Questions on Parenting

My children were brought up WELS. They have met the one they would like to marry, but that one is of another faith. My children are considering a non-denominational church, so as to not choose their Lutheran faith, or faith of the one they want to marry. Of course I am not happy with that. We brought our kids up going to church every Sunday, Sunday school, daily devotions. It scares me that they now can consider anything other than our WELS Lutheran faith. What is something loving and caring that I can say to them, to make them think harder about it, and hopefully make the right decision? I have said to them all I can think of. I pray about this daily. I don't want to give up hope.

Since I do not know what you have talked about with your children, please excuse any suggestions that you have already pursued.

I can suggest that your children invite their significant other to events that can expose them more to what our churches teach: worship services and Bible classes. They pass along reading material like Forward in Christ and Meditations. They can read articles on the synod’s website. They can speak with your pastor. They can consider attending a no-strings-attached Bible Information Class.

You can lovingly explain to your children that membership in a visible church is a tangible way of doing what Jesus said: “acknowledging him before others” (Matthew 10:32). You can explain to your children that when people join a church, their membership is an indication that they believe what the church teaches. It is inconsistent and misleading when people join a church and reject the doctrines of that church. You can ask your children, lovingly, if they could in good conscience join a church which teaches doctrines they do not believe. Could they in good conscience join a church that denies the sacraments, for example? Jesus’ statement of loving him more than parents or children (Matthew 10:37) applies also to our spouses.

Your children are having the kinds of conversations that need to take place before marriage. I would especially encourage the participation of your pastor in those conversations.

Continue to pray for your children, and tell them you are doing that. God bless you and your family.

What should I do if I was confirmed in a WELS church and my stepmom won't let me go? She insists on taking me to another church that is nothing like I learned. I have tried talking to her but I am now to afraid to say what I believe.

There is information I am lacking as I try to respond to your question. If you were confirmed in one of our congregations, that means you established communicant membership there. Are you still a member of that congregation? If so, you will want to speak to your pastor about your situation. He would also want to speak to your stepmother.

Your age is another piece of information I do not have. I do not know if you are dependent on your stepmother for a ride to church or if you have other ways of getting to church (while speaking to your stepmother about this of course).

I also do not know if your father is in the picture and if he belongs to one of our congregations. Input from him would be valuable.

With the limited information I do have, all I can suggest is that you overcome your fear of speaking to your stepmother and have another conversation with her about this subject. Perhaps you could list the teachings of her church that go against what you learned and confessed to be true at your confirmation. Use a Bible in your conversation, asking your stepmother to explain her church’s teachings while you explain your faith. God bless such a conversation.

Is it unchristian to not want to have children?

When it comes to children, we want to make sure that we view them as God intended: as his blessings (Psalm 127:3-5). If a Christian husband and wife are physically able to have children and choose not to have children, they will need to examine their motives and methods to see how those line up with God’s word. Reasons for not wanting to have children might include concerns for the physical, emotional or mental state of one or both spouses.

Christian Life Resources, a WELS-affiliated ministry, has good resources on this subject. I encourage you to read especially the three-part series on birth control. God’s blessings to you.

I‘m a single mom that divorced a few years ago. I did not want to divorce but really had no choice in the matter since my spouse had already decided to give up on our marriage, have an affair, and not follow through with marriage counseling with our pastor or therapist. It breaks my heart that I have to allow my children to be exposed to their dad living with his girlfriend, as well as witness negative habits (excessive drinking, angry outbursts w/cursing at the children at times, and not always taking the kids’ needs or feelings into consideration). I have my older children in Christian counseling but having a dad that continues to not be a positive Christian role model takes a toll on these kids. I’m struggling finding the right Bible passages to help my child cope with having a parent that isn’t necessarily being a Christian role model. I do encourage them to always look to God the Father for hope, unconditional love, and loyalty because He will never let them down and he will always be there for them. I just wish I had more knowledge of verses to use as a reference to find comfort in knowing that parents make mistakes but they can always look to the Lord for everlasting love.

The Fourth Commandment teaches that God has placed his representatives in the home (Ephesians 6:1-2), the church (Acts 20:28) and the government (Romans 13:1-4). With an eye on the past and the present, it is clear that not all representatives of God represent him faithfully. There are parents—as you indicate—who are not good role models for their children. There are churches that teach false doctrine. There are government officials who are corrupt and even antagonistic toward Christianity.

While not all those people might represent God faithfully, all those individuals are in positions of honor as God’s representatives. Their character and actions might not engender respect and honor but their positions do. That is why, for example, the Bible includes an instruction like this: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right…honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17). The emperor who was in power when Peter wrote those words was Nero—cruel, Christian-hating Nero. By no means did Nero deserve respect or honor because of his sinful actions. On the other hand, Nero occupied a position of honor. He was in that position because of God’s allowance (Romans 13:1-7).

