Good government, devout rulers, and faithful leaders—at any level—are always gifts from God. In our nation, elected representatives and public servants serve us as His blessing and on His behalf. One of the primary responsibilities of civil government is respecting and protecting human life. We thank our heavenly Father for a peaceable and lawful voting process yesterday, especially where it has resulted in offices being occupied by advocates for affirming every human being’s God-given value.
We commend all Christians who put their faith and vocation into practice by exercising the precious right to participate in cooperative democracy that is free and fair for everyone.
Please join us in praying for those who make, administer, and judge our laws to reflect the truth, love, and life of our Lord Jesus Christ in their policies and actions until the Savior returns to bring our redemption and resurrection to fulfillment in new creation and everlasting kingdom.
Over 200 Lutherans gathered October 21-22 at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Minnesota, from across the United States and Canada for the 2016 Lutherans For Life National Conference. The theme: Here We Stand.
In her welcome to the conference, LFL President Lynette Auch said, “Could there possibly be a more appropriate conference theme than ‘Here We Stand’ as we step into the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation or a more appropriate verse than Ephesians 6:13: ‘Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm’? There is no doubt that the days are evil and ‘every one of us is in need of the righteousness that God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have righteousness of their own,’ as [Martin] Luther came to understand. We need to put on the whole armor of God to stand firm in that faith … So, let us say yes to the opportunities before us that God has prepared for us to do! To say ‘Here We Stand’ … in defense and protection of the precious and vulnerable human lives that are the handiwork of God from the moment of conception to natural death … to teach our children and grandchildren who they are and WHOSE they are. Scripture reminds us that we are NOT our own … in defense of marriage as God designed it between one man and one woman and sex as a gift from God to be shared within the marriage bed only … Your presence here means that you support the life-affirming ministry of Lutherans For Life. May God bless you and challenge you as ‘Here We Stand’ For Life!”
Focusing on the conference theme in his opening worship service sermon, Rev. Michael W. Salemink, executive director of Lutherans For Life, said, “You cannot slip beyond the reaches of the long arm of the Lord God Almighty … We carry grief so heavy and guilt so haunting that we believe it a freedom to end our own lives. We haul fear so chilling and failure so choking that we tolerate terminating our sons and daughters and advocate euthanizing our mothers and fathers. We hold hearts so broken and divided that we accept lust rather than aspire to love. We drag underbellies so vulnerable and blind sides so exposed that we separate children from marriage. We lug spines so stiffened and skin so hardened that we settle for human rights instead of insisting on heaven’s gifts … We should know better … We all require armor, a Savior, deliverance, redemption. We all crave compassion, forgiveness, mercy, grace. Here we stand. We do not stand alone. We never stand alone. You do not get to stand alone, but you do not have to stand alone. Another One stands in your place … Jesus Christ is the armor of God, the whole armor of God, for you and for us all. He shelters, sustains, protects, and defends any who have not and cannot do so for ourselves … Here we stand, neither stampeding nor strutting. Here we stand in joy and not out of anger, in hope and not out of fear, because we stand to forgive and not compare, to save and not compete. Here we stand to relieve and release, not to accuse. Here we stand to listen, assist, accompany, embrace, and befriend, not to attack. Here we stand speaking truth and sharing love because we stand overcoming sin and selfishness, death and the devil, and not against one another. Here we stand firm but gentle, strong but humble, even after so long and before such odds. Here we stand, Gospel-motivated voices, Lutherans For Life, because we can do no other, God help us.”
In his keynote address, actor Frank Runyeon, who starred opposite Meg Ryan on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns and has appeared in more than 1,000 television episodes and movies along with hosting his own comedy radio show, spoke on “Hollywood vs. Faith – The Struggle to Live Faithfully in the Media Age.” He focused on some of the biggest “funhouse mirror” distortions that Hollywood presents as truth but which are, in reality, lies, including the idea that buying more and more things can make one happy and having the perfect body will bring contentment. He shared how it is very hard for the Church to share the Gospel message in a culture saturated with self-centeredness and indiscriminate sex and violence but encouraged Lutherans For Life to continue to reach out, stay faithful, and focus on the gift of positive relationships with each other and with God.
In her plenary address, co-founder and former president of Lutherans For Life, Dr. Jean Garton, said “I’m going to make sure I’m with the right group … If you read the media, they’ll tell you that people who are ‘anti-choice’ are rabid, rigid, ranting, raging, radical rebels. But I know that you are patient, pious, peaceful, prayerful, passionate, patriots. That’s you … The naysayers have tried to bury us many times. But the truth is that this great pro-life movement of which Lutherans For Life has been a part since the very beginning, this great movement is alive and well and growing. But with our public, persistent pursuit of protection for the unborn and now, increasingly, the ‘long-born,’ there is a price to pay—and no surprise about that. When Jesus sent out His disciples … He said He was sending them out like sheep among the wolves. And not much has changed … We need to be prepared for the incredible battle ahead.” She thanked those in attendance for the “natural, needful work that all of you do.”
