ll crawl into His tomb exhausted.

Unfortunately, that’s too often been the case for me.

This particular moment on the timeline is teaching me to let Lent carry me more so than I’ve allowed it in the past. It’s nudging me to be more than someone charged with bringing the Gospel, but also to be one who lets that same message of the One who went into the steep and collected darknesses of each and everything I could never come close to doing right or well in comparison to God’s Law be my stay. It’s winking at me and urging me to listen for its cadence to tap in my heart as I exist in a world that seems so overwhelmed by Sin, Death, and the devil. It’s steering me toward remembering that Jesus submitted Himself to these things, allowing Himself to be overwhelmed in my place, and yet He proved His divine invincibility in the coming celebration of Easter.

And so I’m sharing this with you. Hold onto Him. Seek faithfulness to Him rather than chasing after success for your efforts as you might define them.

And then if you must, go and lay on the couch and catch your breath. You can pick up tomorrow where you left off today.

With the Press of a Button

I spent some time this past week doing what I do on occasion—making calls to inactive members of the congregation. I made the calls while I was out and about on visitations.

When it comes to this process, I’ll admit I’m noticing a trend. It used to be that for the calls made, I could expect to receive a decent percentage of returned calls in response. Of course, the tenor of the responses would vary. Some would be heartfelt apologies expressing the intention to return. Others would be the expected, prickly moments of excuse-making. And still others would be unequivocal requests that I stop calling altogether and consider them no longer as members. But no matter the call’s place on the spectrum of emotion, the fact that they called me back proved a basic courtesy between two human beings.

I called them. They were kindly enough to call me back. Easy enough.

That doesn’t happen all that much anymore. I’ll call, and I’ll never even receive a reply.

I can’t say for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the ease brought on by mobile phone technology is playing a part in this. With such a swift, and sometimes overwhelming, current of accessibility to everyone and everything, prioritizing information becomes essential. It’s a lot harder for people to manage the bombardment, and so in the process, the important messages rise to the top and get immediate replies, while the lesser ones sink to the riverbed, sometimes being forgotten in the murk.

Of course, I won’t discount the fact that people are drifting further and further from the ability to communicate with others, and in the damaging mudslides of it all, basic decency is a casualty. The artificial barriers that technology has groomed among us keeps us quite comfortable in our avoidance of real human connections.

Everything goes away with the press of a button.

Still, the whole process has a way of proving the things that matter to us. We learn of the conversations we want to have and the ones that we don’t. We learn of those people we appreciate and those we don’t.

Again, I can’t say for sure, but I get the feeling some of the folks I’m calling truly hate it when I do. They see the incoming number and their first inclination is to send me straight to the riverbed. And I get it. I do. The stream’s flow is about to get choppy. The sediment of an uncomfortable conversation is about to be stirred. The strangest part is that it only took a glance at a pestering cellphone to start it. Face it. That’s the potency of God’s Law in such circumstances. The objects He uses, no matter how dull their surface, become chrome-like. One glance and you see your distorted reflection. You see who you really are on the inside, and how the innermost person—the Sin-nature—is capable of responding to someone bringing concern for your spiritual wellbeing and the refreshing encouragement of Christ.

You see that it’s very possible to behold a call from your pastor as one from an enemy, and with this, it’s very possible to hate him.

Someone shared with me the words spoken by a fairly influential member of the Livingston County Republican Party leadership. Apparently the person described the immovable nature of my position on certain issues as irritating, saying it makes the interparty give-and-take a lot harder. To summarize the sentiment, the person said nothing short of “I hate that Thoma guy.”

I wish the person who said this could’ve seen me chuckling and continuing on in my day when I heard it. I wish the inactive folks I’ve called knew why someone’s discourteous silence would cause me to grin and keep calling, anyway. There’s something I know about being despised for Christ. It’s actually a bit energizing, in a weird sort of way. It’s not that one is looking for such a response. Being appreciated certainly has a better feel. I suppose Minna Antrim, an American writer from the turn of the 20th century, had somewhat of a clue as to what I’m talking about when she said so crisply, “To be loved is to be fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction.”

