Archive for the category “Marriage and Family”

Families in Turmoil

I know a family in turmoil. The mom and dad are at odds over the children; the younger brother has lied to and stolen from his older brother. He’s so crazy with rage that he’s plotting to murder his kid brother. And this same older brother, mad at his dad, too, finds out what really gets under the old man’s skin and sets out to do that very thing to spite him. And the younger brother—the thief and liar—is so scared for his life that he runs away from home.

I know this messed up family. And you probably do, too. Their names are Isaac and Rebecca, Esau and Jacob. Broken homes such as theirs, full of broken hearts, broken promises, anger, spite, guilt, and all kinds of nastiness, are nothing new.

Here is Jacob, the younger brother, the man on the run. Asleep with a rock for a pillow. Alone between a past full of deceit and a future fat with fear. And there, in the midnight of his sleep, he dreams a dream no mortal had ever dreamed before. A ladder stretching to the stars, the stairway of angels. Up to heaven and down to earth the angels go. From Jacob to God they ascend, from God to Jacob they descend. Here is a living bridge from creature to creator. And the Lord speaks, “I am the God of your grandfather, Abraham, the God of your dad, Isaac. And I am your God, too, Jacob.” He is a God with a past full of promises and a future full of their fulfillment. He doesn’t scold this sleeper for having had a deceitful past. He doesn’t give him a tongue-lashing for his theft. He promises him the very land on which Jacob lies; descendants as numerous as the grains of dust that are his bed; and most importantly, the God at the top of the ladder says, “I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Wow, that sounds sweet, doesn’t it? All these grand promises. But maybe you’re thinking: “Where’s God when I need a dream like that? Where’s God when my real life feels more like a nightmare—one that goes on and on and on? Jacob had it bad I suppose; but I tell you what, that runaway and I could compare scars. Let me tell you about my dysfunctional family. Let me tell you what it feels like to crave love from those closest to you and not get it. Let me tell you what’s it like to lie in bed at night and pray you don’t wake up in the morning just so all the pain will be over. Let me tell you not about my dreams but about my fear to dream, my fear to hope. Let me show you my scars.” Maybe that’s what you’re thinking.

If you are, let me tell you something. You may not believe it; you may even scoff at the claim, but here’s the truth: God hears your roar of pain on the other side of your silence. He counts every tear you let escape, or refuse to let go, from the ocean of anguish inside you. He is your God, too, as much as He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and that deceiving, stealing, runaway Jacob. And since He is your God, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, neither things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate you from the love He has for you in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing and no one.

And here’s the thing about God: He actually keeps His promises. For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. When you’ve made more stupid mistakes than even you can remember. When you’ve hurt virtually everyone who’s tried to love you. When you can barely stand to look at your face in the mirror because all you see is shame and failure staring back at you, mocking you. When it feels like you’ve wallowed in the mud of hell itself, you have a God who loves you. You have a God who cares. You have a God who will stand up publicly beside any man or any woman, embrace them, forgive them, and say to the world, “This is my child. I love him. I love her. And I defy you to say otherwise.” You have a God like that. You have a God who cannot and will not stop loving you and keeping you and dying to make you right.

These are grand promises, and they are as real as your pain and doubt and fear. But they are better, and stronger, because they are God’s grand promises, and He stands behind them. You want a dream like Jacob’s? You want a ladder and the pretty angels and God up top all strong and talking to you? You want too little. You need more than that. You need more than a dream. You need something concrete. And you got it.

You need a God who pushes the angels aside and climbs down the ladder. You need a God who doesn’t just make promises, but also keeps them, and who Himself becomes promise and fulfillment. You need a God who not only comes down that ladder from heaven, but also brings heaven with Him, who pulls heaven downward and lifts earth heavenward, and fuses the two together in His very own body. The God of heaven, the Man of earth, in one person, Jesus the Son of Mary, the Son of the Father.

You see greater things than Jacob saw. You see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. You see people with broken lives, from broken families, with broken and bleeding hearts, welcomed into the kingdom where they find peace that they dared not even dream existed this side of the grave. You see people whom society has rejected, whom friends have shunned, called friends of God, heirs of the kingdom, sons and daughters of the king. Do you see yourself there? There you are. That is who you are because of Christ Jesus.

Show your scars to Him and He will show you His. His scars endured to heal your own. He will take your scarred heart in his scarred hands and love you, and love you, and love you still more, until all that matters is not the scar upon your heart, but the scar embedded in His hand. All that will matter is not how hellish life can sometimes be, but rather how heaven itself is grasped in this God who came to earth to be Himself that ladder by which we ascend to the Father. He will wipe away your tears, cleanse you of your shame, embrace you as a member of His family, and tell you, “I am with you. I am Emmanuel. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and your God, now and unto ages of ages, and even forevermore.”

This meditation is an excerpt from my book, Christ Alone (see below).
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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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Married to the Cross in Divorce

sufferingdivorceThere are times when you feel like a spectator who views in slow motion the demolition of your life. Mini-explosions rock the foundations of everything that gave you meaning and purpose. Maybe it happens when you stare at the surreal spectacle of a coffin descending into raw earth, or the X-rays of a brain tumor, or the officer standing at your front door serving you papers for divorce. At those moments, it’s not like something inside you dies; it’s more like all of what’s inside you dies. What remains is a thin shell veiling a rapidly diminishing life.

There are no funeral rites for the corpse of a marriage, no official way to lay it to rest. So most of us make up our own. I did. Mine was a liturgy of whiskey and promiscuity, alternately screaming and crying toward heaven, and seeking salvation in every new girlfriend. One step forward, two steps back…or three, or four. All the while I was sinking a little deeper into the quicksand of sorrow.

I wish I were blowing things out of proportion. But I’m not; I’ve really only scratched the surface. For some of us, following divorce there are a string of debaucheries, flirtations with suicide, and grisly plans for revenge. Others self-medicate, hole up and lick their wounds, shun the opposite sex. Everyone reacts differently, but most of us react in ways we later shudder to recall. And like so many of life’s heartaches, unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to imagine the magnitude of the pain and the foolish things you’ll do in your quest for relief.

