We’re In This Together

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already upon us? I can’t. It sure seems like yesterday my calendar was set to July, but now, a furious whirlwind having blown through, its pages are open to November—and December is beginning to flutter.

It’s dizzying.

Speaking of, I must confess something to you. It’s a little embarrassing. Although, having recently skimmed the introduction to The Merchant of Venice, which is somewhat built on the platform of embarrassment, I was enlightened to embarrassment’s teaching ability.

Essentially, the Sunday before last, I was (and I suppose I still am) dealing with a pretty bad cold. I woke up feeling terrible, and I think the potential for such a level of terrible was something shared with me on the homebound plane ride from D.C. the previous week. The person right behind me spent a good deal of the hour and half of the flight coughing. I’m almost certain I caught it. But anyway, right before the sermon that Sunday, I took two Dayquil liquigel capsules with the hope that they would help keep me on my toes through the rest of the service and the subsequent Bible studies afterward.

But I made a terrible miscalculation. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper I was most likely going to be finishing off the remainder of two chalices of wine. And as if that weren’t enough, earlier that morning I’d taken a Gabapentin for my back. Needless to say, by the time I got to the Benediction, I was starting to notice I was having some difficulties.

The first thing I noticed was that both of my ears began to ring while shaking hands in line. At one point, they were ringing so loudly it was difficult to hear what folks were saying. It subsided somewhat when I got into the Bible Study in that I only heard the ringing in my right ear. The next thing I noticed was that during the study there were a couple of moments when I found it somewhat difficult to breathe. Only maybe two or three times, but each time, I turned toward the doors of the ECC entryway to take a deep breath. The last, and perhaps the weirdest symptom, was that I had a hard time remembering any of your names. I don’t know if you noticed, but rather than calling on folks by name, I simply pointed. I did that because I just couldn’t seem to get the names to form. This all continued through the Adult Membership class that took place right after the Adult Bible study.

Yeah, I know. Weird.

I told Jen about it. She wasn’t too pleased with me. Her unhappiness, of course, was driven by concern.

“You should’ve said something,” she said, revealing her irritation. “You could’ve been having a stroke or something!”

“Yeah, I know,” was my reply. “But I just kinda kept on with stuff, anyway.”

Still, I haven’t even told you the awkward part of the story. What actually embarrasses me is that I made a poor decision and drove home while all of this was happening. I was just too busy “keeping on” with things to see that something was maybe more wrong with me than I was willing to admit. And therein lies the center of gravity to the point I want to make by all of this.

In 1 Corinthians 11:31, Saint Paul wrote, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” I read that in a devotion that very same morning before worship. What Paul means to say is that as sinners, we have a hard time looking at ourselves and seeing that something is wrong. We have a tendency to employ our constricted points of view in ways that see the trouble with others but doesn’t really see the trouble within ourselves. In other words, if we are to be the judges of ourselves, we won’t come under judgment. That’s just a bad way to live.

Still, God knows we do things this way. That’s one reason why He places us into the context of a worshipping community. He sets us down into the midst of a people gathered together by objectively true things. All of us are in it together, and in part, all of us are enabled to continue in it for service to one another. And as a family, it’s supposed to be somewhat natural for us to encourage and build one another up, to reprove and rebuke in love when we’re traveling a road that could be dangerous, and to keep an eye of care turned to one another so that we can be ready in times of need to help. As members of this fellowship of human need, the last thing we want to do is to hide behind a façade of “I don’t need help from anyone. I can do this alone.”

We need each other around here. I need you to keep an eye on me and make sure I’m okay. And you need me to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay. We’re in this together. We’re family, and we shouldn’t be so embarrassed to say, “Hey, folks, I think we’re going to just cancel Bible Study today because, well, I’m in some sort of a mind fog and I honestly don’t recognize any of you.”

Well, maybe I wouldn’t say it that way. But, hey, you know me.

In summary, don’t feel as though you must go it alone. You don’t have to. Look to your Christian family. Trust them enough to know that they love you and will be ready to help.

