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Announcing the Launch of chadbird.com

Facebook-and-twitterDear Friends,

I’m excited to announce that today, November 23, 2015, I am launching my new website: chadbird.com

This will be the final post on the Flying Scroll. All my future blogs, articles, and videos will be posted on the new website.

Here’s the good news about this change:
1) All my writings on this blog have been moved to chadbird.com. You won’t miss any material whatsoever. If you had a favorite blog that you read here, say, a year ago, it is on the new site already.

2) chadbird.com will pull together in one location all the resources I have published: YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs, articles, and much more. It also allows you to connect with me more easily through social media and email.

3) There’s an easy-to-use search engine on the site that will help you find what you’re looking for, whether by subject, title, or source.

4) Dates and locations for my upcoming presentations are posted on the website.

5) I will still be writing weekly articles that, time and again, lead us to the Good News of the Scriptures: Jesus crucified and resurrected for us. The Christ-centered, grace-saturated content will never change.

THANK YOU for all you’ve done these last three years to support me as a writer and teacher. Thank you for reading, commenting on, and sharing my posts; for giving me such heartfelt words of encouragement; for including me and my family in your prayers.

I have only one request: please continue to do what you’ve been doing. Check out the new website. Direct your friends, family, and congregation to it by sharing links on social media. Drop me a line now and then to let me know what you think. And, most importantly, continue to pray for me and my family. You are all gifts from God. And I thank him for each of you.

Peace to you in Jesus Christ!
Chad

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The Church of Chicken Little

churchchickenlittleHere’s what will happen. Maybe you’ve already been through it. Or maybe you’re living it even as your eyes scan these words. I don’t know what will trigger it—I’m no prophet—but I do know, sooner or later, something will. The company you’ve poured your heart and soul into goes belly up. Your spouse slips off her wedding ring, puts it on the counter, and slams the door forever behind her. The details will vary. But in that moment, and in the days and weeks—maybe even years—that follow, you’re convinced that the sky is falling, and your life is basically over. Draw the curtains, turn out the lights, the party’s over.

I’ve been there. As have many of you. It hurts. It’s frightening.

And it’s highly deceiving.

Oh, yes, deceiving. Because as bad as it does get, as much pain as it does inflict upon you, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s not even close. It just feels that way. But if you’re not careful—as I was not careful—you’ll become so overwhelmed with all the bad stuff going on, you’ll spend so much time staring up at the sky that you’re convinced is about to fall, that you’ll forget you’ve still got work to do, people to take care of, vocations to fulfill. Your world has changed, to be sure, but it is not over.

The same applies to the church, perhaps even more so. On a recurring basis, Christians spot news headlines that signal yet one more moral collapse in society, the growing paganization of the cultures in which we live, the spread of antipathy toward the faith. It hits social media. Facebook becomes transformed into everything from an online pity-party to a preaching-party, lamenting or decrying all these wicked goings on. Twitter explodes with 140-or-less character doomsday-sounding predictions. And in pulpits across the land, pastors have plenty of fodder for their Sunday morning sermons.

But if we’re not careful, if we become so engrossed with the flood of divorce, the spread of gay marriage, the holocaust of abortion, the loss of religious freedom, and countless other very legitimate concerns, we’ll end up sounding more like the church of Chicken Little than the church of Jesus Christ. We’ll give the impression that our central message is not “Christ crucified” but “The sky is falling.” We’ll forget that we’ve still got people to take care of, vocations to fulfill, plenty of work to do.

And that work, that mission, is not to save our culture from moral collapse, nor to raise up law-abiding citizens, and especially not to spend all day, every day, whining and complaining about the loss of the good ole days. The mission of the church is to bring sinners into communion with the life-giving, sin-forgiving, salvation-imparting flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

Until the sky really does fall, that’s the work God has given the church to do. Let’s do it.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes 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!

From Hitler’s Wolves to Christ’s Lambs: The Chaplain to Nazi War Criminals

 

They walked to the gallows together, pastor and penitent. Each step up took them closer to the abbreviated, fatal fall to come. The criminal stood above the trapdoor. Moments later, it would open to rope himfence-444416_1920 into eternity. An officer asked him if he had any final words. “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul,” he said.