Maybe you’re thinking that I’m going to tell you that divorce made me a “better Christian.” But I don’t even know what that means. Better than what? Better than I had been? Better than other people? Better how? I wish I could tell you that through divorce I became a stronger person, but thank God I didn’t. If anything, my perceived “strength” is what paved the way for the destructive decisions that caused my divorce in the first place. If the death of my marriage revealed anything, it was my profound weaknesses.

What I do know is that divorce was for me, as it is for most of us, a process of unmasking—a slow peeling away of various lies. Unlike a Halloween mask, I had worn these masks for years, so long in fact that they had grafted to my skin.
The mask of “thank God I’m not as bad as those people are.”
The mask of “I have a happy marriage.”
The mask of “I never have any doubts about God.”
The mask of “I’ve fallen short, but not way short, of the glory of God.”
And my favorite mask: “I have everything under control.”

As the truthful realities of divorce scratch away at the face we exhibit to the world, one by one the layers diminish. What I discovered beneath was what I’d always claimed I had but never really believed: the face of a liar and cheat, a face pockmarked with pharisaism, a face as dirty as the filthiest sinner. What others discover beneath their chosen masks are faces flushed with anger, eroded by the weather of worry, or gargoyle-like monsters of hate. Whatever we find, they are faces only a God can love.

I don’t pretend to speak for everyone. But divorce was for me a blessed destruction, a splendid disaster. God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), to be sure, but through it he revealed other things he doesn’t think highly of either: like a haughty spirit, hypocrisy, lust, self-reliance, and on and on it goes. It took time, long dark years, for this blessed destruction to have its way with me, but God is more of a marathoner than a sprinter. I was in a hurry to be healed but he was not.

Who I ended up being was not a better Christian (whatever that means), not a better person, not a stronger person, but simply this: a man who grasps more fully that, in and of myself, I am nothing. I have zilch to offer God. I have nothing of my own to claim, except my faults. I have no strength, no righteousness, no moral pedigree to wow heaven. I am Jonah, sinking beneath the waves. I am Lazarus, dead and decomposing in a grave. I am a corpse in Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. I have and am nothing. And come to find out, once we realize that, be it through divorce or any other suffering in life, we are in the perfect position to gain everything.

In divorce God married me to the cross. I didn’t want it; indeed, I hated it. But upon my shoulders God laid it. The ring of nails. The veil of darkness. The kiss of death. When we are stripped of all the good we think we are and have, we come face to face with the evil within. We fight and wrestle and gasp and die and become nothing.

Then our Lord, who created everything out of nothing, says, “Now I have you exactly where I want you.” The only material that God really works with is nothing. He brings to nothing the things that are (1 Cor 1:28) that through this nothing he might show us that our everything is that one who is the source of our life, Christ Jesus, whom God makes our “wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1:30). He opens our eyes to see that we are not dead on a cross alone. We are part of a thorn-crowned Savior who became our everything. We die in him and life returns. We have no hope in ourselves but in him we receive hope of cosmic proportions. Our face, which only a God can love, the Father of love bends down and kisses. He bathes away our filth. He lifts up our downcast eyes. He gives us his own name. We are married to the cross, and there meet the bridegroom of our souls.

Like so many of the hardships in life, it is only in hindsight that we realize the hidden hand of God at work in our deepest woes. He is not making us stronger but is making us dead, that we might truly live in the strength that he provides. He is not making us better people but unveiling how bad we are that we may find in Christ the riches of our Father’s goodness.

Some people talk about life after divorce, but I prefer to talk about death after divorce: the death of self, the death of masks, the death of a sham existence in which we pretend we’ve got this life thing figured out. Unless we die, there is no resurrection. When we die to those things worthy of death, we find him who is the resurrection and the life. And we find in him all those things—and more!—that we searched for apart from him. Things like joy. Things like peace. Things like hope and healing and love and meaning and purpose. All these are in Christ, and they are ours.

If you are facing a divorce, going through one, or recovering from one, let me tell you the most important thing: Christ will not and cannot sever you from himself. The sun will lose its light, the water its wetness, the night its dark before that happens. He counts the hairs on your head, every tear you shed is so precious to him that he collects them in a bottle (Matt 10:30; Ps 56:8). Like Zion, your image is engraved on the palms of his hands (Isa 49:16), your name tattooed on his heart. You will not always feel his love, but his love clasps you in its strong arms. You will probably feel abandoned by God, but he will never leave you, never forsake you. As you bear this cross, you bear it not alone, but in him who is the crucified and risen Savior. He is for you. He is faithful. He has married you to himself with a love larger than heaven.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

When Your Children Stray from the Church

emptypewsJames and Holly may not have been perfect parents, but they did the best they could when rearing their daughter and two sons. The kids never had to worry about where the next meal was coming from. They attended good schools, had good friends, made some good childhood memories. More importantly, James and Holly made sure church was part of their children’s weekly life. All three were baptized and confirmed. They were at Sunday School, VBS, and weekly church services. These parents trained up their children in the way they should go, as Proverbs 22 says. And now that they are old, they have not departed from it.

Actually, only one of them hasn’t. Their oldest son is still active in his local parish. But their youngest son and their daughter—they may go to church when Easter rolls around, but even then, they usually stay home. For James and Holly, it’s more than disappointing; it’s a deep ache that won’t go away. They stress over if and how they failed as parents. They’re worried sick not only about their children, but about their grandchildren who are growing up unbaptized, untaught, with little or no knowledge of God and what He’s done for us in Christ.

These parents are far from alone. Scattered throughout all denominations are moms and dads whose greatest disappointment in life is that their children have seemingly abandoned the faith. And they’re all wondering the same things: Why? Where did we go wrong as parents? And what can we do to bring our children back to church?