Dr. Garton was also the recipient of the newly revived Dominus Vitae award now given to a Lutheran who has made notable and significant contributions to the For Life movement. In presenting the award, LFL President Lynette Auch said, “At 88 years of age, Dr. Garton still travels hundreds and thousands of miles from home for speaking engagements and has devoted 47 years of her life to the pro-life movement. Why? She is quoted as saying … ‘I am always fishing for brothers and sisters in the faith that we might strengthen one another and share our joy in the Lord,’ and because ‘in the pro-life movement, I have the opportunity to meet the finest people throughout the world … I do what I do because I cannot NOT do it.”
Pre-conference events included a pastors’ luncheon featuring a talk by Col. John Eidsmoe on “Preachers, Politics, and the Two Kingdoms: What Does the IRS Allow?” as well as workshops on “Helping Your Church Stand For Life” with Rev. Doug Merkey and “Giving ‘Unusual’ Gifts to Ministry” with John Hawkins, and a tour of the City Life Center in Minneapolis.
Other plenary speakers included Jānis Diekonts of LFL of Latvia and Rev. Don Richman, LFL’s international representative, who spoke on what is happening in Russia and Latvia with life issues.
The two winners of the national essay contest sponsored by the Council of Federation Presidents (COFP) shared their winning essays on Friday night. Brooke Fandrich is an eighth grade student and member of St. John’s Lutheran School and Church in Portage, Wisconsin. She is the daughter of David and Jessica Fandrich. Her essay was titled “Many Shapes and Sizes.” Amanda Dressel is the high school category winner and is a sophomore at Watertown-Mayer High School. She is the daughter of Robert and Melanie Dressel and is a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Watertown, Minnesota. Amanda’s winning essay is titled “The Truth Behind Abortion of the Handicapped: What Our Society Isn’t Seeing.”
In 2017, Lutherans For Life will be having four regional conferences (instead of one national conference) in Ft. Wayne, Indiana; New Braunfels, Texas; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Pekin, Illinois. The next national conference will be in 2018. Watch for more details at a later date.
Hilary Murray began serving as mission and ministry director of Lutherans For Life this week! Please welcome her. She would love to hear from you.
Greetings in the name of the Lord!
Lutherans For Life is the best organization in the world! I am overjoyed and humbled by the opportunity to serve as mission and ministry director.
I was born to Rev. Dr. Scott Murray and Mrs. Maryann Murray in Gretna, Louisiana, in 1992. Shortly thereafter, my father took a call to Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, where I was raised. I attended Memorial Lutheran School through eighth grade and graduated from Lutheran High North in Houston in 2010. The stellar choral department and challenging music program of Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, were my life until I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music with an emphasis in choral conducting. Music, however, was not the only passion that took up my time in college.
In January of 2013 I attended the first-ever LCMS Life Conference (after some convincing words from my pastor). That conference taught me that I had been terrifyingly ignorant of the awful reality of abortion in this country. Through founding Bulldogs For the Unborn (now Bulldogs For Life), attending the March for Life—the largest annual peaceful protest in the country—three times, witnessing women driving into Planned Parenthood clinics alone, working with crisis pregnancy centers, and attending various other conferences, I have learned that there are many more issues at large in the life arena that are just as frightening and as pressing as abortion.
The most valuable information I have learned is that these issues desperately need to be talked about and addressed within our own Lutheran churches. Praise be to the Father who sends the Holy Spirit to work through His Word. I pray that the Holy Spirit continues His work of equipping Lutherans to be Gospel-motivated voices For Life through me in the coming years.
Your Sister For Life and In Christ,
Mission and Ministry Director
Now’s our chance!
Life’s sanctity is seismically shifting our culture. More than 40 years of grace and truth are nearing critical mass. The message of every human being’s preciousness is wobbling windows and walls and storming doors and floors throughout death’s most secure strongholds. Rather than silencing the earthquake set in motion by God’s crucified love and resurrected salvation, society’s trembling selfishness has only allowed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to amplify. This whole land is seeing how the value He gives to all persons—by creating, redeeming, calling, and connecting us—is snowballing its most skeptical opponents.
States are honoring marginalized lives with their laws:
In 19 states lawmakers resisted extremist pressure to allow physician-assisted suicide (and five more states will have done so by end of the legislative session), and New Mexico’s Supreme Court affirmed killing a terminally ill patient isn’t a “fundamental right” even with consent.
334 life-affirming regulations have taken effect in the last five years, reducing annual unborn deaths by 500,000 and leading to widespread facility closures.
23 states have filed suit against federal threats to withhold funding from schools that distinguish bathroom use by birth gender.
Students—the leaders of the future—are enthusiastically celebrating endangered lives:
Students for Life campus groups now outnumber their Planned Parenthood counterparts by 1,043 to 275 (almost four to one!).
53% of young adults oppose abortion on demand, an increase of nine points in only four years, and less than half support public funding for Planned Parenthood.
Less than half of high school students surveyed report being sexually active, which is 13% fewer than 25 years ago, and the number of abstinent young adult men has doubled (women tripled!) since the 1960s.
Almighty God is moving His hand! Lord Jesus Christ is accomplishing His mission in us! Not only has He made this message of ours important, but He is making our work effective as well! Seize this opportunity with us and sustain the intensity with a special financial gift to Lutherans For Life. You are investing directly in heaven’s own treasury of changed hearts and saved lives. Together let us show our joy and gratitude at being forgiven, relieved, and delivered by lovingly sharing our Father’s forgiveness, relief, and deliverance with our neighbors.