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Thoughts from the Airport

I’m writing this while sitting at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., and as one sits in such a place, there are plenty of other things to think about. Even better, there are plenty of things to observe—people, restaurants, shops, golf carts letting out siren chirps to get through the crowds without incident, and even some animals. I’m guessing that someone very important is about to arrive on the flight pulling up to my terminal because a rather large contingent of police officers is gathering near the door to the ramp. There’s a small dog in someone’s lap about ten seats away. I’m kind of hoping it isn’t a “comfort animal” that I’ll be sitting next to for the next two hours on the plane.  There’s also a bird hopping from one ceiling joist to the next above me in the domed ceiling. It’s pretty rainy and cold outside right now, so I’m guessing the little guy is trying to keep warm and dry like the rest of us. And as far as I’m concerned, as long as he doesn’t drop anything on me, he’s welcome to stay.

Airports are unusual. But they’re also thought provoking. Looking at the bustle, the never-ending fluidity of things in motion—people moving from one location to the next, seeking a destination and its goals or profits or social company—it’s easy to see how someone like Shakespeare would observe humanity and write: “The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream” (Hamlet, II, ii, 11).

I know he’s not writing from a Biblical perspective, but as I’m sure I’ve shared with you before, folks like Shakespeare—and others for that matter—are worthy of our attention because they have a way of setting objective truths before us even though they may be using somewhat of an existential lens to see them. In other words, sometimes the world betrays a knowledge that there are such things as up and down, yes and no, right and wrong. In context, I think Shakespeare wrote this because he knew that deep down inside of every human being, no matter what we’re chasing in this life, it is most certainly transient. They are shadows of dreams that are here one night and gone the next. And something very important to keep in mind is that Shakespeare is using the term “shadow” to imply the presence of something real casting the shadow. This means that behind all of our pursuits, there’s something else at work, something that would drive the human spirit to continue to chase after things that just won’t last.

This is where the Word of God steps in to offer divine insight. We need God to reveal this to us, otherwise we’ll never truly know the inner workings of the things that matter most—we’ll never really know what’s at stake.

Of course we might be tempted right away to say that “Sin” is the driving force behind all of this, but that would be too easily dismissed by anyone here at the airport who is bustling along because he or she is trying to get home to be with family. In that circumstance, I’d keep it simple and say the love of family is what’s casting the shadow. I wouldn’t even be so hasty as to say that the gentleman down a few seats and across the aisle from me right now, someone I’m guessing is a fairly successful politician or businessman, is motivated to move from one locale to the next because of a greedy heart or a lust for power. For all I know, he could be on his way to a charitable event to give away millions to help people in need, and it could be that he can barely contain himself for the joy of such a thing because he knows how it will glorify Christ.

So, I guess that as I sit here trying to parse these emerging thoughts as I type—thinking out loud on my computer screen—in the end, I land on the somewhat general condition of the human heart as the Word of God reveals it. Yes, the heart is corrupt and sinful. As Christians we already know that any pursuit born of the sinful heart is as a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6). Still, the Bible teaches that God is, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, recreating the hearts of believers to be in pursuit of the life to come even as we must keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of things here on earth (Matthew 6:19-34). Without God reaching into us and accomplishing this, even the attempts to get home to be with a loving family are fruitless endeavors because in the end, outside of His redeeming work, everything comes to an end and is lost. Everything in front of me right now is passing away. This means that outside of faith in Jesus, Death will forever separate the family I see right now standing at the desk at Gate 22 asking for help. But for a family of believers—for people in forward motion seeking to get to an earthly home—such a pursuit can be seen as a mere foreshadowing of their eternal home and the eternal togetherness with those they love to be experienced in the joys of heaven with Christ forever.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Who knows? I guess that’s what happens when you’re sitting in an airport and have nothing to do but type.

Nevertheless, I guess I’d encourage you to keep these thoughts from your pastor in mind. I’m writing them for your spiritual digestion. Chew on the words. And as you do, ask yourself what is behind your pursuits. Better yet, and at a healthier depth, maybe consider if your pursuits are in some way disconnecting you from Christ and the means by which He feeds you with what is necessary for the recreation of your heart and the hearts of the members of your family. If what you are chasing after is separating you from Jesus, by all means, I beg you to jettison it from your life right now! Stop before it’s too late to see that it’s killing you and your family spiritually. Don’t become so invested in such a pursuit that it becomes your all-in-all in comparison to Christ and casts a shadow from very real spiritual starvation and oncoming doom.