Within the office of Law and Gospel—the proclamation of God’s Word as it meets with Sin, and the countering of such dreadfulness with the powerful message of Christ crucified—there exists the ever-present possibility of being loved or hated in the work. This is a very simple premise to digest. And once you accept it, the hues of life change drastically. Person-to-person interactions are a little less scary. Besides, Christ wasn’t stingy in communicating such things in the Scriptures. Take a look at any of the following portions of God’s Word: John 15:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:10-14; 1 Peter 3:13-14; Revelation 2:9-10; Matthew 10:16-20; Matthew 5:11-12.

These are just a few. There are plenty more.

In essence, Christ tells us that while it’s nice to be appreciated for the work, one must never go into it with the sole expectation of being loved. Be ready and willing to be despised and rejected. In fact, get used to not knowing which will occur. But no matter the outcome, measure your biggest concerns against being faithful in the task. And finally, if a disposition of hatred is the end result, remember the words of Matthew 5:11-12 and take comfort that you remain just as fortunate in the hatred as you do in the appreciation. Either way, you are blessed, and Christ has only ever attributed the same divine distinction to Himself and to the Old Testament prophets.

So, to boil this all down…

If someone you know is calling you with concern for your spiritual care, take a chance and call him back. What could it hurt? Well, a lot, I suppose. But remember, first, the person is calling because he cares. Second, know it’ll be a momentary hurt easily remedied by the balm of the Gospel. And in the meantime, take care with your despising of the one calling you. Reconsider shelving him for a little while as an annoyance, too. You can’t avoid the person forever. My guess is that by God’s continued grace, he’s tenacious. This is true because he’s a Christian regularly fed by Word and Sacrament substance. By this, he has access to a peace that keeps him keeping-on when everyone and everything else are riding the rapids in terror.

Nervous? No. Careful? Yes.

I’m doing my best to get this note together before 9:30 am. A reporter from NPR is coming out to the church for an interview regarding Livingston County politics—namely, the 8th Congressional District of Michigan. I don’t know the questions I’ll be asked, but I will, of course, do my best to speak in a way that reveals the Christian perspective on things. Hopefully, there will be some takeaways that will help listeners better understand why the Church might take particular positions on certain issues and candidates.

A friend told me on Sunday he was nervous for me. Admittedly, I need to be very careful. NPR is by no means covert in its tendency to lean toward a particular worldview that, for the most part, isn’t in favor of conservative, Judeo-Christian values. Aware of this, I’ll need to steer into the conversation understanding that whatever I say will inevitably be whittled down and passed along in soundbites situated here and there, all for the sake of presenting a final product that maintains controversy while keeping within the frame of opinion NPR already desires to deliver.

I also need to take care to remember that the America listening to the broadcast isn’t as it used to be.

What was once normal isn’t normal anymore. The America in which Christianity was cherished as an underpinning for a good and decent society is now a distant and alien land. Christians are loathed today, and perhaps like you, I’m suspicious of the news media’s role in fostering the negative sentiment. In fact, I’m willing to admit that when it comes to our nation’s news media, the job of delivering daily happenings has become less an avenue for factual reporting and more an exercise in artful creativity.

Anyone can deliver facts. But to handle those facts in a way that seeks to bend the belief systems of the recipient toward a particular agenda, that takes real skill.

One doesn’t need to search very far to discover outlets epitomizing this. Apart from NPR, consider CNN and MSNBC. These two outlets are pretty open about Christianity being nothing more than a consolidation of everything dreadful. They barely blink in their efforts to frame us as backwater, heartless, and imposingly cruel bigots. I, myself, have been confronted by the results of their mind-bending efforts, having been told point blank by people on the street that pastors who preach and teach the Christ of the Bible are what’s wrong with our nation. In their words, the perpetuation of a Christianity that actually holds to the Holy Scriptures is keeping America from reaching her fullest potential. To be rid of us would be to have an open horizon toward whatever the human heart might desire.

I’m going into this interview knowing how the news media is already working to frame me, and how a world of listeners quite possibly already perceives me. But I do it knowing that the Lord I confess, the One who operates within the certain and immutable confines of His Word, He was the One first despised (John 15:18). The world had no use for Jesus. It wanted to be rid of Him. As a result, Christ told His Christians the world would measure against us similarly. And why? Because the world demands our absolute allegiance and our total submission. And yet our Lord so crisply offered, “…you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world…” (John 15:19). Our devotion to Him will always be interpreted as a slight to the world.