Then he turned toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul, his confessor, his preacher, the one from whose hand he had received the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper. To this pastor, he said, “I’ll see you again.”

Then noosed, hooded in black, and legs tied, he dropped out of this world into another.

As gripping as this account is, no doubt many similar scenarios have played out in the course of history. Condemned men have found repentance and faith when certain death loomed nigh.

What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with others hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history. He was guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them. These were Hitler’s men. His closest confidants. His very own pack of wolves. Yet in the months leading up to their executions or imprisonments, many of them had been transformed from Hitler’s wolves into Christ’s lambs. Thanks to the ministry of a farm boy from Missouri, who grew up to be a pastor, and who reluctantly agreed to be the chaplain of the fifteen Protestant war criminals during the Nuremberg trials at the close of World War II, these men heard the Gospel.

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Chaplain Henry Gerecke

Henry Gerecke was in his early 50’s when he went, cell by cell, to introduce himself to his infamous “congregation.” He invited them to chapel services. Some refused, others wavered, and still others promised to be there. Of the fifteen chairs set up for the first service, thirteen of them were filled. Scriptures were read, sermons preached, hymns sung, prayers prayed. And, through it all, hearts were changed.

Soon some of the very lips that had once barked, “Heil Hitler!” spoke an Amen as they knelt to receive the body and blood of their forgiving Lord. They expressed a desire for their children to be baptized. One of them began reading the Bible to find justification for his unbelief, but ended up being led to faith by the very same divine words. So reliant did these men become upon their pastor that, when a rumor surfaced that he might be relieved of his duty and allowed to return home, they wrote a letter to Mrs. Gerecke and begged her to ask him to stay. On that letter were the signatures of all these former Nazis. Men who had enjoyed power and rank were now humbly beseeching a housewife in America, who had not seen her husband for two and a half years, to let him stay.  In her brief reply to her husband, “They need you,” is packed a whole volume about sacrifice and love.

Pastor Gerecke’s story has already been told (see links below), but it deserves to be retold, again and again, to every generation, for two very important reasons.

The first has to do with the men to whom he ministered, the ones who repented and believed in Christ. The scandal of Christianity is not that these men went to heaven; it is that God loved them so much that he was willing to die to get them there. Had it been a human decision, many would have thrown these men into the flames of hell. But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie, but because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross, and earned a place for them in heaven. Should an opportunity arise in the future for the Gospel to be shared with ISIS militants who have been captured, this same Good News would be for them. They too would need a chaplain like Pastor Gerecke to call them to repentance, to preach Christ’s grace, to declare to them the mercy of God. There is no one who is so vile that he is beyond redemption, because the redemption of Christ envelops all people.

Another reason Pastor Gerecke’s story needs to be remembered involves his vocation, and those who share it. What pastor, knowing he was about to visit men such as these, would not have struggled to find any hope in their possible repentance? But Gerecke visited each cell anyway. He invited each man to hear the Word and left it to the Spirit to do the work of making new creations of these hardened criminals. Nor did he mince words, surrender his convictions, or water down the truth for them. On the evening before he was to be hanged, one of the men, Goering, asked to be communed, just in case he was wrong and there was some truth to the Christian claims. But Gerecke refused to give the Sacrament to one who so obstinately refused repentance, who treated the Supper as if it were an edible, just-in-case, insurance policy. When Christ calls men into the office of the holy ministry, he calls them to be faithful—not successful, not popular, not practical, not winsome, not cool, but faithful. They are to preach even when they doubt it will bear fruit. They are to give the word of Christ to sinners, and let the Christ of that word do his work. And he does. He convicts, he calls, he saves, he baptizes, he feeds, and, finally, he welcomes one and all into his kingdom with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In 1961, at the age of sixty-eight, Pastor Gerecke passed from this life into the next. He entered that innumerable company of saints who had gone before him. Some of them had been among his flock during his years of ministry. One of them, standing atop the gallows, had promised, “I’ll see you again.”  And he did.