I guess since I’m sort of saying it already, I’ll go ahead and say that I find it strange how Christian families dedicate so much time and effort to things that do this, and then a few years down the line, the parents can’t seem to understand why their kids left the faith altogether. I’ll tell you why they left. The parents taught them what was important to pursue. They learned what was important from mom and dad. I sometimes wish I could arrange a meeting between older parents who are now experiencing heartache from this and younger parents who are right in the middle of making it happen. I think it would be a Jakob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge moment for some. I think eyes would be opened to the dangers, and perhaps this tragedy that’s more than reaching epidemic proportion in churches across America would be somewhat averted, or at least sent into a time of subsiding.

Either way, be encouraged to know that even as we fail to pursue Christ, He still pursues us. He’s doing it right now through these words. Listen to Him. Know that He loves you, and know that His love casts a huge shadow in this life, and it is one that promises safekeeping for the next (Psalm 17:8). Don’t stand outside of that shadow. I can promise you, in the sweltering heat of this mortal life, it’s much better in the shade of Christ’s love.

A Prayer Before and During the 2018 Mid-term Elections

Heavenly Father, look down and see the ferocity of this world and its hunger for our ruin. Be merciful to us in the midst of the waning moments before this crucial election—one that will determine at the highest levels in Michigan and across the nation the value of the unborn, an election that will either defend or further concede the objective truth of Your natural laws, one that will result in the guarding or the further sacrificing of the sanctity of holy marriage, one that will either shield or surrender the religious liberties born from Your Word that are foundational to this state and nation.

Merciful God, know that we aren’t so vain in this very simple moment of prayer as to believe that we are somehow capable of anything good and right and true without Your blessing, without Your wisdom, and without the perfect love that descends only from You. To believe anything else is vanity. In these moments before November 6, we confess intimate knowledge of the weakness of our own flesh for success in the contest before us. We admit to our awareness of the power of the true enemy, that old evil foe, the devil, who is ever seeking to advance against us. We acknowledge that if we are to look to ourselves for strength in the forthcoming combat, then all is already lost.

But you have made clear by the signal of Your Holy Word that Your people must step forth to face off with the challenges ahead; and we have staked a claim in this call. Even now, so many in our ranks are taking up positions in the frontline trenches. But they do not take their places and we do not seek to join them because we desire glory, but rather we stand together hoping to be a bronze wall of faithfulness to You for the sake of Your Gospel and the good of our neighbors. We do this knowing that with each new day before us, as the sun rises and sets, in stride with a government that can rightly be called “good,” Your purposes for salvation will have the freedom to be extended into a world in need.

This is our charge as Christian citizens.

Come and be with us, Lord. Help us, we pray. Take command of our legions. Send Your Holy Spirit to move us to act with courage. Work through us to elect and send candidates into positions of leadership who are fully equipped to drive back and strip from our government’s agenda any and all things that would oppose the cause of truth. According to Your gracious will, accomplish this through them. Give them victory, and then see to their care. As they serve, remind them by the Gospel of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that You love them, too; that they were worth every drop of blood in the His holy veins, and by this blood, they are more than equipped with a nerve that can do nothing less than to plant them firmly so that they might lean forward with an unflinching stare into the eyes of evil and push back against its dreadful appetites.

God, please grant this to us, both in our state and our nation. And still, Your will is best and we pray that it would be done among us. All this we ask through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Our New Heraldry

It may sound a little nerdy, but I’ve set myself a goal of reading a little bit of Shakespeare every day until Christmas. I’m doing this because I’ve been feeling a little like I’ve been using some of the same words too often in my writing, and I know one sure way to expand one’s vocabulary is by reading from finer literature.

I took some time to read a little bit from Othello this morning, which is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and I came across a line that caught my attention.