The Need Is Great, Now’s the Time
Indeed, we dare not let up. We’d better not delay or hesitate. Our labors must remain unrelenting. Evil and the devil are not stalling. Deception and death will not decelerate:
The United Nations is exploiting the Zika virus to urge abortion in countries where it’s currently illegal.
Studies report persons in same-sex marriages commit suicide three times more often than others.
National Institutes of Health may fund injecting animal embryos with human stem cells.
Use of abortion-causing LARC devices (long-acting reversible contraceptives) is rising.
U.S. Supreme Court ruled women’s health concerns place “undue burden” on abortion access.
Those raised by same-sex parents suffer twice as much depression and abuse as those from traditional families.
State governments have begun forcing doctors and pregnancy centers to promote abortion services.
Teens attending schools that distribute condoms get pregnant (and contract STDs) more frequently than teens attending schools that promote abstinence.
Suffering people are buying the lie that sometimes death offers the only solutions. Someone you know, somebody you love, needs us. They need the same Jesus we can’t live without. God’s love and Christ’s forgiveness CAN and WILL rescue them. Lutherans For Life reaches and touches so many of them with the life-giving Gospel. It will take us $981,000 to meet such needs nationwide this year. We have $459,000 so far. (That’s less than half!) Please send a gift today so that you can keep being our heart, and we’ll keep being your voice. Together we bring the body of Christ—the feet and fingers of Father, Son, and Spirit Himself—to these desperate ones.
Lutherans at the Epicenter
Gifts like yours have enabled us to apply God’s Word right to the pressure points. Our resources and services intersect your community—and hundreds of others—where death pounds fiercest. Rather than ignoring altogether or observing from a distance, Lutherans For Life takes God’s fight and Christ’s victory to all the ground zeroes:
Y4Life, under the direction of Laura Davis, united, equipped, and energized thousands of Lutheran students with activities and exhibits at Higher Things and the LCMS National Youth Gathering this summer.
A renewed Life Teams program is soon approaching completion and publication to invigorate and outfit congregation-based squads (we already have over 100!) for serving and saluting life locally and individually.
Owen’s Mission is capturing the imaginations of children from California to Connecticut by giving their Lutheran school Touch of Life fetal models so they can feel how God loves life—including theirs.
LFL’s National Conference (October 21-22, 2016, Bloomington, Minnesota) features a wealth of expert sessions about life advocacy and activism in the distinctively Lutheran spirit—a gathering of life-minded brothers and sisters in Christ.
Brand new and relevant Life Sunday materials prepare your pastor and congregation for a special occasion of proclaiming the good news of God’s highest blessing—lives!
Join us! Jump in! Visit the website and find and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Vimeo to see the pictures and get all the scoops. Drop us a line and find out what we can do for you, or let us know what Lutherans For Life means to you. I’m looking forward to your gift and your partnership!
We’ve been receiving frequent reports of how our Gospel conversations are rescuing and protecting lives. I humbly but boldly ask you to help us gather the remaining $522,000 necessary to continue this vital ministry. Our God magnifies it and multiplies it into His miracles, so feel confident giving generously!
The Supreme Court’s recent decisions leave Christians reeling. Presidential policies appear to target our freedom to act according to conscience. Important elections are approaching. Culture’s “progress” pressures our relationships and our core beliefs. Should we fight back and take over society or step back and let society overtake itself? We don’t have to attempt either! The Gospel of Jesus Christ invites and enables us to neither attack nor abandon, but engage. Here are seven quick specifics of exercising Christian citizenship:
- Jesus rules both Church and world.
Jesus is Lord—period! His dying and rising have exalted Him above all places and ascended Him over all people. This God of ours has purchased the whole universe for His own. Incarnate King of hearts is also King of kings. Atoning Lord of lives is also Lord of lords. Risen and forgiving Judge of living and dead has history and eternity under His feet. The good and gracious will of God is done around the world as it is across the heavens, apart from either our cooperation or request. Civil authorities serve as His ambassadors, and God establishes every government as His instrument. In spite of appearances, He orders all happenings for preserving and benefitting life.
- We enjoy responsibilities and privileges in both Church and world.
Baptism unites us to Christ Jesus and seats us with Him on high. Heavenly Father bequeaths us His whole kingdom, above and below. As Adam’s descendants and heirs of Eve, we rightfully subdue and rule over this earth that produces our daily bread. Heaven holds us its citizens, but we live yet as residents in this realm, caretakers and brothers’ keepers. We whom God calls His sons and daughters know best both how to manage nature and govern nations because we have seen God’s will and received His Word. We have access to His own mind and heart. For our neighbor’s good, we cannot neglect any speaking and acting that will direct and defend our common life.
- Human governments keep order to make possible Gospel ministry.
Father, Son, and Spirit’s ultimate goal remains saving every human soul. His left-hand rule of earthly life facilitates His right-hand rule of everlasting life in new heavens and earth. Using governments and laws—even citizens and politics—He creates a safe environment and establishes the suitable context for His Gospel and His people to have free course. The Lord’s Law of love, written and reflected in the Ten Commandments, furnishes the framework for the more important Savior-message.
- Expect tensions and persecutions.