This is a hard struggle with no easy fix, but perhaps the following reflections will prove helpful. This is not a to-do list. It is written for your consolation and encouragement as you bear this cross. You are welcome to add your own thoughts in the comment section below.

  1. The water of baptism never evaporates. If your children were baptized, either as infants or when they were older, they cannot become unbaptized. God the Father made them His children in that Gospel-saturated water. And because He did it, it remains a perfect, saving work. They can try to walk away from their baptism, but that’s as impossible as walking away from gravity. Yes, sadly, they can deny or reject what God has done for them in these saving waters, but even then, the fact they are baptized as God’s son or daughter remains as true as ever. God loves them. He baptized them. He claimed them as His own. If and when you can, remind them of this beautiful truth. It is the kindness of God, it is the baptismal love of the Father in Christ, that will lead them to repentance and the Father’s house once more.
  1. Even a tiny faith has the full Christ. One of the most comforting verses in all the Scriptures is Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed He will not break; and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” Our Father is not the kind of God who weeds people out of His kingdom who don’t have faith that is quite up to par. Quite the opposite. Bruised reeds and smoldering wicks are especially beloved of God because of their fragility. He leaves the ninety-nine sheep to scour the hills for a single, lost lamb. Your child is precious to God. And even if a spark of faith remains, that spark holds within it the full fire of the Father’s forgiveness. Bruised reeds belong to God as much as solid oaks. Do not assume that because your children are not attending church that they don’t believe anymore. I was that child once. I was fighting an inward battle with God; I didn’t like His church or, for that matter, many churchgoers. Outwardly, it may have seemed that in me there was nothing but darkness, but on the inside there was at least a smoldering candle of faith. And that faith held the full, forgiving, faithful Christ.
  1. Even if we are faithless, God remains faithful. One of my favorite poems is “The Hound of Heaven” in which the poet describes his inward flight from God. “Down the night and down the days…down the labyrinthine ways,” he fled from his Father. Yet God doggedly pursued him; He showed him through life’s struggles and losses that all the happiness this man pursued was found in Him who gives all things. God is like that. “If we are faithless, He remain faithful—for He cannot deny Himself,” (2 Timothy 2:13). He cannot deny that He is our Father. If you, as an earthly parent, are worried about the spiritual welfare of your children, just think of how much more your heavenly Father is concerned. Your children mean infinitely more to Him than they do to you. Even if they are faithless, He will remain faithful in His loving pursuit of them.
  1. Your Christian Life Makes an Impact. When I stopped going to church, my parents did not. Although I would never have admitted it back then, the sheer fact of their continued fidelity to Christ meant something to me. Never downplay the impact that your example provides to your children, even if they are grown and leading lives of their own now. You are still their mom and dad. And there is within most of us an eye that never completely stops looking to our parents for guidance, for love, for approval, for acceptance. Even in the worst-case scenario, if our children do not believe anymore, let us continue to believe, to pray, to be an example for them. We pray for them, the whole church on earth and in heaven prays for them, and even Christ Himself prays to the Father in the Holy Spirit for them.
  1. Grace and grace alone will sustain and heal both parents and children. God’s grace in Christ is not only for your children; it is for you, too. Those bruises on your soul that no one can see, where you’ve beat yourself up about your children straying from church, Christ’s blood is a healing medicine for them, too. Chances are, even if your actions had nothing to do with your children’s decisions, you still feel like you share part of the blame. The all-encompassing grace of Christ covers all your guilt, real and false. He became our mistakes, our failures, on the cross, so that we become in Him exactly as the Father wants us to be. Your guilt, real or imagined, is no longer yours; it belongs to Jesus. In Him, God declares you a perfect parent, free of sin, free of guilt. Remember, you have a parent, too, a heavenly Father, whose love and concern for you is boundless. You are and will ever remain His child. And your children are and will ever remain His children. Be still and know that He is your Father—the kind of Father who spends all day and all night doing nothing but thinking of, smiling upon, and showering His grace down onto you.

Speaking to Jerusalem, His beloved city, God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me,” (Isaiah 49:15-16). The same is true for you and for your children. God will not, and has not, forgotten you. The face of your children is engraved upon the hands of the Father. The nail scars in the hands of Jesus spell out your name, and the names of your sons and daughters. We are all in His hands.

Even if your children stray from church, Jesus Christ will never stray from them. Even now, He seeks them out, calling them by name, for they are His lambs, more precious to Him than anything in heaven or on earth. I pray that love, the love of the Good Shepherd, may be your peace as well as your hope.

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christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Dad Who Didn’t Have to Be a Dad: Even God Needed a Father

It’s one of my favorite family pictures. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on a couch are my granddad, my dad, me, and my son. A four-generation snapshot: Lee Roy to Carson to Chad to Luke. You can spy the DNA doing its thing; you can trace the lineage trickling down from face to face. Each father cradled each son on the day he bawled his way into this world. He gazed into that tiny face and saw mirrored there his own. “Here is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” we all thought. Here, in this baby, is half of me, half of my wife. The Bible says Adam fathered “a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Gen 5:3), and ever afterward, we dads have been following suit.

josephBut not one father. He peered into a baby’s face on the night of his nativity, but he saw there no hint of his own eyes or the shape of his nose or the contours of his jaw. That boy would learn to crawl, then to walk, but His gait was nothing like the gait of Joseph. No old woman ever said, “That Jesus is the spitting image of His daddy.” For Mary’s husband couldn’t spy his DNA doing its thing. Half of him was not in Jesus. He is indeed called the boy’s father (Luke 2:33), but Joseph and Mary and Jesus Himself knew that a paternity test would yield negative results. When Jesus met people, and they asked where He was from and who His dad was, little did they realize what loaded questions those were.

