Forgive the infant as Christ forgives you…

This evening my wife and I brought our new, infant son to church for Divine Service. We sat through the worship service, hearing God’s Word and receiving His gifts. When it came time for the Lord’s Supper, I carried my son to the Table and knelt at the rail with my wife and older boy. The pastor came down the line, passing out the bread and blessing the children. At my older son he said, “May God keep you in your baptismal grace.” At my newborn he stopped, looked down and forgave my 11-day-old of his sins by saying, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Interestingly enough, he thought it appropriate and necessary to forgive a newborn of his sins. And he was right. In Romans the need for salvation is apparent.

“As it is written:
‘None is righteous, no , not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
-Romans 3:10-12

We cannot save ourselves. We are not righteous, not a single one of us. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. How then can even the child who is new to life outside the womb be saved? Through Christ Himself! The next verse in Romans 3 tells the sweet Gospel: “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The pastor granted to my child forgiveness by his Office, the Office instituted by Christ and given the power of forgiveness of sins. John 20:23, “If you forgive the sin of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

My wife and I made the decision to bring our child to the Table to be forgiven. He has not yet been received into Christ’s Church through baptism, so we know that the pastor, in his Office, can and did grant our son the forgiveness of Christ. And for that I am truly grateful. Thank you, Pastor.

“For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these…”

This weekend is Sanctity of Life Sunday. There are so many conversations to be had about the blessing of life which God grants to us:  birth and abortion, disease and comfort, aging and death. The Lord is the Giver of Life. He is the One Who Breathes the Breath the Life, as we read in Genesis 2:7.

Below is a statement from my wife, written about contraception and our human frailty and sinfulness with respect to the life of children in marriage and our culture. I find it to express fully my position on the subject.

“My opinions and beliefs on this topic are not held for the purpose of judging anyone for their family size or decisions. Everyone has their untold story and I have no business ever making assumptions. I have been on the receiving end of that judgment, having been questioned for not having more children at 32 years of age. It was directed from someone who had no idea of our infertility struggles in the past 5 years or the miscarriage 2 years ago; no idea of the agony of mourning that loss and desperately trying to understand why my body would no longer do what it was designed to do and why God would withhold the blessing of more children. It was quite a journey of learning to listen to His will over my own and trust His timing in all things.

Any “judgment” I have is purely directed at the cultural mindset regarding life and children – the mindset of “one and done” or “I have my girl and my boy, so I’m done now.” The fact that we try to plan children around the lifestyle we want to maintain. Not wanting to have more than 2 because that would mean giving up the guest bedroom in order to not have to put 2 kids in a room. Or that more children means no more fancy vacations or having to put limits on career growth in order to raise a family; the idea that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice for our children. It’s the mindset that children are a choice in every sense of the word; the cultural view of children as a consequence or burden if they show up at the “wrong” time. Birth control allowed our society to go against natural law, as created by God himself, in order to accommodate our own desires – it compromised the value of children. It is the classic battle of our own sinful will vs. God’s will for us. It is this same mindset that allows our culture to let hundreds of thousands of kids in our own country and millions around the world to be without families – to be desperately waiting to be rescued by a loving family and wondering why they aren’t good enough for that. It’s the same mindset that has allowed us, in spite of the evidence God has shown us through science and technology, to question the validity of a child in utero and to be willing as a society to destroy millions of lives in their most vulnerable state. Children have become disposable in our culture. They have become a choice in every sense of the word and subjects of our own selfish agendas. They have become political pawns as we’ve seen unveiled already this year in this horrid issue between US and Russia. My judgment is on this entire mindset. I can’t sit there and say that abortion is wrong or try to advocate for adoption and not also recognize that children are already set up for these fates by the culture which decided they are optional to begin with, thus something to be prevented.

I’m not so naïve to think that getting rid of contraception would fix this problem. Our culture has gone too far over the edge in regards to this topic to just completely pull the rug out from beneath it all. I’m more concerned with the silence over the last 50 years or so from our churches on this subject. With exception to the Catholic church, which is the only one I’m aware of that has maintained a voice on the subject of birth control in regards to affirming life, the Christian church at large allowed itself to be overcome by the culture in this regard. Pastors are now held captive to fear of their members if they dare speak out about God’s truth regarding marriage, sexuality, and children. No one wants to be “judged” and they have convinced themselves that the church is the last place where they should be judged. That the church is love and love means tolerance and tolerance means no judgment. It is such a great lie that has taken over in our Christian churches and feels like an impossible battle for our pastors to fight. What good is the gospel if we are not convicted of our sins and recognize our need for a Savior? Thankfully, I am hearing more and more pastors braving the waters of these subjects, though most are treading slowly and carefully. It can’t stop there though. If we want children to be valued again, if we want life to be protected in all stages, if we want the church to rise up and give homes to those children without one, then we have to make life important again, starting at the point of the mere possibility of life, to the point of conception and then birth, and then see it through as children are abandoned for whatever reason by bringing them into our own homes. We can’t leave it to only our pastors to teach this. We have to have these conversations within our Christian friendships. We have to be strong enough to talk about this with anyone who will listen. And we most importantly have to teach this to our own children, because they will direct the future of these issues.”