Online Resources:

I strongly urge you to click on one or all of the links below to read Pastor Gerecke’s story.  The details and quotes I included above are from these resources.

Gerecke’s story, in his own words, was published in the Saturday Evening Post, 1, September, 1951, pp. 18-19, under the title, “I walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs.”

Don Stephens, in War and Grace:  Short biographies from the World Wars, (Evangelical Press, Faverdale North, Darlington, DL3 0PH, England) devotes a chapter to Gerecke and his ministry.  The chapter is available online at:  http://www.messianicgoodnews.org/henry-gerecke-chaplain-to-nazi-war-criminals/

In 1950, Gerecke was called to be Assistant Pastor at St. JohnLutheranChurch, Chester, IL.  That congregation’s website includes audio files of Pastor Gerecke speaking about his experience.  These can be listened to by following the link below, and clicking on the audio files on the right side of the website. http://www.stjohnchester.com/Gerecke/Gerecke.html

Other Resources:

Tim Townsend, Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis, HarperCollins, 2014.

F. T. Grossmith, The Cross and the Swastika, Henry E. Walter Ltd., Worthing, England,  1984, which tells Gerecke’s story.

N. M. Railton, “Henry Gerecke and the Saints  of Nuremberg,” Kirkliche Zeitgeschichte,  Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2000, pp.126-7.

Many of the primary sources about Gerecke, including his own My Assignment with the International Military Tribunal at Nürnberg, Germany, are found at Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis, MO, the official archive of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

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Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes 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!

Showing Mercy to Former Ministers

man-walking-awayIt’s only a few steps, but the journey from the pulpit to the pew, from being a pastor to being a former pastor, feels like a marathon you crawl on your knees. Along the course the streets are like a ghost town; people don’t line up to cheer you on. It’s a race that begins in defeat and too often concludes in despair. The way is littered with losses: crumpled relationships, trashed reputations, dreams stuffed into the garbage. Once the race is over, and he who once stood in the pulpit now sits and stares at it, chances are he will be a man forever changed. No one makes the journey from the pulpit to the pew without leaving behind more than a clerical collar and a title.

I’ve made that journey myself. I know all too well the way the madness and grief of this marathon. If I were to distill much of what I’ve learned along the way, here is what it would be: a few words to pastors still in the ministry, a few words to churches, and a few more to those crawling from the pulpit to the pew.

Pastors: I beg you to be a rebel. To rebel against the pack mentality that ostracizes the one who bears the shame of expulsion. To rebel against the horde of excuses that arise when you think of reaching out to your wounded brother. To rebel against joining forces with Job’s friends. I cannot tell you how much a phone call or a visit from you will mean to him. Don’t wait for him to reach out to you because he probably never will. His life is Psalm 88 right now—a man without strength, counted among those who go down to the pit, whose companions shun him. Go into the pit with him. And bring with you the light of grace, the food of prayer, the medicine of Christ. He may be angry, confused, or simply lost. The word of God in your mouth is the bread from heaven he needs in this struggle with the forces of hell. Be patient. Be diligent. Above all, simply remain his friend and brother, no matter what.

Churches: One of the unexpected reversals in the church is when the comforted become the comforters. The person whom you once called “Pastor” is now simply John or Joe. Chances are he feels as uncomfortable and confused about this reversal as you do. That’s to be expected. These things take time. What’s important is that whatever his name is, you adorn it not with slander or malice, but with love and compassion. Years ago, right after I became “Chad” and no longer “Pastor,” I attended a congregation where almost everyone knew me for who I had once been. To be honest, it was a frigid place. I felt isolated, unwanted. But one dear believer, an older man, was a beacon of light and warmth to me during those days. Every Sunday he shook my hand, spoke to me, demonstrated a love and acceptance that were in short supply in my life. That man was to me a beloved saint, a gift from God. I will never forget him. I encourage you, as much as possible, to reach out with mercy across the pew, to welcome and love a former under-shepherd who is now among the lambs of Christ’s flock.

