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Archive for December, 2017

God brought a woman named Margaret into my life just before my mother died. He knew I would need the continued encouragement and mentoring of an older woman, a woman who would be an example of faithfulness, kindness, and self-control. In the years after my mother’s death, I was challenged in my vocations of wife, mother, and national president of Lutherans For Life. Margaret could always be counted on to listen, ask questions that helped me to think, and influence—not with her feelings, but with the Word of God.

A few weeks ago, Margaret’s daughter called to tell me that her mother was nearing the end of her earthly life. It was ok. Margaret, nearly 90, was looking forward to leaving this world behind and going home. Satan, however, couldn’t stand the thought of losing one more soul to heaven, so he visited Margaret now and then to see if he could tempt her. “We both know my mom’s faith,” Margaret’s daughter told me, “but I think now would be a good time for you to write her.”

And so, without letting Margaret know her daughter’s request, I spent Friday, December 8 writing the kind of comfortably honest letter she would have written to me.

My dear friend, Margaret…

I miss you! I miss our meaningful discussions about the Lord of our lives and why we must cling to Him. I miss the encouragement we have always given one another.

It has been my deepest desire to come see you and spend another one or two wonderful days together. I’ve wanted to do that ever since our last visit when I was in your area speaking and stayed with you. Now, over two years later, I’m wishing I could quickly drive up to see you, talk with you, and share the love we both have in Christ.

Nine grandchildren keep me on the go. I’ve learned, as you learned before me, how important grandparents are. We can encourage and pass on wisdom in a unique way. Parents can be so overwhelmed with the day-to-day parenting. They need encouragement, too, and it helps them to know that their children have the added strength and guidance of grandparents.

You will probably not be surprised to know that I have started writing a second book. After the first book, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, I was asked by several parents, “So now what? Now that we know why our children are being sexualized, what can we do for them? How can we equip them to live in this world?” Margaret, I did not want to write the first book, let alone a second book! Then it came to me. I didn’t have to write it! There have been more than 50 pastors who have served on the pastors’ panels following my book presentations. Twelve of them accepted my invitation to help write the lessons for this book. I am assisting them… and serving as general editor. God is good to provide me with an assistant editor. You would like her! She is a young wife and mom who understands the need of our society for Titus 2 mentoring of biblical womanhood and manhood. This stay-at-home mom was in the perfect position to say “yes” when I asked her to help with this second book entitled Male and Female by Design: What Does This Mean?

Margaret, you and I talked about the most important message of my first book which is this: our identity in Christ matters! We are far more than sexual beings! With our Baptism, we become heirs and children of God because of what Jesus Christ has done for us! Our identity remains the same, no matter our age, health, or any other circumstance in life. You and I, Margaret, are daughters of God! Always and forever! Through water and Word, the Holy Spirit was given to us and He continues to work in us.

Our baptized identity cannot be snatched away! Our holiness and purity in Christ cannot be snatched away! Satan may deceive us. He may tempt us to believe that he has power over us, but he does not! He is the loser! He is the poor, pitiful creature that Christ has won victory over. You and I have talked about this so many times… and we must continue to remind one another of this truth.

This second book that I’m working on will help parents and their children better understand the importance of our baptized identity. Yes, it will teach what it means to be a boy or a girl. It will teach about biblical manhood and womanhood. But, even more so, it will remind both parent and child that with our Baptism, we have a barricade against Satan. Our Baptism isn’t a one-time “event” that serves no purpose for us as we grow older. Our Baptism makes us part of God’s family and connects us with Jesus Christ!

I so appreciate the book Afraid by Rev. Robert Bennett. He writes about the very real spiritual warfare that we experience on this earth. You and I have talked about this spiritual warfare… and it is something we engage in until we are carried home by Jesus. You and I can THANK GOD that no matter how arrogant or bold Satan might be, we’re the ones who hold power over him! With the life of our Baptism and with forgiveness of sins, Satan has lost his stronghold and peace is found (Acts 26:17-18). Rev. Bennett quotes Dr. Klaus Detlev Shultz, who says that the Sacraments of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Confession/Absolution “ultimately serve as a barricade against the perpetual onslaught of non-Christian elements on the believers.”