The nations of creation lie broken because humankind has fallen into sin. Satan proliferates temptations, and selfishness runs rampant. Men and women wrestle to become masters over the entire earth, making enemies of each other and viewing God as rival. Pride and greed, lust, indulgence and laziness, jealousy and revenge often prevail even in the lives of baptized believers. In this world we will have trouble; indeed, the world hates us as it did Jesus. Representatives of humility and peace meet violence, crucifixion even. Our struggle rages against sinful nature and Satan but also against a world of foreign mind and hostile spirit.
- When commands conflict, we obey God rather than men.
Divine authority is exercised by sinners. Sometimes governments demand ultimate and unrightful allegiance from Christians in contradiction to our Gospel confession. Sometimes leaders and laws threaten to take the goods and fame, safety and freedom, family or life God has given us. Such rulers no longer function as deputies of Almighty Maker but agents of hell. In those matters we may and must resist and rebuke, using whatever influence our goods, fame, safety, freedom, family, and life can obtain. We trust that anything God allows us to lose He will more than restore, and we stay secure in the truth of Christ.
- Faith can’t be legislated.
The Bible speaks no “separation” of church and state—and neither does the U. S. Constitution. Nevertheless, we recognize that God ordains a distinction of manner between them. The one He rules according to His Gospel and the other according to His Law. This Law, by force and coercion, commands, sets conditions, threatens consequences, and rewards obedience. It does nothing for souls or salvation. In Gospel, God does for us and gives freely unto everlasting resurrection. Law has to be permitted to precede, without interference from Gospel, in order that Gospel may supersede all. If God does not bully faith out of us, then government has no place either opposing or obligating Christianity.
- Love, joy, and gratitude compel us rather than anger, fear, or guilt.
Our failures won’t undermine the Lord’s reign. Others’ successes can’t overthrow it. This world will go on as long as God wills and will then give way to new creation. In Jesus we are guaranteed inclusion in it, as well as having the privilege of participating in His activity—not to assert superiority but to save our opponents from the devil’s deceptions and our neighbors from final destruction. Let’s exercise our majesty enthusiastically!
Life Quotes for the 4th of July
“God is the source and giver of all life. He has placed a special value on human life; therefore, we respect the sanctity with which God has dignified every human being (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 8:4-6, Genesis 2:7). This special and unique place of man in God’s creation is further emphasized by the fact that God has acted to redeem mankind by His own blood (John 3:16). This redemptive love of God is lifted up in [1 John 4:10]: ‘[H]e (God) loved us and sent [H]is Son to be the expiation for our sins.’” Rev. Dr. Duane R. Lindberg
“It is vital that we Christians realize that the many challenging situations we face in our world today are deeply spiritual problems … not … solved simply by having the right president in Washington or the right congressional representative. Surely, these are vitally important and we must all take our duties as Christian citizens much, much more seriously. But, in itself, the political process will not ‘solve’ the deep spiritual problems which lie at the heart of everything evil in our culture.” Rev. Dr. A. L. Barry
“The opening refrain of the Declaration of Independence affirms the necessity of an absolute standard upon which the rule of law must be based: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …’. Thomas Jefferson asserted that the ‘chief purpose of government is to protect life. Abandon that, and you have abandoned all.’” Gov. Mike Huckabee with George Grant
“To choose life is also a call to Walk the Walk, to put feet to our prayers and actions with our words. Certainly we should keep praying that the Supreme Court decision would be reversed and a human life amendment would be passed which protects life in the womb. Our prayers should include our government leaders, those who are in the forefront in crafting legislation that will diminish and ultimately defeat the abortion holocaust. And our prayers should continue for ministries that are seeking to be there when the choices are whether to choose life or death by abortion.” Dr. Francis Monseth
“The pro-life community does not advocate government regulation of reproduction. Women are free to reproduce or not reproduce as they will. But once having reproduced, they shouldn’t be free to kill their baby. That baby is entitled to the same human rights and personhood to which society is generally entitled.” Gregg Cunningham
“It is time for our nation to repent, to change its mind about the value of human life, when that value begins, and from whom that value comes. It is time for our nation to return to that self-evident truth that we are ‘endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’” Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb
“We rejoice that our fundamental rights as human beings, including the precious right to life, come not from princes, not from legislatures, not from deals (‘mutual non-aggression pacts’) we cut with our fellow citizens; our rights come as gifts of God Himself—and they are, therefore, in no way revocable by any merely human authority.” Robert P. George
“The duty of those who wield authority on earth, rather, is to respect and protect the God-given moral order in which fundamental human rights – above all the right to life—have pride of place.” Robert P. George
“A Christian cannot debate the pros and cons of abortion any more than he can debate the pros and cons of rape or stealing or adultery. Abortion cannot be a ‘right’ for, in God’s sight, it is a fundamental wrong.” Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb
“If we have no ‘sanctity of human life’ principle, we become a self-destructive society.” Rev. Dr. Randy Shields
“Legalizing abortion actually alters the form of government we have … It abolishes the notion of a government that secures rights that are beyond its reach (because they are given by the Creator), and establishes one in which those rights are given and taken by government decree. That affects everything.” Father Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
“O most glorious God … Direct my thoughts, word and work, wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb, and purge my heart by the Holy Spirit … Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy Son, Jesus Christ … Thou gavest thy Son to die for me, and has given me assurance of salvation …”. George Washington