“Our new heraldry is hands not hearts.” (III, iv. 48)

First of all, this caught my attention because of the word “heraldry.” Of course, I know the word “herald.” It can be both a noun and a verb. At Christmas time you’ll hear it used both ways in one of our most beloved hymns. You’ll hear of angels calling “Hark!” as they serve to herald the good news of the birth of Jesus. Shakespeare uses it here in a way that I’ve never used it, calling various messages into a general school of heralding that has one very important reason for existing.

Second, it caught my attention because of what it actually meant in context, especially since I’ve been spending some time in the adult bible class on Sunday mornings talking about how it’s one thing to believe something, but it’s something entirely different to act on that belief. It’s one thing to preach and teach and claim allegiance to the Gospel while living as though the Gospel has no real sway in your life. Here in this particular sentence, the listener is being urged by a different kind of message. The one speaking is beyond the moment of a rallying cry. He is now heralding that your heart is useless in any cause if you are not also willing to offer your hands to the effort. If you’ve been listening in the adult bible class, you’ve heard this. And I’ve said this same thing before, just in a different way, especially as it meets our efforts to engage as a congregation in challenges both internally and externally. You’ve heard me say before that it’s of little value for you to say to anyone going into a challenge in which you, too, are more than capable of helping, “I’m with you in spirit.” I can assure you that while it sounds nice, it isn’t enough to best the opposing forces, and it might not be all that inspiring to the rest of us in the darkest hours of the sweat and tears of the challenge. What’s needed is for you to get into the match and take every opportunity to drive the effort forward toward the victory, to jump in alongside and help, to rend your hands and not just your heart.

And by the way, all of this should already sound very familiar to any of the regular church goers within earshot of this particular heraldry. I’m not saying anything new, and neither was Shakespeare. Saint James already made this point to the Christians in the second chapter of his epistle when he wrote:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:14-18).

You and I both know we won’t always find ourselves courageous enough to take that little step from comfort into discomfort for the sake of doing what’s right in service to the truth of Christ and His Word. It won’t be easy, especially when it means our reputations could be scarred, our relationships could be jeopardized, and maybe even our pocketbooks made a little thinner. But there’s one thing I can tell you for sure: You’ll never find the courage to live a life born of the Gospel if you aren’t being fed by the Gospel. You’ll never be able to flex the muscle of Christian freedom, service, love, mercy, and all of the other wonders that come from being a child of the living Savior unless you remain a branch firmly attached to Him as the nourishing vine.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

Jesus wasn’t just saying something that sounded nice. He meant those words. And what’s truly spectacular is that such a heraldry from Jesus Himself has an innate power to convince you to believe the very point His precise vocabulary is in place to communicate.

God’s Word has the power not only to retool you to be one who is mindfully praying for and supporting the effort, but also to be one struck by a courage for rising from your knees, suiting up, and getting into the game.

My prayer for you at this very moment is that you will hear the Lord’s Word, that you will be moved by the Gospel of His wonderful sacrifice for your sins, and you will respond by this wonderfully rich grace to pitch in and help where you can—whether that be by way of your diligent prayers, your tithes and offerings, or your physical service. Stirred by the Gospel, these efforts become good works in the eyes of God because they are efforts born of a humble faith that knows and clings to Jesus alone for salvation.

The Feast of All Saints – Go To Church

“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Saint Paul wrote those words to the Corinthian church just as he was about to begin explaining the doctrine of Altar Fellowship, which when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of it, is all about what’s happening in Holy Worship, namely, the Lord’s Supper.

This post begins as it does because Paul’s words just felt right. I wanted to urge you to flee from idolatrous things. You are sensible people. Judge for yourselves the words that follow, the first of which is a very short and easily understood statement.

Flee from idolatry.

Today, if your church is at all mindful of her history, she will be observing the Feast of All Saints. If you have plans to be somewhere else, or to do something else, change your plans. This time, instead of rearranging your schedule to accommodate idolatry, change your schedule to accommodate the forgiveness of sins delivered through Word and Sacrament. Skip that which would conflict with those divine things which give to you all that Christ has won by virtue of His life, death, and resurrection.