You and I both know, Margaret, that we are God’s daughters living in an alien and hostile world. I have seen how the Lord has been faithful to provide for you and help you endure very difficult situations. You have always been very private about your personal life, Margaret, but I know enough to recognize you as a daughter of God who has trusted her Lord and Savior in the toughest of times. You have pointed your children and grandchildren to Christ. You carried them to the Baptismal font and taught them who they are in Christ.

I hope that you are remembering your own Baptism. I hope that you are remembering that your identity is not found in your service to others, your youth, or your good health… but in your connection to Jesus Christ! We do not stop being God’s vessels on this earth. Even if we must move to assisted living or can’t drive our own car or can’t go help everybody else, we are still His instruments and He works through us.

When my big, strong farmer father-in-law was flat on his back and near death with a brain infection, he bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t serve us. I looked him in the eye and said, “But you are serving us! Helpless as you may feel, God is using you to teach us how to serve you and one another. He is teaching me to be less selfish, more patient, and trusting of His will and not my own.”

Oh, my dear Margaret, no matter where you are or what you can or cannot do, never forget that you are God’s own. If I could be sitting there with you, we could talk about Job. We could remind each other of what Job experienced and how God showed His faithfulness to Job in the worst of situations.

Job’s friends were of no comfort to him when he was suffering the loss of wife, family, possessions, and good health. Their ears could not hear and their eyes could not see the Almighty God. But the Almighty God had worked faith in Job that did not fail. When Job questioned His Maker, God said,

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were the bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? … Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? … Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? … Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars … Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?

Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it … Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?
(from Job 38-40).

Margaret, may you and I be like Job who answered: “I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.”

May we continue to entrust one another to God our Father who calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1). May we entrust one another to our Father who bears with us, carries us, and saves us (Isaiah 46:4). May we live confident in our Baptism which makes us daughters of God and connects us to Christ on this earthly journey… and forevermore!

_______
The timing of the letter I had been nudged to write was, well, God’s own. On December 17, Margaret was carried home by her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Driving to her funeral four hours from our home, I asked my husband, “Do you think the letter mattered?” The answer came from Margaret’s daughter. “She read your letter. She called for the pastor she trusted. There was peace.”

There was peace for Margaret in dying and there continues to be peace for me in living. It is the peace of the Lord that passes all understanding for those whom God calls by name.

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Jack Phillips is the kind of gentleman that most of us would want for a neighbor. I know because I had the privilege of meeting Jack, visiting with him, and buying one of his cakes while recently in Denver.

Jack Phillips is an artist. He is gifted with the ability to paint and design masterpieces both on canvas and cakes. Jack owns and operates Masterpiece Cake Shop in Littleton, CO., and, in this way, has provided an honest living for his family.

Jack is a Christian who incorporates the teachings of Christ into his daily life and decisions. The masterpieces that he creates reflect Ephesians 2:10. So, on the day that Jack was asked to create a wedding reception cake for two men who had married outside of Colorado, Jack politely explained why he could not. Jesus says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Jack is the kind of guy who invites others to believe what he believes, but does not force them. People of all colors, beliefs, and sexual identities come into Jack’s shop and he sells to all of them. But designing a wedding cake is very different from baking a brownie. “What I design,” says Jack, “is not just a tower of flour and sugar, but a message tailored to a specific couple and a specific event—a message telling all who see it that this event is a wedding and that it is an occasion for celebration.”

Jack could not celebrate a same-sex marriage and remain faithful to God. “The two men coming into my shop that day were living out their beliefs,” explains Jack. “All I did was attempt to live out mine. I respect their right to choose and hoped they would respect mine.”

They did not. Instead of tolerance, Jack and his family received hate mail, obscene calls, death threats, and a law suit. Jack and his staff were ordered to undergo re-education and file quarterly “compliance” reports to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Jack stopped creating all wedding cakes and, suffering the loss of 40 percent of his income, was forced to lay off employees.

On December 5, Jack’s case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. As I await the decision, I know it will affect my religious freedom. It will affect the freedom to speak… or not speak… of us all.

The morning after Jack’s testimony before the U.S. Supreme Court, my morning devotions included Psalm 56. I could think of nothing better to give Jack than the words of this Psalm handwritten on a personal notecard:

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
All day long they injure my cause
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the people, O God!
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God in the light of life.
(Psalm 56:1-2, 5-11, 13 ESV)

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