It wasn’t the seed of Joseph that was planted in Mary’s womb, but when that baby was born; when Herod sent soldiers to murder Him; when the family had to flee the country; when they made the long journey home; when they needed a roof over their heads and sandals on their feet and food on their table, Joseph was the man to get it done. When baby Jesus filled His diaper with poop, Joseph wiped the divine butt and put a clean diaper on Him. When Jesus took His first wobbly steps, Joseph laughed with Mary as those divine legs learned how to walk. He taught Him to say aleph, bet, gimel as Jesus learned His Hebrew ABCs. This carpenter showed the Lord of all how to hew down and fashion into lumber the very trees He had planted at the dawn of creation. Joseph was not the father of Jesus, but then again, he was the father of Jesus. Jesus was the true offspring of the heavenly Father, very God of very God, begotten not made, but even the Son of God needed a daddy.

That’s one of the reasons why, when I see Joseph, I see God hallowing fatherhood. The Son that He is sending into this world will need more than a mother; He needs a father. As great a blessing as Mary was to our Savior, loving and caring for Him as mothers do, Joseph was equally a blessing to Him. Call him the foster father to Jesus; the adoptive father; the stand-in father; whatever you wish: the Bible simply called Joseph “His father,” (Luke 2:33). For so he was in every way except biologically.

Joseph is God’s way of reminding us that fatherhood is not a hobby but a vocation—a calling that is both sacred and life-encompassing. God hallows fatherhood, makes it holy, something that is set apart and special to Him. For in it He both conceals and reveals His own fatherhood to us. As Joseph protected his family, led them, worked for them, cared for them, taught them, he was but a mask for the Father in heaven who used Joseph as His hands and feet and mouth to care for the Savior and His mother. So my father was to me, and so I strive to be for my own family. If even the Son of God needed a daddy, I know that my son does, my daughter does. Do I fail? Yes, all the time. Do I fail miserably at times? Yes, I most certainly do. Every father does. Since Joseph was a flawed human being, he screwed up sometimes when he was a father to Jesus. But God forgives, covers our weaknesses with the cloak of His grace, and continues to use us as His masks to care for those whom He has placed in our care.

Joseph is also God’s way of reminding us fathers that our children are, from conception onward, divine gifts to us. Whether we are their biological fathers, adoptive fathers, foster or step-fathers, “children are a gift from the LORD,” (Psalm 127:3). As such, they always remain, first and foremost, God’s children. Every child has two fathers, one on earth and one in heaven. And, no matter what DNA is woven into their cells, it is the heavenly Father that defines who they are. They are not ours to do with as we please, but as God pleases. So we bring them to their Father’s house where He baptizes them into the divine family. We bring them, perhaps kicking and screaming at times, to their Father’s house, where He talks to them in His word, tells them about Himself, tell them about themselves, and draws them ever closer to Him. We teach them at home, in the car, wherever we might be, about the Father who loves them so much that He sent His own Son to be born into a human family, to live and to die and to rise again, that they might receive the gifts of life and salvation. We are all Joseph—all masks of the heavenly Father by which He cares for the children He has given to us.

I suppose that Joseph could have divorced Mary when he discovered she was a pregnant with a child that was not his own. He could have refused to believe the angel who told him in a dream that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25). He could have hightailed it to save his own skin when he learned that Herod’s men were on their way to Bethlehem, swords in hand. He could have abandoned the family in Egypt. He didn’t have to be the dad he was, but he indeed was. He had a sacred calling. He was the husband of Mary, the father of Jesus, the mask of God.

This Christmas, as you see that man in the nativity scene, kneeling by the virgin, say a prayer of thanks for him. And say a prayer of thanks for all fathers, for we struggle, we fail, and we try again to live out our vocations. Some of us do better than others, some worse, but we all live by grace of Jesus, who lived and died for Joseph, for Mary, for all of us. If all children are a gift from the Lord, then the Christ Child is The Gift. In Him we are all the children of a Father who is truly faithful and has made us His own in that tiny babe of Bethlehem.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, please check out the two books that I now have on sale. From now to the end of 2014, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons and The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems, are on sale for an additional 25% off through CreateSpace. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. When you check out, enter this code, YLECQSWE, for the discount. Thank you!

Everything I Needed to Know About Vocation I Learned at the Lord’s Supper

On my mother’s Sunday table was a feast fit for a southern king: fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, hot buttered rolls, pecan pie, and plenty of other country delicacies. Back then, eating at a Chinese restaurant was about as cross-cultural an experience as I could imagine. Over the years, I’ve expanded the horizons of my palate to sample everything from Iranian to Indian to Russian cuisine. And most of it, while no match to my momma’s cooking, has pleased my palate. However, I do live by a strict rule: when I’m about to try a new cultural restaurant, I never go alone. I take along a food-wise friend. I lean on him for advice about what to order, what combination of foods is best, what drinks complement the entree, and even how to eat (with my fingers? a fork? a piece of bread?). The meal, in addition to a culinary experience, also becomes a learning experience.

The meal at which I have learned the most, however, was not at a restaurant but a church. There’s no need for a menu because everyone receives and consumes the same items. The conversation around the table is minimal. I eat, then drink, while on my knees. Outwardly, the meal is spartan, hardly sufficient to ease a man’s hunger or slake his thirst, but inwardly the meal is regal, feeding a man’s hunger with the only food that satisfies, slaking his thirst with a drink that puts to shame the finest of wines. At this meal of meals, the supper of Jesus, He serves me Himself. And in so doing, He also teaches me something profoundly important. As He feeds me His body, as He pours in me His blood, I learn how to be a father, a husband, a son, a citizen, a worker. Everything I need to know about vocation I learn at the Lord’s Supper.