Former Ministers: I could say a million things to you, but let me say only what matters most. I don’t care why you left the ministry—moral failure, congregational politics, burnout, whatever—the Christ whom you proclaimed has not left you. He goes into exile with you. He crawls this marathon with you. He cries and bleeds and suffers alongside you. He’s not the kind of God who withdraws when things get tough; he draws closer. You probably don’t feel that. You might not even believe it. But it remains the truest truth. You are baptized. Christ has grafted you to his saving flesh. He is of you even as you are of him. You may not wear a clerical anymore but you will always wear the righteous robes of Jesus. You may not stand in a pulpit anymore but you will always stand at the foot of cross, where a loving God bled and died for you. His grace will sustain you. He will remain faithful for he cannot deny himself. Christ is not ashamed to call you brother and friend. That will never change.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

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!

Kissing the Past Goodbye

It had been a long night, one of those that shapes every day of your life thereafter. The eastern horizon was blushing as she and I walked side-by-side up a hill onto a ridge. From there most of the city was laid bare before our eyes. Streets and intersections and businesses and homes that we knew, full of people whose names and lives we knew, whose children had played with our children. We just stood there, looking, reminiscing, regretting, in a flow of words that made no sound. There was no going back. It was past time to part ways. But how do you say Goodbye when the Goodbye is mandated by forces outside your control?

The past—it’s a wonderful, damning, beautiful bitch of a thing. You look back and what do you see? You can almost taste the happiness of the times that still sends thrills rocketing through your body. The memories bounce around inside you, bells and whistles sounding in your heart and mind and other parts of your body. It was good, very good, while it lasted. But who are you fooling with selective memories? As if the trembling angst that shook you, time and again, did not forever warp your psyche. As if while living in the squalidness of evil, you could escape the stench sinking into your skin. It was the best and the worst of times, but ultimately, the worst of the worst.

I don’t know what she thought would happen. I didn’t even know what I thought would happen. You get to the point where you live not day by day, not even hour by hour, but sin by sin. Every hand on the clock is one that strokes iniquity, easing along time until the next hand is ready to massage it further around the dial. The future is so frightening that to ignore it is your only chance at maintaining some semblance of sanity. So you walk backward into the not-yet, savoring the what-has-been, and staying as drunk as possible on the wine of the now.

As the sun stretched its rays further and further, the predawn dark dissipated. I looked at her, but she wouldn’t look at me. Her eyes were transfixed on some distant object—the city? a street? a house? a person? Who knows.

It was just like her to be standing here, ignoring me, lost in some inner world to which I would never be granted access. It was her world, she the solitary resident. Whether that inner world was more akin to heaven, or hell, only she could say. But she never spoke of it, except in silences that betokened speeches I didn’t have the heart to hear.

The moment had come. The past, its weal and woe, was being left behind. And into a future fogged with uncertainly, but veiled with vestiges of hope, I would trek.

I moved in front of her. I kissed her lips. And that taste, the sting of the salt, I’ll never forget. I turned my back on her, and moved on to catch up with her husband, Lot, and their two daughters, who had never looked back.

An Allegory on Repentance, on Losing Life and Keeping It.

Just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. Luke 17

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The Struggle to Un-Love Ex-Sins: An Upcoming Presentation in McKinney, Texas

I’d like to welcome all of you who are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (or farther away!) to join me for an evening of talking through “The Struggle to Un-Love Ex-Sins.” Here’s a brief description of what’s in store:

Journeys that begin in brokenness rarely follow a straight course toward healing. It is an uphill trek on winding trails illumined with sporadic winks of light. The heart wrestles to free itself from past loves that are also past hates. We limp toward healing. The struggle to un-love ex-sins is a long, blessed, torturous liberation from lies that we once embraced as truths. Along the way, we deal with denial, anger at God, addiction to grief, and much more. We learn about our own identity and the God against whom we rebel, rail, and eventually embrace as the only true source of healing.

The event will be Saturday, September 12, at the Ruschhaupt Reception Hall in downtown McKinney, TX, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Here is a flier with more information. Or you can click on this link for details and registration. I hope to see you there!