“Abortion is un-American … It baldly violates the first principles of the country, cracking the foundation on which all rights for Americans rest—the right to life. Unless the right to life is inviolable, none of the rights that presuppose it are inviolable either.” George Neumayr, Executive Editor, American Spectator
“Our Lord faced opposition, but He continued to bring the Word of life and healing to many. Though the pro-life community may suffer reverses … we cannot give up the effort to fight for the unborn so that all humans are recognized as persons, beings valuable in and of themselves.” Rev. Dr. Kevin E. Voss, Director of the Concordia Bioethics Institute
“We stand for the right to life, not simply because the state needs more people, but rather because each human being is a unique creation of God, endowed with personhood and the rights that attach to personhood from the moment of conception.” Colonel John Eidsmoe, member of the Lutherans For Life Board of Directors
“As Christians, let us pause this July 4th and give thanks above all for that liberty which stretches into eternity, our liberty in Christ. Jesus frees us from sin’s power and condemnation by forgiving us before the throne of God, pardoning us fully of all guilt. Through faith in Christ and His redeeming work on our behalf we are citizens of heaven.” E-mail devotion, www.redeemerclc.org/devotional.html
“I do not believe human society … ever has attained, or ever can attain, a high state of intelligence, virtue, security, liberty, or happiness without the Holy Scriptures; even the whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever-growing influence of the Bible.” William Seward, Secretary of State for the administration of Abraham Lincoln
“Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.” Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph and the Morse Code
“One of the major signs of decadence in the Roman Empire was that its unwanted babies were exposed, that is, abandoned to die. Can we claim that Western society is any less decadent because it consigns its unwanted babies to the hospital incinerator instead of the local rubbish dump? Reverence for human life is an indispensable characteristic of a humane and civilized society.” John Stott, English Christian leader and Anglican cleric
“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781
“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” President John F. Kennedy, 1961
“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families … In vain are schools, academies, and universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years … The vices and examples of the parents cannot be concealed from the children. How is it possible that children can have any just sense of the sacred obligations of morality or religion if, from their earliest infancy, they learn their mothers live in habitual infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant infidelity to their mothers?” John Adams, 1778
“All law is enacted morality. Every criminal law says that a certain thing is right, and another wrong. Every law is thus a piece of legislated morality. Moreover, all morality represents a religion, as every system of law is an establishment of religion. Thus, there can be a separation of church and state, but there cannot be a separation of religion and the state because every system of law is a religion and a morality in action.” R. J. Rushdoony, philosopher, historian, and theologian
“We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic … Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, October 6, 1935
“The Declaration of Independence … claims … the ultimate source of authority by stating … they were … ‘appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of’ their ‘intentions’... The foundations of our independence and our Government rests upon basic religious convictions. Back of the authority of our laws is the authority of the Supreme Judge of the World, to whom we still appeal. It seems to me perfectly plain that the authority of law, the right to equality, liberty and property, under American institutions, have for their foundation reverence for God. If we could imagine that to be swept away, these institutions of our American government could not long survive.” President Calvin Coolidge, September 21, 1924
Front row: Barbara Geistfield, Regional Director of Texas; Deb Lakamp, LFL of Illinois; Diane Albers, LFL of Missouri; Keith Alabach, LFL of Indiana.
Middle row: Rev. Michael W. Salemink, Executive Director of Lutherans For Life; Virginia Flo, Regional Director of Minnesota; Jeanne MacKay, LFL of Kansas; Jill Johnsen, LFL of South Dakota; Paula Oldenburg, LFL of Wisconsin; Helen Lewis, LFL of Montana.
Back row: Lynette Auch, President of Lutherans For Life; Scott Licht, National Director of Lutherans For Life; Rev. Richard Salcido, LFL of Iowa; Rev. Chris Brademeyer, LFL of North Dakota, Bob Saeger, LFL of Nebraska.
I had the blessing and privilege of spending several days in April with some of the most passionate For Life Lutherans one could ever meet. The State Federation Presidents and several Lutherans For Life (LFL) staff members, including our two regional directors, met as they usually do every spring to share what is happening on the Frontlines of their states and regions, to learn and discuss new ideas, and to be refreshed and encouraged by God’s Word—and by each other.
These people are dedicated soldiers in the front-line battle of speaking “up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8a NIV). They do this through:
Sharing creative ideas for honoring mothers and fathers on their respective special days
Funding or participating in the work of crisis pregnancy centers and ultrasound ministries
Presenting or hosting events addressing life issues, including a focus on our identities as God’s sons and daughters being found in Christ versus the worldly teaching that we are identified through our sexuality—and rising human trafficking concerns
Participating in coalitions to combat the evil forces of physician-assisted suicide legislation and the twisted rhetoric of the Compassion and Choices (the successor to The Hemlock Society, the main group advocating legalization of doctor-assisted suicide)
Along with encouraging For Life Lutherans to team up in their churches and communities to form Life Teams or new Life Chapters, these leaders serve as encouragers to the more matured—and perhaps tired—Life Chapters as well as being a source of support to developed Life Teams in their areas.
These forward-looking leaders, concerned about the future of LFL, developed and sponsor essay contests, with the process starting in their respective states. The state winners compete against each other in two age divisions for national winners and an expense paid trip to the Lutherans For Life National Conference to present their essays. Last year’s winners were excited to meet with Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and tour the Creation Museum.