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

Come, Lord Jesus!  Amen!

The Mercy of the LORD endures forever!

O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is Good, for His Mercy endures forever! –Psalm 118

Among the evil and sin of the world we seek refuge; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

Through the suffering and pain of loss and heartache, we desire peace and strength; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

When man’s sinfulness consumes him in body and soul, and he commits heinous acts against others; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We struggle to understand why the evil of this world overtakes us; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We pray for the families, friends, and loved ones of those affected by violence and hatred; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

When we come to the altar of the LORD in repentance; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

As we receive His forgiveness in the Holy Supper; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We go forth from His Table singing praises and saying, “The Mercy of the LORD endures forever!”

Amen! Come Lord Jesus! Amen!

The Mother of Society

If authority is the father of society, then compassion is its mother.

Society is a group of individuals coming together to govern themselves under a predetermined group of laws, rules, or social contracts.  This cannot be denied.  The flip-side of the societal coin, however, is the compassion that its citizens have for one another.  You can’t have a society of rules without having mercy.  For the society which is heartless will not be able to sustain, for the merciful compassion of mothers and fathers is how children are able to survive and thrive.  Children cannot raise themselves, feed themselves, teach themselves the rules.  It is the duty of parents not to just put a roof over the heads of children, but to create a home to learn and grow and become compassionate themselves.  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6

Unfortunately, we, as a society, have chosen to remove compassion from our society for the sake and benefit of those who would be mothers and fathers.  Or, rather, as of late, mothers.  We are not mercifully defending those who cannot fight for themselves, but rather we preserve the choice to fulfill our physical desires, without reserving compassion for the potential result.  We make the life we lead comfortable, rather than to be compassionate for the life that cannot be without us and our protection.  Mothers and fathers should be merciful because their children require mercy to live.  A society that uses abortion as a means to maintain status quo for those who would be mothers and fathers is a society that does not value life, and has no compassion for those who could live in the society and still require compassion.

You cannot have a one sided coin.  What would become of a society with only rules and laws, but no compassion?

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” -Colossians 3:12

On the Death of Christopher Hitchens…

Christopher Hitchens, prodigious author, raging atheist, and one of those for whom Christ suffered and died on the cross, has passed away from cancer.  His life was full of choices and challenges.  Heavy drinking and smoking, failed marriages, cancer of the esophagus, anger and bitterness to all major world religions, one must wonder why I would choose to memorialize him in this blog.

Mr. Hitchens, for all his faults and failures, worldly successes and fame, was a sinner, just as I am, and just as you are.  His life was an example of the hold that sin can have on someone, and the power of the temptation of the devil.

He is not, however, an example of the vengeance of the Lord.  Christopher Hitchens didn’t get cancer because God decided to punish him for the book God is not Great in 2007.  He is not dead because the Lord turned His wrath on this “evil man.”  Not at all. Instead, the Lord allowed Mr. Hitchens a long life, 62 years worth, and had him cross paths with many different Christians throughout his time on earth.  I dare to say that Christopher Hitchens was preached the Gospel more than most men.

Our God is a merciful God, as the psalmist says in Psalm 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  The Lord is so merciful, He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified for Christopher Hitchens.  That is not a God of vengeance, or a God of raging anger.  If the Lord had chosen to punish Christopher Hitchens, He would have destroyed him in 2007, or when he left his wife, or renounced his Christian upbringing as a youth.

Instead, the Lord gave Mr. Hitchens a long life, filled with struggle and temptation, the life He gives us all.  It is a life which knows sin, and all the pain that comes with it.  And through that pain and sin Jesus stands waiting, and we cling to the cross, and receive the salvation our God gives us through the faith He brings us in baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and hearing His Word.

I am sad for the death of Christopher Hitchens.  Death is not the natural, created state of man.  It is the result of sin.  His death reminds me that we all will die.  But in our earthly death, our faith brings us to new life in Christ Jesus for those who believe.  I hope that Mr. Hitchens was able to remember that Gospel he heard so many times, and that the Holy Spirit was able to work in his heart.  May God have mercy.