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When the Pulpit Apes the World

preacher-at-pulpit-copySomething happens inside churches where outrage over society’s immoralities seasons every Sunday sermon. It’s rather unexpected, and rarely noticed. The more a preacher makes a habit of lambasting the evils of a culture; the more he makes the necessity of a morally pure life the center of his sermons; the more he directs his flock to the keeping of the divine law as their defining characteristic—the more he does all this, the more that preacher actually urges his church to adopt the ways of the world.

It’s as sad as it is true: the more law-centered a church becomes, the more like the world it becomes.

The way of the world is the way of the law. That law may sometimes be in synch with the divine law, such as when societies prohibit murder and stealing. That law may sometimes be of the world’s own devising. Either way, these outward laws reflect an interior disposition: my identity, my self-worth, the means by which I find fulfillment in life, is determined by what I do. Maybe I follow the rules of my group within society. Maybe I become a law unto myself by making my own rules and following the dictates of my heart. In the end, it’s all the same. My self-understanding arises out of my behavior. I am who I am because I do what I do. The way of the world is the way of the law.

And the way of far too many churches is the way of the law as well. Beneath the surface, legalistic Christians are little different from those they often deride. Their identity as Christians, their worth, the means whereby they find fulfillment in life, is determined by the morality they choose and the immorality they avoid. The Christian life becomes little more than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Moral outrage over society’s evils becomes a favorite pastime because, to some degree, it boosts their own feeling of intimacy with the great Moral Divinity before whom they bow the knee. The self-understanding of the law-centered Christian arises out of his behavior. He is who he is because he does what he does. The way of such Christians, and the way of such churches, is the way of the law.

Thus, the more law-centered a church becomes, the more it and the world become kissing cousins.

What then, shall preachers stop preaching the divine law? By no means. The law must be preached. God’s commands for how we are to live must be proclaimed. Evil must be pointed out. Sinners must be called to repentance. This is what the law does; and, oh, does it do it well. It always teaches right from wrong, it always commands, and—because we are sinners—it always accuses.

And there is one more thing the law does: it never gives us what we ultimately need.

The law can tell us, day and night, what to do and what not to do, and we will never do it perfectly. The law can instruct and warn, urge and command, entice and promise, but it cannot say, “You are loved by God.” It cannot say, “You are forgiven.” The law cannot say, “You have peace with God in Jesus Christ. He has kept the law for you. He loves and embraces you as you are. He welcomes you as a brother or sister.” The law can do many thing, but it cannot deliver the good news we need more than anything else.

It is the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ that gives us fulfillment in life, for it fills us with God himself. This good news is that we are who we are because Christ is who he is: our friend, our brother, our Savior. Our identity is not that of law-keepers or law-breakers but the friends of Jesus. Who we are is swallowed up by who he is.

What we ultimately need—what everyone needs—is reconciliation and peace with God in Jesus Christ. And that’s what we have. The cross was the pulpit from which Jesus preached his love and forgiveness to the world. And that message is still to permeate pulpits every Sunday.

The more grace-centered, Gospel-focused a church becomes, the more unlike the world it becomes. And the more it proclaims to the world what it truly needs to hear.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
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christ alone cover

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!

We Expect Too Little from God

ManLookingAtStarsWhen God comes to us, He brings more than we expect. Our expectations are tiny, His gifts large. We ask for a drop, He pours an ocean; for a morsel, He spreads a feast. Such is the difference between man and God. Despite the fact that our lives are supposedly so global these days, our worlds are minuscule, their circumferences not much bigger than the decorative globes we can spin with one finger. The global financial crisis is no bigger to us than the mortgage we may or may not be able to pay this month. Global communications no bigger than the phone call from a friend that may or may not come when we need it. My world is small, full of the continents of my emotions, the oceans of my fears, the mountains of my hopes and dreams. And nightmares.

I am perhaps not much different from Abraham. God Almighty appears to him, but all Abraham asks about is a baby. His baby, Sarah’s baby, the one still but a gleam in Abraham’s dreary eyes. “Tell me about this baby, God, my baby that You promised would come. And hasn’t. You tell me not to fear, but how is an old man not to fear that he will die childless? You tell me You are my shield, but can a shield arrest all these arrows of doubt? You tell me my reward shall be very great, but the only ‘reward’ I see is me dying and leaving my inheritance not to a son but to a servant. You promise me the world, but all I see is dust falling between my wrinkled fingers back to the earth that soon shall swaddle my bones.”