With what seems like new threats every day by the evil one and the dominion of death, life-affirming work is vast and daunting for anyone and everyone in the trenches.
Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the people of Jerusalem felt the same way as they struggled to rebuild the walls, with the daunting enemy threats and the vast rubble before them. Nehemiah encouraged them, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14b NIV).
Prayer and God’s Word encourage and strengthen these LFL leaders—these soldiers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although varying in age from the late 20’s to 70, they fearlessly and tirelessly continue their work, knowing that they were not called to be successful, only to be faithful in the work that God has called each one of them to do.
As God called Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, God has called each one of us to be soldiers in His army to repair our portion of the “wall,” by affirming life and speaking the truth of the Gospel with love to everyone who will listen, with the weapon of God’s Word in one hand and building material, like LFL resources, in the other.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the life-saving work of Your Son who taught us to be life-affirming soldiers of the Gospel. Thank You for the front-line leaders, LFL members, staff, and board of directors of LFL. Bless these Christian soldiers with strength and courage to remain faithful to the tasks You have given them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus going on before
Christ the royal Master leads against the foe
Forward into battle see His banner go
Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before
Text: Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924, alt. Public Domain
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
We shout this truth and hope together. At least we shout it together in worship. At least our hearts shout it even if our mouths don’t so much. At least our faith shouts it when our hearts don’t feel it and our minds forget it. Outside of our churches, on the other hand, we often muster only mumbles. Any quick visit to social networking websites or even a casual viewing of evening news confirms our culture has either lost or gotten lazy about the ability to speak truth in love. University protests, internet comments, controversial laws, presidential campaigns, and common conversations clearly display we don’t know how to disagree without disrespect anymore.
We’ve learned well the world’s lesson: “Given the choice between speaking the truth and being kind, choose kind.” Relationships matter more than righteousness, don’t they? Remember the words of the Prophet Thumper in the book of Disney, chapter Bambi: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” But Christian Scripture suspects a false dichotomy. Do love and truth in fact operate in tension? Should one really trump the other? Can’t we speak truth and show love at the same time? A certain apostle advises, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). And another apostle exhorts, “[L]et us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
So love and truth, even uncomfortable truth, do not exist in opposition but in concert. The one does not diminish but magnifies and completes the other. Love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Godly love certainly “explain[s] everything in the kindest way” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Eighth Commandment) but never uses “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) as an excuse to allow or offer false testimony. Love does (and says) what is best, not just whatever is easiest, until the beloved gets better instead of merely feeling better.
Of course, as Christians, we cannot help but speak (Acts 4:20). The Lord’s people speak the truth, and speak the truth in love, and speak the truth in love about life. Christ’s disciples speak the truth in love about life amid this culture of death. “We also believe and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13 KJV). With the prophet Jeremiah we acknowledge, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). And with St. Paul we affirm, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Yet even in this most important endeavor we do not despair. We take comfort from the Son of God’s own solemn promise: “I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15 NIV), for “it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19 NIV). So when we speak, we do it as servants: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NIV). We enter conversation standing beside and not staring down. We claim no authority of our own over anybody, and we certainly boast no superiority to them, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23).
We recognize right away our own sinful motives that might adulterate our interactions. We repent of desiring to be someone’s lord or trying to be the savior. Yet we also reject the temptation to stay ignorant and indifferent toward our neighbors’ situations so as to spare ourselves emotional turmoil. Our truth-telling and loving must meet their needs and not our own cravings for comfort, control, accomplishment, or equilibrium. We realize that, whether she knows it or not, or he likes it or not, even an ideological opponent—and especially a Christian brother or sister—comes to us as beloved children of God for whom Christ died, rose, reigns, and returns. We speak the truth in love not to save face or to save ourselves trouble or even ultimately to save a relationship but to save a life from sin’s death and a soul from Satan’s hell.
For this reason, only the whole truth will do. We advertise and emphasize God as not only against sin and against death but also for life and for you, so absolutely for you that He takes you as you are and does not leave you there. Forsaking simple satisfactions and quick escapes for faith in the Savior’s ways finds gracious forgiveness, unconditional acceptance, and abundant everlasting life with Father-Son-and-Spirit’s household. When oncoming traffic approaches unsuspecting toddlers, we holler Law, even if it startles and irritates them, but only so that we may also whisk them into Gospel relief and refuge.
We not only proclaim the kingdom, we perform it. Our God always incarnates His Gospel like this. He always brings it in three dimensions. Our faith and salvation rests and rises in the Word become flesh. He who speaks to us also speaks with and through us. Love proves truth persuasive. Hearts trust truth most from those who provide groceries, clothes, comfort, home, and hope to meet needs, even when these needs appear only tangential to spiritual matters. Speaking the truth in love never just executes a task but establishes a relationship, one of patience and persistence—now tilling, now fertilizing, now planting, now pruning, now watering, now weeding, now shading, now waiting. Love without truth leaves only empty sentimentality, and truth without love just makes noise. Love never replaces truth but always reinforces it, embracing body and being as well as mind.