Go to church. Take a look in the mirror and recognize that you need to be there, not only because of your idolatrous tendencies—which is evidenced by your excuses and your absence—but also because you belong there by virtue of your baptism into the fellowship of Saints.

Know this—you won’t be alone in feeling a little uneasy if you’ve been away for a while and then suddenly reemerge. In fact, think of it this way. In the Confession of Sins right at the beginning of the Divine Service, we drop to our knees as an entire congregation. We bow our heads. We close our eyes. We confess that all of us are members of the fellowship of sinful man in our thoughts, words, and deed; by the things we’ve done and the things we’ve left undone. We confess this together, and with that, I can affirm for you as a fellow sinner that there are plenty of reasons for everyone in the room to feel uneasy. You most certainly won’t be alone. We’re all acknowledging that God knows something about us, and it isn’t pretty.

But know this, too—after all of the penitent voices speaking in solemn sadness go quiet, you will hear a solitary voice, the voice of your pastor, the one Christ has called to stand in His stead and by His command, and it will be for you as the Lord’s own voice announcing to you that you need not fear. You need not be uneasy. You need not be afraid. Through repentance and faith in His mercy, you belong here, and He wants you to know with absolute certainty that He loves you, forgives you, and will lift you to your feet to sing as much in the Introit appointed for the day: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.”

So, stop making excuses. They don’t measure up, anyway, and you know it. Stop skipping church. You already know there’s no better place to be. Hear this Gospel imperative to repent and believe in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Be moved to come and get from Christ what He has won for you—which is also the only thing that will sustain you in a world seeking to impose itself upon you day after seemingly endless day.

In and by faith, you are a Saint. Today is your day. Join your fellow believers. Be with your Redeemer at the feast!

“Baby Joy!”: The Irony Betrayed by People Magazine’s Latest Cover

Did you see the recent cover of People Magazine? I did. Just in case you missed it, I attached it below.

Did you notice anything interesting about the wording regarding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s current pregnancy? I sure did. A former professor of mine, Reverend Dr. Peter Scaer, noticed it. In fact, he posted a snapshot of the cover on Facebook along with a short bit of insightful commentary. I was right in the middle of doing the exact same thing when I saw his post show up in my feed, so I shared it.

But simply sharing his post didn’t satiate the need to finish sorting through my own observations in a more meaningful way for all of you. There are a few layers of irony to peel away from the image and its tagline, and as Christians, these layers are important to us.

The first has to do with the fact that People Magazine is a journal that not only observes and reports on the latest happenings in our culture, but it seeks to help set the pace for our trends. In the midst of this, more often than not, People Magazine is found toeing the pro-abortion (or pro-choice as some choose to call it) line. It walks the pro-abortion walk and talks the pro-abortion talk. It has offered more than its fair share of articles defending a woman’s right to choose whether or not to end her child’s life in the womb. And several of the authors behind these types of articles have taken this view to some pretty terrifying extremes, such as protecting a woman’s right to abort right up to the moment before delivery—which is, in my opinion, nothing short of strict infanticide. It is to entertain an idiocy that approximates the value of a child based on his or her physical location. In other words, if the child is inside the womb, it’s a medical procedure. Only when the child is outside of the womb could it be considered murder.

Again, the absurdity of this turns my stomach.

In the meantime, true to this irony and by way of one example, People Magazine did an article back in July of 2018 on comedienne Michelle Wolf who had a show on Netflix called “The Break with Michelle Wolf.” Thankfully, it has already been cancelled, because, well, it was terrible. But over the course of its ten episodes, no one could argue that Wolf’s pro-abortion throttle was wide open, especially when it came to bashing pro-life people. She made every effort to communicate that anyone who is “anti-abortion,” is by default anti-women, and a threat to America.

In that same article designed to build Wolf a stage, People Magazine quoted her as saying, “Access to abortion is good and important. Some people say abortion is ‘killing a baby.’ It’s not. It’s stopping a baby from happening. It’s like ‘Back to the Future’ and abortion is the DeLorean. Everyone loves DeLoreans.”