So God expands Abraham’s world. He takes him by the arm and ushers him outside. He points his eyes star-ward and tells him to do the arithmetic. “Put a number on those faraway suns, Abraham. Go ahead. So shall your descendants be.” Astronomy became theology. “You want a baby? Very well, then I’ll give you a child. And I’ll give him children, and those children more children, until the stars themselves shall blink in astonishment at the number of your offspring.”

You expect too little from God. He wants to give you the world, and you beg for a grain of sand. Perhaps it is cowardice; we shrink away from God’s godness and almightiness, and so shrink down our prayers. Perhaps it is a lack of faith; we don’t trust God to give what He himself has promised to give. Perhaps it is self-sufficiency; we want to take care of ourselves, for we suppose we’re just fine flying solo.

But God doesn’t appear to Abraham, or to you, as a tightfisted miser. He’s anything but that. To Abraham He promises a soon-to-be-born baby, a world of descendants, the Holy Land, and his family’s rescue from Egypt when that day comes. He’s going to give it all and then some, and then some more. And just when you think He’s all out, He’ll show up once again and surprise you with grace.

You may or may not believe this. But your belief or the lack thereof changes nothing. You can believe the earth is flat or that politicians will soon stop lying, but your belief won’t alter reality. Reality is that God is good. His goodness knows no bounds. Your unbelief will not bind Him. Your un-great expectations of Him will not bind him. He will be bound by no man from being good to that man, whether the man desires, expects, or curses the gift of God when it lands in his lap.

Abraham, bless him, was eager for something tangible by which to know the Lord would do what He promised. I can’t blame him. Even though taking God solely at His word is admirable, thankfully for us God makes that word visible. We are creatures of earth, and so in earthly guise our God comes to say, “See, I mean what I say.” To Abraham God appears as a smoking oven and flaming torch that passed through the bloody gauntlet of sacrifices that Abraham had hacked in two. A rather weird sight it must have been, but our God has been known to do some rather strange things. This was His way of making a covenant, a pact, with Abraham. As much as to say, “I’m as good as my word. And if I’m not, then may my fate be as one of these butchered beasts.” But God was to be no butchered beast because He does stick to His word, come hell or high water.

But, ironically, God was to become a baby, much like the baby He promised to Abraham. The Lord became His own promise—the gift-giver became the gift. And that gift is enough for you, for that gift is all there is. Abraham was to get his son, grandchildren, the Holy Land, the whole shebang. All we get is a baby, yet that baby is our world and much more. He made those stars that Abraham could not count. He knitted together in their mother’s wombs all those babies who would call Abraham father. He came to reveal, that God cannot stop giving the very best.

Jesus explodes our small conceptions of a small-giving God. There is no war within you that Jesus cannot end with peace. There is no wound in your soul so deep that He cannot heal it with His love. Your life may be as bloody and sickening as those cutup corpses through which God passed as the oven and torch, but God will still pass through. In fact, He’ll do better. He’ll stop in the midst of the slaughter your life has become and start putting you back together again. Only He can do that. And He does it well, for being good and doing good for you is what He’s all about.

Come outside and stand beside Abraham. Count those stars. So shall your gifts be. Go to the beach and count the grains of sand. So shall be the number of times God blesses you. Travel to Bethlehem and stand before the manger. There you shall see, in a new and living way, the oven and torch of God. That baby become man become sacrifice become victor become almighty king at the Father’s right hand—He shall pass through the bloody mess of your life and bring healing. He cannot do otherwise, for love compels Him to do only what is good for you. Love him, as Abraham did. Befriend him, as Abraham did. Believe in him, as Abraham did. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob shall be your shield, your very great reward.

This meditation is an excerpt from my book, Christ Alone (see below).
Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
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christ alone cover

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!