How we speak the truth in love affects as much as what truth we speak in love. We speak confidently but compassionately, cheerfully and sincerely, invitingly, not imposingly. We converse amicably and articulately. We interact winsomely, willing also to admit limits and investigate together. This offers us opportunity to stay educated and aware. We listen to the Word to know what to say, and we listen to the world to know what to say it about. Jesus never abandons us to speak the truth in love alone. He surrounds us with the communion of saints as our models and solidarity.
Please keep praying for people in need to hear and receive the Gospel message. And we invite and encourage you to continue preparing yourselves alongside us for every opportunity, great or little, that our Lord gives us to speak the truth in love.
They can be complicated, confusing, controversial, and uncomfortable. I’m talking about those things we typically address on a Sanctity of Life Sunday—the life issues. They can be complicated—stem cell research, cloning, in vitro fertilization, genetic engineering. It seems like we need to be scientists to figure it all out. They can be confusing—should we or should we not remove that feeding tube, stop that treatment, sign that Living Will, or initiate that Do Not Resuscitate order? It seems like we need to be ethicists to figure it all out. They can be controversial—why do we talk about this in church and bring it up in Bible study? These are political and social issues. Let’s stick to the Gospel. It seems like we need to be theologians to figure it all out. They can be uncomfortable—people in our pews have had abortions or pressured a girlfriend or daughter to have an abortion or were unable to stop someone from having an abortion. It seems like we need to be psychologists to figure it all out.
And it’s all true. The life issues are complicated, confusing, controversial, and uncomfortable. But today, we are going to talk about something that is, in fact, very simple. It is where we need to start before addressing any of the life issues. We will answer the question: “What has God done that gives value to human life?” The answer is found in three simple words: Created • Redeemed • Called.
Every human life has value because God creates every human life. The Bible pictures this pro-creative activity as an intimate and hands-on work. “Your hands fashioned and made me” (Job 10:8a). “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 NIV). We could all have a tag attached to the back of our necks like we see on clothing. Our tag would read, “Hand Made by God!”
Now some might want to interrupt here and say, “So if every human being is the work of God’s hands, then how do we explain Down syndrome babies or other babies with various physical or mental challenges?” Here is the simple answer to that question: They are the work of God’s hands. And God has a couple of questions for us about His children in Isaiah. “Do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” (45:11 NIV) and “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?” (29:16 NIV) Anybody want to challenge God about what He makes?
That God makes tiny little human beings from the moment of conception is clear in this verse from Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (v. 5 NIV). Since sinfulness is a human condition and we are sinful from the moment of conception, we must necessarily be human from the moment of conception. This verse also points us to the next thing God has done that gives value to human life.
Since we are sinful from the moment of conception, we need a Savior from the moment of conception. We have one! Remember the angel’s words to Mary? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31 NIV). Note there are two events in Jesus’ life described here, His conception and His birth. And it is His conception that is miraculous, not His birth. When the “power of the Most High” overshadowed Mary (1:35a), Jesus was conceived without the aid of an earthly father, which is why the angel also refers to Him as “the Son of God” (35b) from the moment of His conception. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a NIV) at Jesus’ conception, not His birth. Jesus was not only the “God-man,” He was the “God-embryo”! His holiness at conception takes the place of our un-holiness at conception. What value this gives to all embryos from that very moment!
But there is more. Jesus needed to develop in a womb. He needed feet to walk among us. He needed hands to touch and heal the sick. He needed a mouth so He could teach. He needed a heart to be filled with compassion for the lost. He needed a body so He could take little children in His arms and hold them close and bless them.
And there are deeper reasons for Jesus’ human development in the womb. He needed those hands and feet to be pierced as He was nailed to the cross in our place. He needed a mouth to utter that forsaken cry so we never have to. He needed a heart to pump the blood that would be shed and bring cleansing for sin, and then be stilled in death. He needed a body to be buried in a tomb, and then to rise again victorious over death and the grave!
Paul says that we were “bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20a NIV). All that Jesus did from His conception onward was part of that price. Paul reminds the Ephesian pastors of the magnitude of this price when he tells them, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28b NIV). God did not purchase us with the blood of a man or the blood of some holy martyr. God purchased us with His own blood in the person of Jesus! The price paid for sinful humanity was high. The value it gives to human life is incalculable. Not every human being knows this, of course, and it is the task of the Church to share this message. But the fact remains, Jesus’ life and death and resurrection give value to all human life. Every human being is created and redeemed.
One simple answer is left. Every human life has value because every person is someone God desires to call into an eternal relationship with Him; He “wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV). He wants every human life to be splashed with His Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. He who created every life with His hands and redeemed every life with His hands wants to call us all as His children and hold us, indeed “engrave” us, in the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) now and in eternity.
Created • Redeemed • Called—it is not complicated or confusing or controversial or uncomfortable at all. Its simplicity speaks profoundly to all of the life issues. So allow me to end with some quiz questions.
Why do we strive to protect tiny embryos in Petri dishes or frozen in a fertility clinic? Because they are created, redeemed, and little ones whom God wants to call.
Why do we speak up for those in the womb who cannot speak? Because they are created, redeemed, and little ones whom God wants to call.
What do we teach our little children so that when they are older, sexual promiscuity and abortion will be unthinkable? They are very special because they are created, redeemed, and called.
What do we tell you young people as you struggle with temptations and tough choices, mood swings, and confused feelings about your identity? We want you to know whose you are and that you can make good choices because you are created, redeemed, and called.