Vocation: More Than What We Do For a Living

Let me explain what I mean by first clarifying what I mean by vocation. We usually understand vocation in a very narrow sense; it’s your job, your “calling.” Vocation, however, is not so much what you do for a living but what Christ does through you for the living. It’s a 24/7 calling, not a 9 to 5 occupation. A child’s vocation is to be a son or daughter to parents; a spouse’s vocation is to be a husband to his wife, a wife to her husband. And, of course, if you have a job, that too is a vocation, whether you’re a priest or policeman, carpenter or accountant. In each of these vocations, you have people to love, to serve, to take care of. Yet—and this is of the utmost importance—it is not so much you who serve your neighbor as Christ who serves your neighbor through you. You have been crucified with Jesus on the cross of baptism, so that it is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you (Gal 2:20). It is no longer you who are a wife but Jesus who is a wife through you; no longer you who are a teacher, but Jesus who is a teacher through you. Your vocation, as with your identity, is bound up in Him.

Permitting Ourselves to be Eaten and Drunk

Whatever vocation God has given to you, you learn what that calling is all about at the Lord’s Supper. Just as He gives Himself to you in this meal, so He goes on to give Himself through you to your neighbor in your vocation. He pours the blood of His love into your body and then pours Himself through you into others as you faithfully serve in your vocations. Luther puts it this way:

Now this is the fruit [of the Lord’s Supper], that even as we have eaten and drunk the body and blood of Christ the Lord, we in turn permit ourselves to be eaten and drunk, and say the same words to our neighbor, Take, eat and drink…meaning to offer yourself with all your life, even as Christ did with all that he had. (Sermons of Martin Luther; trans. and ed. J. N. Lenker; Grand Rapids: Baker; Volume 2:208)

We eat the Lord by the faith of the Word which the soul consumes and enjoys. In this way my neighbor also eats me: I give him my goods, body, and life and all I have, and let him consume and use it in his want. Likewise I also need my neighbor; I too am poor and afflicted, and suffer him to help and serve me in turn. Thus we are woven one into the other, helping one another even as Christ helped us. (2:213)

familyaltarrailTherefore, when I kneel beside my wife at the altar rail, there Christ also shows me how to be a husband to her. Just as Jesus loved the church and gave Himself up for her, uniting His body with her own in this meal, so I should love my wife as my own body, nourish and cherish our united body, even as Christ does for the church (Eph 5:25, 28-29). When I kneel beside my son and daughter, there Christ shows me how to be a father to them. Just as Jesus feeds and cares for me in this Supper, clothes me with His righteousness, so I in turn care for my children by giving myself wholly to them in my vocation as their dad.

In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord holds nothing back. He gives us His life. He gives us His forgiveness. He gives us Himself. When we return to the pew, then later go out to our cars and drive home, then awake Monday morning to go about our various callings, we still carry Jesus with us. Unlike every other meal, wherein we digest the food and turn it into ourselves, in the Lord’s Supper the food turns us into itself. Jesus transforms our bodies into His. We become as He is. So whatever we do, we do in and through and with Jesus. Or, as I prefer to say it, Jesus does it in and through and with us. We become His lips to speak, His hands to work, His feet to walk. Just as He gave us Himself in the Supper on Sunday, so He gives Himself to others through us in our vocations every day of the week.

The next time you change your baby’s diaper, or make a sales call, or nail a shingle to the roof, remember this: just as Jesus has hidden Himself under those simple forms of bread and wine, so He hides Himself under the simple acts of your vocation. And just as He gave Himself to you in such simple profundity, so He continues to give Himself to others through you in the simple, but profound, acts of your vocation. When all is said and done, everything you need to know about vocation was learned at the Lord’s Supper.

ChristAloneCoverIf this reflection was a blessing to you, please take a moment to check out my book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon.

You may also be interested in my two other books. The Infant Priest is a collection of hymns and poems. These give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. It is available at this website or on Amazon.com.  I also just published Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing. This booklet is a clear and concise explanation of the place of hymns in worship. To buy your print copy, click on the link here for CreateSpace or Amazon. It is also available as a Kindle edition here. If you wish to purchase bulk copies at a reduced rate for your congregation, Bible Class group, Board of Elders or Deacons, please send me an email at birdchadlouis@yahoo.com for more information. Thank you very much for your interest!

The Affair

theaffairThere are times when a man and a woman, even though they’re good people, even though they’re both married and committed to their respective spouses, even though these spouses love them, find themselves falling in love with another person whom they think is their soulmate. It isn’t planned. They’re not looking to cheat. But out of the blue they meet someone else and begin thinking, “I might be happier with this other person.” Then they have a choice to make.

That, at least, is the premise of the new Showtime drama, “The Affair,” which began airing earlier this month (October 12). One of the co-creators of the show, Sarah Treem, told Hitfix, “The idea [for the show] was that you’re in a marriage, you love your wife, she’s a good woman, you’re a good man. You have kids and then you meet somebody by chance who [sic] you think is your soul mate. What do you do?”

Yes, that is the pressing question: what do you do? To begin with, you drop the pretense that you’re still being faithful. You’re not. If you:
(1) “fall in love” with another person;
(2) confuse “falling in love” with real love;
(3) know the other person so well that you think he/she is your soulmate;
(4) are already imagining that life with the other person might make you happy
then you may not have opened your bedroom to that person but your heart is already a mess of tangled sheets. So it’s not a question of whether you will begin an affair, but whether you will escape from the one you’re already in.

There are countless articles and books about how to “Affair-Proof” your marriage, complete with lists of five or ten or twenty things to do to protect your marriage from infidelity. And many of these have helpful suggestions. I’m not writing another such list. What I want to urge is one main point, one truth that undergirds so much of this discussion: affairs don’t begin with lust, or discontent with your spouse, or boredom in a long-term relationship. Affairs always begin by believing lies.