I probably don’t need to tell you just how eerily close we are to undergoing what the early Church experienced. We are frighteningly adjacent to those days when the only acceptable god to be worshipped was Caesar, and as a result, the Christians found themselves existing in the shadows.

And yet, in the midst of this, Christ gave quite a beautiful exposition in the Sermon on the Mount, reminding us that no matter what’s going on around us, we remain salt and light. He staked the claim that by the faithful fruits the Holy Spirit produces in and through us by the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, people will become onlookers to something extraordinary. A possible result from this will be that they give glory to the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

Believe it or not, Jesus points out that simple faithfulness to Christ is indeed a powerful form of evangelism. It has a way of drawing others to consider that something otherworldly may be at play in the lives of Christians, something of which they are truly convinced. Destroy their reputations, shackle them, feed them to beasts—do what you will. Still, they won’t swerve from claiming Christ as their Savior, and they won’t let go of His Word as the sole source for faith, life, and practice.

I hope to be able to emit this divine “something” in a way that, even if a larger portion of my words gets snipped to pieces in production, what’s required for truly communicating the Church’s Gospel focus won’t have fallen to the cutting room floor.

—Post-Interview Update—

What a wonderful conversation with the reporter! It was kind-hearted, genuine, and well worth the time spent. A lot was discussed, and I regret nothing that was said. In particular, an opportunity arose to explain the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. From there we were able to unpack, very simply, the desires of the Church to engage with rulers for the sake of maintaining a context in America that provides for the pure Word of God to be preached, taught, and confessed freely. She listened, and the dialogue was sincere. I feel good about what happened, and I believe the message resonated. And it looks as though we may visit together again to talk more. I welcome that opportunity, and I’m optimistic regarding the final production.

It Takes Guts

I don’t know what it’s like in your house, but when the Thoma family has the chance to dine together, the table discussions are fairly well balanced. What I mean is that you might expect the parents to do most of the talking, asking the children about their day, discovering the particulars of their friendships and fondness for certain activities. But in our house, the kids are just as interested in learning about the details of the parents’ lives. They want to know what we did during the day. They want to know how it went. They’re even more the prying types when it comes to our pasts. They want to know what life was like for us as kids.

On Thursday night, the discussion revolved around the topic of pets. Someone shared the story of a funny cat video they’d seen, and the next thing you know, we were talking about the types of animals we’d prefer to have as pets. In actuality, however, the Thoma family can’t have pets. Two in our bunch are terribly allergic to just about every creature the good Lord saw fit to create. That didn’t dissuade me from sharing that a member of Our Savior has a potbelly pig, and she just loves the thing. Even better, she claims it’s hypoallergenic. I suggested we invite both her and the pig over for a visit to see if that’s something we might consider. There was a response of relative curiosity around the table.

Jen pointed out that pets become a part of the family, they need a lot of time and care, and when they die, it can be a heart-stinging time.

It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the pets Jennifer and I had as kids. Jen talked about her Doberman named Zeus, and how he died because he’d eaten a rock that eventually got lodged in his intestinal tract. I talked about a particular husky we had and loved. Pandy was her name. I mentioned how she was a great companion for me and my brother, Michael, especially in the rougher neighborhood where we grew up. I told the story of how we’d go to the nearby public park to play basketball, and if we wanted a section of the court, all we needed to do was bring Pandy along. She was a massive Alaskan malamute, and fortunately for us, she looked like a giant wolf. Her thick coat covered a colossally muscular frame. People would steer clear of her, even though in truth, she was as gentle as a drifting snowflake. In fact, on days when snowflakes did grey the sky, I used to climb into her dog house and nestle into her fluff. I know she loved it just as much as I did.

I also told the kids about the time she was stolen from us.