There’s a strange sprinkling of irony in this, too. Wolf is portraying herself by way of her humor, first, as having a philosophical care for women’s health, and second, as being an astute humorist who understands a deeper logic behind this care. But it doesn’t take too much intellectual prowess to know that when you keep a sperm cell from fertilizing an egg cell, babies don’t happen. But there’s a really good chance that a baby will happen if these two cells meet. Additionally, Wolf’s time-travelling analogy, while familiar to most pop culture movie-goers, is so incredibly detached from logic that it truly falls flat. It almost seems like an incredible waste of time to examine it. And yet, we need to examine it because far too many are sitting on the sidelines in our meme-munching society, and these folks appear to be more than accepting of digital one-liners as argument-winning mic drops. We need to take a minute and sort through the facts that aborting a child is in no way like a time-travelling DeLorean in the sense that it is equal to one going backward in time to a moment before someone’s life existed and doing what is necessary to avoid the triggering of that person’s life. It sounds interesting, but it remains science fiction. Abortion isn’t that sterile. Abortion is to continue forward on the same timeline to a point where another life has begun, and as these two lives travel together beside one another on the same timeline, the stronger one extinguishes the weaker one. Wolf’s attempt at humor doesn’t change the fact that a human being existed and was then deliberately snuffed out by another human being.

Her perspective is mushy at best, and at its least, it is a flowery attempt at wit designed to make murder more palatable.

But back to the magazine cover.

Another level of irony I take from the cover image has to do with the swapping of the term “fetus” for “baby.” The cover announces “Baby Joy!” noting that Meghan is three months pregnant. Pro-abortion warriors are usually very careful not to call a fetus at this stage a baby. One of my own family members by marriage is militantly pro-abortion and an example of this dogma. He refused to call his unborn daughter anything but “fetus” until she was actually born. This is important because while the child is considered a fetus, he or she remains an abstract part of a bodily process or condition governed by a certain set of rules and can be dealt with as the sentient host body sees fit. But once the child is identified as a baby—another sentient human being—a different set of rules takes over. These rules announce life and negate the previous set of rules.

People Magazine refers to Meghan’s child as a baby, but based on the magazine’s usual legislative bend, Meghan is carrying a fetus—an optional condition—because she is three months pregnant and still well within the abortion window in most states. I say “most” because right now, a majority of states have laws that close the window for abortion somewhere between 22 and 24 weeks. And yet, because of the efforts of very powerful pro-choice activists—some of whom have written for People Magazine—these limits are less restrictive in other states. Currently, there are at least three states that allow abortion up until 28 weeks, and there are a total of seven states—Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont—that do not limit the procedure by gestational stage at all. (By the way, current science has established that an unborn child is fully pain-sensitive no later than 20 weeks. Some scientists claim it could be as early as 15.)

All of this means that right now, even though Prince Harry and Meghan are excited for the pregnancy, there’s still time for them to change their minds. They can still abort the child. Speaking from an American perspective, if the U.K. suddenly outlawed all abortions, Meghan would only need to travel to a state in the U.S. that allows the procedure during her particular gestational stage.

And I suppose that’s leads us to the final irony that People Magazine has effortlessly betrayed by this cover.

The cover shows us that abortion isn’t really about women’s healthcare. It’s about a radicalized individualism that takes what it wants and gets rid of what it doesn’t. In America, it’s only “Baby Joy!” if we want it. It’s a fetus—an invasive parasite or an intruding glob of cells—if we don’t. A baby can be murdered. A fetus is optional, nothing more than something to be discharged during a medical procedure if we so choose.

Now, I suppose this is an appropriate time to mention something.

Yes, there is forgiveness beyond the shadowland of such a regrettable decision. God mends the penitent hearts of those who’ve done this. This is the Good News. But how about we remind ourselves of the fruits of faith that same Good News produces by the power of the Holy Spirit? Let’s be God’s forgiven people. Let’s be those whom God has recreated by His Gospel to actually care enough to stop folks from arriving at the doorstep of such a tragedy. Let’s be those who know the objective truth of right from wrong, those who hear and believe and are moved by God’s Word to defend the unborn, to defend the helpless. As someone standing right beside you in the trench, I humbly urge you to do what you can to be a shield for those who cannot shield themselves. Stand up and take a step forward to help form the resistance to this ungodliness! In fact, if you feel that the only “stepping up” that you can do is to vote for pro-life candidates in elections, then by all means, do it! You’ll certainly have your chance on November 6. Elections, like so many other means in life, are avenues for the Church to flex the muscle of Law and Gospel and to live and serve and actually be the church in the world around us.