Falling in Love is Not Love

Chief among these delusions is that “falling in love” is the same as loving the other person. As I’ve written about elsewhere, “falling in love” has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with love. No exceptions. It is not the prelude to love, nor the foundation of love, nor the ongoing nurture of love. What we term “falling in love” is stumbling into a state of emotional bliss with another person. True love, on the other hand, is the willful choice to act selflessly for another person, to commit yourself to that person, regardless of the emotional ups and downs. A man and woman who commit adultery together cannot love each other. It’s impossible. That’s like saying two people who are stabbing each other are giving life to each other. If they loved each other, they wouldn’t be harming each other through adultery, harming their spouses and children, and living a lie. Adultery begins in selfishness, continues in selfishness, and breeds yet more selfishness. It is not, and cannot be, a relationship of love. They may mouth the words, “I love you,” but what they really mean is, “You are meeting my selfish emotional needs and I am meeting yours. We are using each other.” In “The Affair,” Noah and Alison will “fall in love” but they cannot, by definition, love each other.

With a Soulmate Like That…

A second delusion, so often believed by men and women who travel the adultery road, is that they’ve found their soulmate. They think that fate has led them to that one person, within the vast sea of humanity, whose soul is a perfect match for their own. Now, leaving aside the fact that soulmates are a figment of a romantic’s imagination, that no such thing even exists, let’s assume for a moment that they do. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that all of us have this soulmate out there, just waiting for us to meet them. Would such a person, so intimately bound to you, presumably wanting only what is best for you, actively encourage and participate with you in breaking the oaths you swore to your spouse, assist you in ripping your family to shreds, and become one flesh with you in a union God Himself condemns? If that’s what these closest of confidants do, then perhaps C. S. Lewis should have named his bestseller The Soulmate Letters. If you’re married, you have a mate. And that mate has a soul as well as a body. Your spouse is your bodymate, your soulmate, your heartmate—the whole shebang. No one else is. You left your father and your mother to become one flesh with your husband or wife. You are no longer two, but one. To look elsewhere for this fictional soulmate is to deny that God has joined you to another person already in holy matrimony.

Fantasizing About Adultery is Adultery

Finally, the third delusion is that you can fantasize about having an affair without actually committing adultery. You can live out your fantasy vicariously through Noah and Alison in “The Affair,” or Robert and Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County, or through the million other books and movies that revolve around this theme. But, of course, you don’t need media for these mental games. You can daydream about what you’d like to do with that guy from work who is always flirting with you. You can close your eyes while you’re having sex with your wife and imagine she is that newfound friend that’s stirring feelings within you that you thought had died long ago. The heart is the bed where most adultery takes place. As Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart,” (Matthew 5:27-28). If you’re imagining that life with the other person might make you happy; if you’re romanticizing about him or her; then you have already betrayed your spouse. You have willfully chosen to adulterate in your heart. And your heart has your body on a leash; where your heart goes, your body is sure to follow.

Escaping from the Lies

Affairs always begin by believing lies. They dress themselves up as sexy lies, beautiful lies, fun lies, but beneath this lovely veneer there is the stinking, rotting, worm-infested corpse of adultery that your lips seek to kiss.

Affairs are all about lies—lies that ultimately destroy. Christ is all about truth, and true love, the kind of love that pursues even the rebellious to bring them finally to repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. He did that for me. And He wants it for all who have entangled themselves in the web of adultery. There is healing, and that healing is in His wounds. There is new life, and that new life is in His death and resurrection.

If affairs always begin by believing lies, then repentance always begins by believing the truth: the truth that you are in the wrong, the truth that you have a God who loves you in Jesus Christ, and the truth that He and He alone can save you not only from adultery but from every sin that seeks to lead you down the path of destruction.

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, please take a moment to check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

Honest Parenting: Tell Children the “Dreadful Beauty” of Painful Truths

truthNo one knew that she was a woman, let alone expecting a child, except her husband. They were Chinese indentured servants, clearing terrain and shoveling tunnels through the California mountains for the coming railroads. She had disguised herself so that she could be with him whom she loved. There, side by side, they worked, she growing weaker as her time drew near. The labor pangs came early, when she was surrounded by men—gangs of men who had not even seen a woman, much less been with a woman, in months. Her husband, his leg recently broken in an accident, shattered the bone again running to her, trying to get to her before the men did. By the time he drug himself up the slope of shale to where she lay, his wife was able only to mutter a few last words. From the tattered body of his dying wife, he clawed out their living child with his fingernails.

That child, Lee, told this story of his mother and father, and his own nightmarish entrance into this world of evil and lust and redemption, to Adam, in John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden. Even when he was a little boy, his father had not hidden the truth from him. As he told Lee the story, he would say, “There’s more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar,” (Chapter 28).

I read that passage years ago, and for some reason it remained lodged deep in my memory. Never did I dream then that I would think of it when it came time to talk to my own child, to my daughter, about a chapter from our common past that is punctuated with pain. Unlike Lee, it has nothing to do with my child’s entrance into this world, but rather with the entrance of rebellion into my own life—a rebellion that left her world, my world, and the world of my whole family shattered. It was a personal war, of me against God, but such fights are never merely personal. They always result in collateral damage, as the carnage of destroyed innocence and shredded families tearfully attests.

My daughter’s honest, pointed question of “Why?” not only desired an answer; it deserved and demanded the “dreadful beauty” of an honest response. There is always the temptation to “twist life”, especially when the truth unveils the monster of egocentricity whose filthy lair is in the human heart. The temptation is doubled because it is so easy to tell ourselves that we withhold the truth to protect the innocent, all the while knowing it is only ourselves we strive to protect. To plumb the unfathomable depths of human selfishness is perhaps the most frightening exploration possible for man. It is, and will ever remain, the “last frontier”, into which we rarely, and barely, set foot, for none of us truly wants to discover what is there.

There is, of course, room for debate about what is appropriate to tell children, and at what age. I recognize the need for wisdom and prudence, even when it comes to honesty. Certainly not everyone would have chosen the way of Lee’s father. Nor, perhaps, would they have chosen the way of my daughter’s father. I can tell you, however, that I am intimately acquainted with the world of half-truths, and full-blown lies, and it is not a world I will live in again.

The storytellers at the city gate, who teach nothing, cure nothing, nor let the heart soar, may make life look sweet, but they sugar-coat poison. The truth will always emerge, and when it is does, the liar is not only made to look the fool; he is often despised for fooling others. The way of truth is always the way of the wise. It is the way of our Father above, and so it is the way of fathers here, even when the truth is dreadful.