I grew up next to a tavern in Danville, Illinois. You’d be right in assuming taverns can be shady places. Unfortunately, such shadiness wasn’t unexpected on the weekends. A late night visit to our front door by a stumbling drunkard intent on making a phone call wasn’t necessarily surprising. Even worse, I’m pretty sure drunk driving was a regular occurrence. I know this because over time, Michael and I learned to be the first ones to the tavern’s gravel parking lot on Saturdays and Sundays—the mornings after the place’s busiest evening frivolities. We’d learned it was likely that a tipsy patron might stagger to his car, clumsily excavate his pockets for his car keys, and upon discovering them, fumble them out with a stowaway wad of five or ten dollar bills dropping at his feet.

I’ll bet you can guess who found the money.

Consider it a personal confession that every now and then, our bikes got new accessories, our bedroom walls donned a new poster, or the Donkey Kong and Pac-Man machines at the nearby Zayre department store were kept well fed for a couple of hours.

Anyway, one Saturday morning, Michael and I made our way out the back door and over to the tavern lot, and as was our custom when passing Pandy’s dog house (because for a while we had to keep her on a long chain at night in our side yard), we called to her. But she didn’t come. She was gone.

The chain wasn’t broken. The latch that attached to her collar was intact. Someone had clearly snatched her.

But people know people. Conversations are had. Drunk tavern-goers say things to the “quiet man,” the bartender. Doing a bit of investigating, my dad got word that a man—not a regular customer—had visited the tavern and was suspected of having enticed Pandy into his truck and taken her back to his home about 100 miles over the Indiana border! My guess is that whoever it was this crook had come to visit in Danville had betrayed his visiting friend as gaining a new dog right around the same time Pandy disappeared. My dad figured this out, deduced the thief’s whereabouts, drove to his home in Indiana, discovered Pandy in his backyard, and called to her.

She heard her name and came leaping into his arms.

To this day, I still don’t know the specifics as to what happened between my dad and the larcenous man. Those were adult things I never learned. But what I do know is very simple. Even though she was our pet, Pandy was family. A member of my family had been stolen away. We had to get her back. The whole family was invested in the search. The father of the family did whatever he could to find her and go after her. When he found her, he called her by name, and she was back in the arms of those who loved her.

I told this story to the kids. And for those who know me, you’ll know when I think on things like this, they become typological. In other words, I see connections to Christ. I see images that remind me of my faithful God and His efforts. I’m prompted to think of His deepest desires for the lost in this world. I can see the relative connections to the people I serve, the relationships we have here at Our Savior with one another as brothers and sisters in a Christian family. When a member of our family is enticed away by the temptations and terrors of the thieving world, it hurts. We want to search. We want them back. In the midst of it all, our heavenly Father is invested in the rescue, too. He doesn’t say, “Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted.” He acts. He’s already gone the distance to find us by sending His Son. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is our greatest rescue. In our baptism, He claims us. It’s there He calls to us by name, reminding us that we are His, calling for us in the midst of this cold world to nestle into His arms of divine mercy and security. This Gospel alive in the family prompts its members to action. Our voices begin to sound like His voice. It also readies the wandering ears for the reversal of any terrible sin that might snatch us away.

The day we got Pandy back was one I’ll never forget. If joy ever had a moment when it could be something tangible, something graspable, the moment I threw my arms around that dog was one of those times.

Think on that when it comes to those among us who stray. It’s one thing to get your dog back. It’s something altogether different to see another member of God’s family return to Him—and ultimately, to be within arm’s reach of the whole family in the glories of heaven.

Of course, it takes guts to pursue anyone in this way. It takes guts to confront the thieving temptations. I appreciated my dad chasing down and confronting the man who stole Pandy. Thieves don’t typically appreciate being discovered, and you never really know what you’ll be getting yourself into when you step forward to confront treachery.

Still, you’re not alone in this. We’re a family. People know people. Conversations are had. The burglarizing struggle is identified. Phone calls can be made. Visits, too. We prove a readiness to help. Maybe, in a sense, we find the straying Christian and they’re happy we’ve paid attention. Maybe they aren’t. Either way, the effort to search is indeed a first inclination born from a family that won’t stand idly by when someone we love is missing at the Lord’s dinner table.

Think on this. Even better, consider acting on it. I know you know the members of the family I’m talking about.