Who Needs to Be Re-Baptized?

waterSometimes the best solution to a problem is to “re” it. You’ve gone through a rough spell in your marriage, so you decide to reaffirm your wedding vows. The doctor tells you that if you don’t drop some pounds, severe health problems are on the horizon, so you renew the gym membership you let slip years ago. We’re always re-ing something: rewriting essays that are not up to par; reroofing houses with old shingles; getting reacquainted with long lost friends. Do-overs are a necessary, and oftentimes a blessed, part of our lives. We get a chance to do it right the second time.

It’s not unusual for people to feel the same about baptism.

Carol was baptized as an infant, but in later years she began attending a church where only older children and adults are baptized. She’s told, “It’s good that your parents were concerned about your spiritual welfare, but that was not a real baptism. It was more like your dedication to the Lord. But now that you have your own personal relationship with Jesus, you need to show that commitment in the assembly of believers by obeying our Lord’s command to be baptized.”

David was baptized when he was seven years old. He remembers that day in church, but he’s not sure if he was really a believer when it was done to him. He’s wondering, now that he is older and is more certain of his faith, if he needs to be re-baptized as a way of affirming that he is a follower of Jesus.

I get where Carol and David are coming from. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to re-do something in my life. Maybe I’ve messed something up that needs to be fixed, forgotten something that needs to be remembered, or just simply yearn for the confidence that comes from doing something afresh. I’ve been that lost sheep who wandered from the flock of Christ and returned covered in the mud of my wanderings; don’t I need to be rewashed? I’ve gotten angry with God, stomped off to live in the “freedom” of a rebellious life, and eventually returned with a soiled conscience in dire need of a bath. I’ve wanted to strip off my filthy clothes, ease myself into a deep pool of baptism, and simply soak for hours on end until all the dirt and grime of my iniquity has disappeared and I’m clean again.

And here’s the good news for Carol and David and all of us who desire this cleansing: God is ready and willing to give it to you. And here’s some even better news: you don’t need to be re-baptized to experience it.

The most important thing about baptism is this:
God is the baptizer, you are the baptized.
He is the giver, you are the receiver;
He is the bather, you are the bathed.

Yes, when we do things, we have a tendency to do them wrongly, imperfectly, insufficiently. We mess them up in one way or another. But when God does things, he does them right. He does them well. He does nothing halfway. If we baptized ourselves, I would be all in favor of rebaptism, but because I’m sure we would do something wrong. To err is human, right? But since we don’t baptize ourselves, but are baptized by God, our washing in the word is 100% right, 100% gift, now and forever. Every baptism is a perfect baptism. Like the crucifixion of Jesus for you, the baptism by Jesus of you, is non-repeatable. It can’t be done again because it was done just right the first time.

When we’ve gone astray from God and need those cleansing waters; when we’ve gone through a period of doubting and desire to have our faith strengthened; when we can’t even remember our baptism and need to experience its blessings anew; we don’t need a do-over. We don’t need to have the water poured over us again. Instead, God does something better for us: he shows us that the cleansing, saving waters of baptism never dry up. In fact, those waters keep us wet with grace every day of our lives.

When I got hurt as a child, I ran into the arms of my mother, into the arms of the woman in whose womb I was conceived. I didn’t look for another mother, another womb, another comfort. So when I hurt myself through my sin, I run back into the arms of the baptismal womb in which I was conceived and born again. I don’t look for another baptism, another washing, another comfort. I return to the source of my life.

Christ doesn’t re-baptize; he returns sinners to their baptism. He carries us lost sheep home to the pool in which we were originally washed. He strengthens the faith we were originally given in our baptism. He sends us pastors to speak the words of his forgiveness into us; and those absolving words are wet with baptism’s waters. Jesus tells us, “I baptized you. Through my crucifixion wounds you entered my body to become part of me. My body is your body; my blood is your blood. We are one. I can no more lose you than I can lose a limb. You are baptized. You are mine. When I look at you, I see a clean, forgiven, beloved brother and sister.”