I would rather rear a child in the desert of truth, then raise a fool in the paradise of a lie.

ChristAloneCoverIf you have a minute, check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

The Polygamous, Incestuous, Murderous Collection of Screw-ups God Called the Holy Family

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy

dysfunctionalfamilyThere is a uniqueness to unhappiness, as Tolstoy rightly observed, a sad fingerprint left by each family that is like no other. And it’s rarely as simplistic as outsiders usually assume. “Oh, it’s that alcoholic father who’s ruined that family.” Or, “Yeah, it’s that cheatin’ wife of his.” Or, “it’s them dope-smoking kids.” Maybe the husband turns to alcohol as an escape because his wife nags him, belittles him, and makes him feel worthless. Maybe the wife sleeps with other men because they give her the illusion of attraction, while her husband says she’s fat, never touches her, and makes her feel as undesirable as a wrinkled whore. And this merely scratches the surface. Dig down deep into any unhappy family, and you’re likely to unearth layer upon layer of manipulation, abuse, neglect, grudges, and horrors which have no name.

Joseph came from a family like that. His dad, Jacob, was married to two women, having sex with two more, and fathering children by them all. I don’t need to tell you that, in a household where four women are sleeping with one man, jealousy was thick. Each wife was trying to out-pregnant the other, and even enlisted their maid-servants as sexual pinch hitters to try and make even more babies. To add to the mess, Joseph’s brother, Reuben, slept with one of those maid-servants as well, father and son sowing their seed in the same womb, brother sleeping with his other brothers’ mom. Still more, after one of the daughters was raped in a nearby town, the sons rose to avenge their sister with bloodshed, all the while incensed at their father who didn’t want to ruffle any feathers over the incident. And, finally, the jealousy of the wives filtered down to the sons, especially when Jacob made it abundantly clear that Joseph, the firstborn of his favorite wife, Rachel, was his favorite son and the one who would inherit his blessing. If every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, then Joseph’s family had plenty of ways of breeding more unhappiness.

Some of you reading this come from an unhappy family, or you’re living in that unhappy family right now. Maybe you’re wondering if there’s any possible way God could glue back together the shards of your shattered family unity. Maybe you suspect things are so bad that God has washed His hands of your marriage and children. Or maybe you’ve simply given up hope; you feel defeated; you’re tired of pushing that boulder uphill, only to watch it roll down again. The pains and disappointments in life are teaching you the hard truth that God has a warm place in His heart for happy families, while unhappy ones are left shivering through winter after winter of divine absence.

If so, consider this: Joseph’s family—that polygamous, incestuous, jealous, murderous, motley crew of screw-ups—was in fact the holy family that God chose and dearly loved. This family was the foundation of the church of the Old Testament. Those twelve brothers, reared by one deceitful father and four bickering mothers, who were constantly fighting amongst themselves, were the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. This microcosm of humanity, in which just about every evil and sin was exemplified, was nevertheless beloved of God and chosen by Him to carry forward the promise of redemption. This was the family whose DNA would eventually find its way into a baby boy born to a virgin in the little town of Bethlehem. The Savior of the world would come from Joseph’s family; indeed, his foster father would bear that patriarch’s name. From this unhappy family would arise the one whose coming would prompt the church to sing, “Joy to the world!”

So is God interested only in happy families? No, if anything, He seems to be the patron God of lost causes. For him, there is no family, no family member, who is beyond hope. He is the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one lost lamb. He is the father who dashes from his house and runs like a madman to throw his loving arms around the prodigal son. He is the Christ who suffers with you through every family fight, holds you when you cry yourself to sleep in a lonely bed, sits beside you in divorce court, visits your child with you when she’s in rehab. He has bound Himself to you and your family. That doesn’t mean He approves of the evil that takes place; what it means is that He is not a God who runs away when things get ugly. He might even get ugly Himself sometimes, show tough love to those who need it, but behind that divine scowl of reproof is a heart of love that beats with a ferocious compassion. He will not give up on you or your family. Inked into God’s skin is the name of every person in your family. He bears your family in His own body.

Every unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, but no family is beyond redemption, beyond the recovery of joy, beyond the love of the heavenly Father. Because every unhappy family is the family for whom Jesus Christ died. For Joseph’s family, for your family, the Son of God came from His Father, was born of a mother, was raised by a foster father, that He might redeem every member of your family, and make them members of an everlasting family known as the church. With Jesus Christ, no family is a lost cause.

ChristAloneCoverIf this reflection was helpful to you, and you’d like to read more–many more–like it, then take a look at my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

And the Three Shall Become One Flesh? Men’s Sexual Fantasies and Christ’s Saving Reality

mandaydreamingWhen the mind is at play, especially when there are no teachers, no rules, no fences in the mental playground, when the brain is free to do whatever tickles its fancy, we wander into that realm called fantasy. I don’t have to tell you to try it sometime; most of us do it every day, without even realizing it’s happening. Maybe on the drive to work. Maybe during a boring lecture. Maybe when our head hits the pillow. When there’s nothing we must think about, we are prone to think about what we like, what we fear, or what we desire.

I don’t have a woman’s mind, so I can’t speak for you ladies. But I have plenty of personal knowledge of what happens inside a brain that drives a body fueled with testosterone. For us—for me anyway, and I think for most men—our fantasy playground almost always has a bed as its central feature. What happens in that fantasy bed, and with whom it happens, varies from man to man. There are plenty of lists on the web for the top ten sexual fantasies of men, and I’m sure that Cosmo has devoted at least a gazillion recycled articles to this subject, so there’s no need to give you a string of examples. What is revealing is to take your own go-to fantasy and de-fantasize it. Ask yourself what that fantasy reveals about you, your view of sex, and, by extension, your belief about love. Your fantasy may be fantasy, but fantasies unearth real desires; and real desires direct the heart; and the heart, when it steers our life in certain directions, can easily drive us straight off the cliff of destruction.