We can find similar situations with God’s representatives in the home. A parent might not be deserving of honor because of his or her words, attitudes or actions, but the parent fills an honorable position. For that reason, honor is to be given to that person. The attitude we have toward God’s representatives reflects on our attitude toward God. Certainly, if a parent is guilty of sin, rebuke is appropriate.

When it comes to Bible passages you can share with your children, Hebrews 12:7-11 teaches that God’s “parenting” skills are far superior to those of earthly parents. Psalm 27:10 and Jeremiah 49:15 explain that God’s love for people is constant and faithful, even if parental love is not. Isaiah 54:10 promises God’s firm, unshakeable love for his children.

Besides reminding your children to continue to pray for their dad, encourage them to be good Christian examples for him. When you and your children let the light of your faith shine (Matthew 5:16), others will see it. God can then be glorified and others may join you in your praise of God.

God bless you all.

I see a need for some kind of program for college graduates as they move on from college campuses and start out on their own in a new city. It is a very lonely time for them. They do not have "built-in" friends as they have their whole life. Now they are out on their own, starting a new career, and need Christian contacts and a way to feel they fit in at church. In your 20's you don't want to go to church alone. People at church don't seem to connect with a single 20-something. Once or twice at church having this experience and they write it off. How can we connect with these young adults and get them involved with others their age and interested in continuing their lives with God as a major part of it? I have 5 children, and I think they all have gone through this or are still struggling with it.

I agree wholeheartedly with your concerns. Young Christians need connections to Christian peers. Those connections can lead to important friendships, Bible studies and meaningful service projects.

As you probably know from congregational life, new programs can get started when people see needs and then seek to meet them. Perhaps it is speaking to your pastor or other congregational leaders. Maybe it is contacting synodical leadership. Needs like this could possibly be met by neighboring congregations coordinating their efforts and combining their resources. When we understand that the people you are talking about are the future of our church, then the need you identified becomes all the more important.

WELS Commission on Discipleship has resources for men’s and women’s ministries. Contacting personnel there could help your children and many others. God bless your efforts!

If a Christian father stands by idly as his child is being kidnapped, is he guilty of sin? I heard an Amish person say that if someone is in danger like this, they should not do anything because they believe in non-resistance. I was reading the Large Catechism and it seems to suggest that those who fail to defend their neighbors are guilty of sin. I am going to be a Christian father soon and have seen these types of things in the news, and want to know if it is right for a Christian father to defend his child or if he should stand by idly. Thank you.

Perhaps the section of the Large Catechism you have in mind is this: “Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it. If, therefore, you send away one that is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death; if you see one suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. And it will not avail you to make the pretext that you did not afford any help, counsel, or aid thereto, for you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit whereby his life would have been saved.” [Concordia Triglotta, 635]

A recently-published answer included this response: “Some Christians look to Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:17 as absolute directives not to resist physical threats. In their context though the verses advocate love toward others instead of seeking revenge.

“Others look to sections of Scripture like Proverbs 24:11-12 and Luke 22:35-38 as the basis for defending oneself and one’s family from physical threats. John 18:10-11 describes Peter’s wrongful use of a weapon as he tried to interfere with the Lord’s humble submission to his Father’s will.

“The positive emphasis of the Fifth Commandment ‘to help and befriend [our neighbor] in every bodily need’ can find application in defending oneself and one’s family.

Good Morning: My wife and I are concerned that our son is being scammed and that the conversation we have with him will be very difficult and we fear that it will drive him away. Do you have any guidance on how to start the conversation? Thank you.

One of my challenges in responding to you is that I do not know what kind of relationship exists between you and your son, or even the age of your son. Regardless, I would still encourage an open and honest conversation.

You and your wife could begin by reaffirming your love and concern for your son. It is finally love and concern that are driving your desire to speak to him about (potential) danger. You could explain that you want the best for your son and do not want to see him get hurt in any way—including being the victim of a scam.

If you do not have certain knowledge of what your son might be involved in, perhaps you could share with your son the information you do possess that leads you to be concerned about him. Your son could then react to that information: confirming or discounting it.

None of us can control how others will receive our words. What we can control is how we speak to others. In that regard, Scripture has much to say (for example, Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 4:6).

Since your pastor knows your circumstances better than I do, seeking his guidance would be beneficial for you and your wife. God bless your conversation with your son.

I've read several memoirs in which the authors publicly reveal detestable acts done by their parents. However, when I look into how to approach ‎Exodus 20:12, most Christian websites acknowledge the difficultly of this commandment, but stand by it, regardless of a parent's actions. What are your thoughts on publicly "dishonoring" one's parents by talking about terrible acts they've committed via memoir, TV interview, podcast, etc. - or even to a friend or in a therapy session? Bonus question: Should one honor both their biological and adoptive parents?