Yes, sometimes the best solution to a problem is to “re” it. But that’s only when we’re the one solving the problem. Christ has already solved the problem of sin. He was crucified for our transgressions and raised for our justification. He has baptized us into that crucifixion and justified us in those same resurrection waters. It is finished. He has accomplished it all for you, given it all to you in baptism, and will forever keep you in those gifts by his grace and mercy.

For those baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—for those who have this divine name placed upon them—there is never a need for rebaptism. Jesus did it right, for you, the first time. And that is very good news, indeed.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

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 Bible Story That Goes All Wrong

adamevefigleavesI wasn’t wearing fig leaves for underwear, but I’d just as well have been. That day I felt more like Adam than I ever had before, or since. The forbidden fruit, far from digesting, sat like a rock on the bottom of my gut. The man who stood before me was my boss. I was in his office to come clean, to tell him what I’d done. I’d lied to him before, lied to his face. And I was afraid. O dear God, was I afraid. I was afraid of him. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of the truth. I tell you, I was afraid of damn near everything. Most of all, I was afraid of how he would react.

I soon found out. I told him what I’d done. How I’d lied. How I’d broken the commandment. How I’d listened to the serpent, plucked the fruit, and loved the taste of it so much that I’d gorged myself. I had prepared himself for his anger. I knew it was coming. And I deserved every bit of it. If he had wagged his finger in my face, shoved me out the door, and told me to get the hell out of there and never come back, I wouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I think I would have been a little relieved. At least then, I would have convinced myself that I’d paid for a tiny bit of my sin by suffering such rejection.

His reaction was totally wrong. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When I’d finished confessing, he didn’t start yelling. Out of his mouth came words like forgiveness, grace, Christ, clean slate. He was saying all the wrong things. This isn’t how bosses are supposed to speak. They’re supposed to hammer out words like deserve, punishment, consequences, disappointment. He didn’t. He shocked me by being gracious to me. He spoke as a father would to his son. And this son, who heard those paternal words of grace and absolution, would, to this day, relive that moment time and again as one of the most defining moments of his life. That day, instead of getting what I deserved, I received nothing but love.

I may have walked into that office wearing fig leaves, but I walked out clothed in the skin of the Lamb of God.

The story of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to go, either. It’s all wrong. When God enters the garden that infamous day, he’s supposed to march in with an iron hand and a tongue pulled back, ready to lash. After all, he had given his children everything; they wanted for nothing. Yet these stupid, selfish people do what stupid, selfish people always do: they go and ruin it all. What they needed was punishment—swift, complete, merciless justice. They had it coming. That’s the way things were supposed to go.

But they don’t. In God’s first question to fallen humanity, he asks, “Where are you?” And in that question—merely one word in Hebrew—is packed a whole theology of who God is.

Where are you? God wasn’t seeking information; he knew where they were. He was fully aware of what they’d done. He was also fully aware of the fallout from this fall. Yet he asks, “Where are you?” Just as he will later ask murdering Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” or hating Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry?” or persecuting Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” In these questions is the answer. The answer is a confession, a repentance, an embrace of the forgiveness offered and bestowed by the God who seeks and saves the lost.

The story of Genesis 3 doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to, the way I expect it to, because God works contrary to my expectations. I expect wrath and he pours out mercy. I expect judgment and he speaks absolution. I expect the end and he gives me a new beginning.

The Lord does indeed go on to tell Adam and Eve that things will not be in this world as they were before. There will be pain in childbirth. There will be thorns and thistles and sweat on the brow. When I left my boss’s office that day, there were still pains in my life; I still bear the scars of the thorns and thistles. But I bear something better, too, as did our first parents. I bear a promise from the God who is love, that in love he has provided a Seed who crushed the head of the lying viper, a Seed who sucked up into his heel the death that I deserved, that he might pour into me the life that I don’t deserve.

That promise makes all the difference. It is the promise that God in Christ does not desire the death of a sinner, but that he turn from his evil way and live. It is the promise that God does not deal with us according to our sins, but is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

I hope one day that God asks me, “Chad, where are you?” I know what I’ll tell him, “Father, I am right here, in your Son, Jesus Christ. That’s where I am.”

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes 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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