Let me give you just one example, a very common example of a male sexual fantasy: the threesome. Contrary to appearances, contrary to what men may think they’re daydreaming about, this mini-orgy is not really about getting a double female portion to satiate the sexual appetite. What a man wants is not so much two women, but a twofold increase in his own perceived level of personal machismo. His penis is nothing but a tool with which he boosts his own ego. He feels sexier, stronger, more desirable.

Now what’s most revealing is that the threesome is not really about sex at all, at least, not sex as understood biblically, according to the will of the One who created sex. This is a man-becoming-god fantasy. It’s about the self, the male self, in a scenario in which he is the deity of his self-created brand of sex. What the true God made isn’t good enough for him. He wants not the two, but the three to become one flesh. He doesn’t want fidelity; he doesn’t want a lifelong, wedded union with one wife who is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and mother of their children. So he creates in his fantasy a new Eden in which he is the Lord of two Eves, who are crafted not from his rib but from his ego, made to serve his selfish desires.

Here is a fantasy that, when stripped of its seemingly overt sexuality, is but one more example of man’s ongoing attempt to break the first commandment in new, creative ways. “You shall have no other gods,” God says, and we, spurred on by the prohibition, roll up our sleeves and get to work fashioning gods like there’s no tomorrow. The mind is an idol-making machine, so the mind that fantasizes about sex is prone to make gods that are gilded with sensuality. Amongst the many dangers here, two come to mind. The most obvious is that God threatens to punish all who break His commandments. And His punishment is no fantasy; it is man’s worst nightmare.

The second danger is that the more man entertains sexual fantasies that denigrate the divine gift that sex actually is, the more prone he will be to make those daydreams into reality. Oh, he will kid himself into thinking, “Hey, all I’m doing is in my head. It’s fantasy. No harm in that.” But fantasies sprinkle salt into an already thirsty mouth. It’s only a matter of time before he decides he must take that drink, when what a man is doing in his head becomes what he’s doing in his bed. And if his fantasy, like so many of them, is nothing more than an idolatrous usurpation of sex to serve his own selfish cravings, then he will destroy his own soul and, if married, bring untold harm upon the woman whom he has sworn to love and cherish till death parts them.

There’s a verse from a hymn that I return to again and again in my own internal struggles with this:

If some lust in current fashion
Rises like a fiery flood,
Draw me to your cross and Passion,
Quench the fire, Lord, by your blood.
Lest I to the tempter yield,
Let me front him with the shield,
Thorn-crowned, blood-marked tree displaying,
Sign the devils find dismaying.
(“Grant, Lord Jesus, that My Healing” Lutheran Worship, 95).

While that “thorn-crowned, blood-marked tree” is indeed a shield against temptation, it is much more. It is the place where fantasy meets reality, where man comes eye-to-eye with true, real love. The kind of love that gives all, nothing held back. The kind of love that doesn’t even know what self-serving might mean for all it does is serve the other. This is God-love, pure love, the only real love in our whole wide world for it is pure, unadulterated, unfiltered. On that thorn-crowned, blood-marked tree God loved us out of our fantasies and into His reality; loved us out of sin and into salvation; loved us out of our rebellion and into His redemption.

In Jesus, baptized into Him, we become one flesh with God Himself. And in that union is true contentment, for there is no want. When we have God, we have all, for we have Him who is our everything. We have forgiveness for our sexually twisted minds, forgiveness for our sexually twisted acts, forgiveness full and free. And in its place, in that gap left by sin, there is the fullness of Christ, who inhabits our bodies even as we inhabit His, bone of each other’s bone, flesh of each other’s flesh. It is gift, all gift, from Him who rescues us from ourselves and remakes us in His image and likeness.

Better than any fantasy, better than any daydream, is the reality that I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.

If you’d like to read more reflections like this one, check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. If you’re looking for feel-good, saccharine devotional material, you’d better keep looking because you’re not going to find it here. If you’re looking for moralistic guides to the victorious Christian life, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed by all the Gospel in this book. But if you’re looking for reflections drenched in the Scriptures, focused through and through on the saving work of Jesus Christ, and guided by a law-and-Gospel approach to proclamation, then I daresay you’ll be pleased with this book. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

Stop Calling Sex Safe

I wrote this article for The Federalist, to share the approach I’ve taken with my children when it comes to talking with them about sex. Here is the introduction, with a link below to the full article.

There are moments in each child’s life that remain vivid in the memories of their parents, even years later. I remember my daughter leaning against the couch, literally wringing her hands as she mustered the courage to take her first steps. Her first day of kindergarten, though more than a decade ago, is almost as memorable as yesterday. These are, of course, sweet recollections. But mingled with these pleasant remembrances are others that remind us just how challenging parenting can be.

One of those challenges confronted me in the form of an innocent question. When my daughter was about eight years old, out of the blue she asked me, “Daddy, what is sex?” My first thought was, “Hey, wait a minute—I’m supposed to bring up that subject when I’m ready to discuss it, not her!” Rather than dodging the question, however, I did answer it, in a way I thought befit her age. But it was difficult to do, not because the topic embarrassed me, or made me feel uncomfortable, but because I knew how important this discussion was. I wanted to choose my words with the same careful skill with which an artist selects colors for his painting; this was no time for an answer akin to verbal graffiti.

We had that conversation almost a decade ago. My daughter and my son are going through those tumultuous teenager years now. As they’ve grown older, when other opportunities have presented themselves, I’ve spoken with them more about sex. In fact, I’ve discussed the contents of this article with them. It doesn’t get much easier, but it gets even more necessary, especially as they have begun to interact more and more relationally with the opposite sex. My voice may have to compete with the cacophony of media and peer voices talking to them about it, but I know that, amidst all the mixed messages, they’re hearing at least one voice that speaks the truth.

Read the full article here

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