I’m Halfway Through My Life

I’m supposing that most of you are just like me and you get somewhat existential sometimes, almost feeling as though you’re hovering outside of your own body and contemplating certain things at certain times in life.

Okay, so maybe that’s an over-the-top description.

What I mean is that I turned 46 this past Friday, and while I suppose that’s no big deal, Jen and I somehow found ourselves talking about how I’m most likely more than halfway through my life.

Halfway. Just saying that out loud made us both a little tense.

The uneasy feeling came because, even though statistically speaking what we’d said may be true, the truth is that we are both well aware that neither of us knows the day or the hour. I doubt anyone at Our Savior expected to hear the news back in August of 2007 that our then 46-year-old pastor, William Thompson, had suddenly and unexpectedly died. I remember when Pastor Pies called me to tell me the news. It was as if my phone wasn’t working, as though the words coming through the wires had suddenly become scrambled and the phone needed to be shaken before replying, “Say that again, because what you just said didn’t make sense.”

Jen and I both agreed that we’re not afraid to die. The nervousness comes when we consider each other’s sadness, and the sadness of the kids. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, the sadness of Death is formidable. My brother Michael died back in July of 1995, but even so, the memories are still very vivid. I was there at his bedside when it arrived. I remember feeling as though the world had suddenly lost all of its oxygen. It was hard to breathe. And when I eventually found myself outside of that hospital room, it was as if the wind had stopped blowing and the days were already starting to fade from one to the next with hardly a memory of the sun rising or setting. For the longest time it felt like one long and never-ending day of aimless wandering.

None of us wants to experience such things. But we do. The wages for Sin is Death, plain and simple. One of the paychecks that comprises those wages is sadness.

But that verse doesn’t end so starkly. Paul adds, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). I think it’s great that anytime the Paul touches on the subject of Death, he almost always reminds us that we have a conqueror of the ghastly specter in Jesus. In fact, in the very next chapter, Paul does what I did this past weekend with Jennifer. He betrays a bit of nervousness when he considers the reality of his own binding to Death in his flesh. But he’s quick to recall Christ as his deliverer.

“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).

Still, there’s the sadness. And Jesus knows it’s real. He reveals the blast radius of Death’s sadness-inducing power in His own self while standing at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. He wept there. He wept because Death was not in the schematics for His world, and yet it wormed its way in through the tempter, Satan, and found a resilient foothold in the lives of every last man, woman, and child. But again, we do not see the Lord weeping without having first heard the promise of the conquering of Death and the gift of eternal life through faith in Him. He gave this very promise to Martha in the middle of her petrifying sadness. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He said to her. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” But then before the Lord makes His way to the tomb to call Lazarus out, He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?”

In the midst of that conversation with Jennifer a few nights ago, by the power of the Holy Spirit streaming through His Gospel alive within us, He asked us both this question. Martha’s answer was, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world.” In not so many words, that was our answer, too.

I pray that in those moments where you may be contemplating these heavier things—whether in the midst of a family crisis, struggling with your own health, or anything else that might bring to mind the reality of Death—I want to be there (for as long as the Lord allows me) to remind you of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for you. Death is always a moment of sadness. Nobody’s fooling anyone by saying it isn’t. But it is as anything conquered—in complete submission to its master. Christ has conquered Death. He has it on a chain that does not reach into your eternity. It’s trapped in this life, not the next. Take comfort in this.

And I suppose in the meantime, share this Gospel message with the ones who will be there at your funeral. Be sure they know that you believe it. Be sure they know that you have peace in this truth. Be sure that they know that you want that same peace for them. It’s not up to you to convert or convince their hearts, but you’ll know that same powerful Gospel that moves you to faith will have been planted in the ones you want within arm’s reach in the glories of heaven. In the face of inevitable Death, that can and does bring peace in this life, too.