What do we share with that unmarried, pregnant college freshman who is ashamed and afraid and sees only one way out? We share that she is loved and forgiven and not forsaken because she is created, redeemed, and called.
What do we say to women and men crushed in the aftermath of an abortion decision? They are created, redeemed, and called, and therefore NOTHING can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
What do we share with the infertile couple desperately desiring a child? They are created, redeemed, and called, and they can trust in the ways and will of their God.
What can we say to those who miscarry a child they already know and love? They are created, redeemed, and called, and God holds them in His hands.
What do we have to share with the frail elderly who wonder about God’s purpose for their lives? They are created, redeemed, and called, and as long as God gives them life, He gives their lives meaning and purpose.
Undoubtedly, this list could be even longer. But the answer will still be the same. Our lives have value.
Every life has value because every life is someone created by God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and someone He either has called or wants to call into an eternal relationship with Him. It doesn’t have to be complicated! Amen.
This article is adapted from a talk given by Rev. Michael Salemink, Executive-Director-elect of Lutherans For Life at the 2015 Lutherans For Life National Conference.
We are not here today just to demand defunding Planned Parenthood, though we would welcome that development.
We are not here just to point out blatant law breaking, though we are indignant at the fact that it is happening.
We are not here just to protest the harvesting and marketing of babies’ bodies, though we adamantly oppose such an obviously irrational and horribly immoral thing taking place in our communities.
We are not here only to advocate reversal of Roe v. Wade, though we do indeed long for that day.
We are not here only to dispute journalistic prejudice, judicial discrimination, and political posturing, though our society is neither free nor fair nor safe as long as they occur.
We are not here solely to spare in utero children from institutionalized violence and save intimidated women from cultural lies, though we will not stand by and allow it.
We are not here solely to represent the defenseless and to be a voice for the vulnerable, though we will neither be still nor silent as long as they are.
We are not here simply to promote restrictions on abortions and support reductions in abortions, though we champion such causes and rejoice when they prevail.
We are not here simply to proclaim abortion wrong and call promiscuity sinful, though we insist that it is because God says it is.
We are not here merely because these places [such as abortion clinics] lessen and threaten our common humanity, though we are declaring that they do that very thing.
We are not here merely because these procedures endanger the inalienable rights of us all, though we contend that this constitutes their greatest danger.
We are not here merely to memorialize 42 years of victims, 57 million martyrs, and countless walking wounded casualties, since the blood of the innocent and the tears of the oppressed cry out from the ground to all of human history.
We are not here just to demonstrate objection to the degeneration of family, marriage, and sexuality, though we do indeed vehemently lament it.
We are not here just to grieve that the miracle of procreation has been reduced to a mechanical reproduction and children are becoming commodities, though we testify to that sad truth.
We are not here only because we regret our previous apathy and inactivity, though we hereby confess that we have contributed to our nation’s corruption.
We are not here only because we repent our self-righteousness, we repent our complacent complaining, we repent our competing and comparing, we repent our hypocritical judgmentalism.
We are not here simply because we fear failure.
We are not here because we believe we must be victorious.
We are not here because we need to be here.
We are here today because our God Himself is out here today.
We are here today because Almighty God has become incarnate, took on our flesh, shared in our nature, claimed personal and final responsibility for our condition, and dwells with us; and His coming among us gives immeasurable dignity and unconditional sanctity to our lives and everyone else’s.
We are here because the kingdom of the Heavenly Father has come near, and it has authority to liberate from falsehood and undo all evil.
We are here because in His compassion and crucifixion, Jesus Christ has already settled our debts, suffered our punishment, made up for all wrongs, and gained forgiveness not just for all sins but for each and every last sinner; and I am forgiven, and you are forgiven, and they are forgiven, and we are forgiven, and all are loved by God and forgiven before Him.
We are here because this same Son of God and Mary’s Son is resurrected from death, and there is hope in His name, and there is healing in His Word, and there is peace in His way.
We are here because incarnate, resurrected, crucified God Jesus means that the gift of everlasting life in His heavenly kingdom is universal and unconditional, and this ultimate total salvation is for such as us and the least of these.
We are here because Savior Jesus is Lord Jesus, ascended and enthroned, reigning and returning, and His love redeems all people and all situations for His good purposes.
We are here because the same Father-Son-and-Spirit God who is embracing us into a better way also longs for all persons—from the infant and the unborn to the egotistical and the afraid to the elderly and the infirm—to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth and the way and the life that He freely and fiercely gives and preserves.
We are here because the fall and curse we each have wrought will be repealed, and creation is being restored to righteousness already, and our Alpha and Omega has given us all front-row invitations to witness and participate in it.
We are here to embody and deliver Gospel-Christ to broken lives, wounded spirits, and hearts enslaved, and to embody and deliver Gospel-Christ not in speech and sentiment only but even in deeds and resources.
We are here today not because of fear or force or anger but because of love and joy and hope.
We are out here today because we want to be here, because God is here, because this is where Jesus Himself is within and among the least of these His brothers and sisters, His people, His children; and He is working repentance, forgiveness, and everlasting salvation.
We are out here today because changed hearts change not just minds but lives, and changed lives change not just local laws but the world, human history, and eternity.
God grant it to them, to us, and to all, in this age and in the greater age to come, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.