As I do not know how these parents’ detestable acts might have involved their children, my response might be off target.

If parents sinned against their children, confessed their sins to their children and received their forgiveness, then “airing” the parents’ sins is out of place.

If parents sinned against their children and the matter has not been resolved, then airing the parents’ sins is out of place.

If a child has parental permission, he or she could speak publicly about past actions.

I could envision a scenario in which a person speaks to someone else about a parent’s sins without breaking the eighth commandment. That certainly could be done in a counseling scenario.

A concern I would have is that a person’s attitude about past sins could lead to sinful anger on their part (Ephesians 4:26).

— If a person is in a position of knowing their biological parents, along with their adoptive parents, he or she can now show honor and respect to all involved.

Does Act 59 of the Wisconsin school choice program cross the line of separation of church and state ?

Let me pass along responses from previous, similar questions.

“God has established government so that people may live in some degree of peace in a sin-filled world. The government’s responsibility is to preserve the greatest possible peace and order in the world by punishing evil-doers, rewarding those who do good, and protecting the rights of the law-abiding…The mission and tools of the church are quite different. God has established the church so that people may live with him in peace forever. The church’s responsibility is to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments through which saving faith is created and nourished. The church does not wage its battles with the sword of the state, but with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Matthew 28:19-20, John 18:36-37, also 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, Ephesians 6:3-17). The church is not responsible for disciplining those outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12). Since God has assigned to both the church and the state their own distinct purposes and distinct tools, these should not become mixed or confused. Neither church nor state should try to do the work of the other. Neither should ask the other to do its work. Neither should seek to accomplish its ends by using the tools of the other. Observing these distinctions of purposes and tools is what we mean by ‘the separation of church and state.’

“In dealing with issues of church and state and Christian education we have to distinguish between three questions: 1) Is this activity scriptural? This, of course, is determined by the Bible. 2) Is this legal? This is determined by the courts. 3) Is this cooperation with the state wise or might this entangle our school in government controls? Finally, this judgment rests with the responsible governing body of the school.”

By making financial aid available, government is not establishing or supporting a specific faith (cf. the First Amendment).

My son has been struggling at our WELS school for a few years. His teacher is good. He just doesn't fit in. We are trying to decide if we should send him to public school instead. I am worried that making this choice will hurt him, as I am a faithful believer in the benefits of a Christian education. However, he is so unhappy. Our pastor isn't very approachable, and the teacher/principal has tried and is a good guy, but it just isn't working for my son. Any advice?

I am sorry, but I would really need answers to quite a few questions before I might be able to pass along any meaningful, practical advice. Questions like: How old is your son? How long has he been a student in the WELS school? In what way(s) does your son feel like he does not fit in? How long has he had that feeling? When did it begin? Are there times or situations when he feels out of place more than others? Besides conversations with your teacher and pastor, what other actions have you taken to help your son fit in? How will changing schools make it possible for your son to fit in there?

Because those questions are unanswered for me, let me pass along some important, practical advice a wise Christian gave my wife and me years ago when we were raising our children. He said, “You have only one chance to raise your children.” It was an obvious observation then and now, but sometimes we can be oblivious to the obvious. That man’s words reminded me to make the most of every opportunity in raising my children—especially to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Certainly, parents have the primary responsibility of raising their children. That includes having them baptized and instructed in God’s word. It is a blessing indeed when Christian parents can receive assistance in their spiritual responsibilities through a congregation’s school. Your words recognize that. It goes without saying that not all Christian parents are in a position to benefit from that kind of assistance: there may not be such a school nearby. This is why I would encourage you to explore all options of keeping your son enrolled in your congregation’s school. You can bring up your son “in the training and instruction of the Lord” apart from that school, but you can receive so much help in carrying out your responsibilities with that school in your life.

One final thought – if you are not able to speak about this with your pastor, have you considered Christian counseling from other sources? Christian Family Solutions, an agency within WELS, offers video counseling from the privacy of your home. “Parenting and family issues” is one of the issues they address. This link will take you to the appropriate part of their website. God bless you and your son!

I am looking for some spiritual advice. I have a 15-year-old who is rebellious, disrespectful, argumentative, defiant and self-centered. A family member told me that she is only a child and Satan is filling her head full of lies. They stated she is not doing this but Satan is and have told her this as well. They feel she should not be held accountable. I feel it is causing more behavioral problems and teaching her that parents are not to be honored. I believe there is “free will” and at this age she should have a better understanding of right and wrong. Can you please give me some biblical advice, as this behavior is getting out of hand and I am not sure how much longer we can endure it as we are becoming concerned for our safety and scared that she may create other problems and lies to get revenge on us. Thanks.

I am sorry to read about your daughter’s situation. I can briefly address the spiritual part of your question and then suggest what you can do so you both receive the help you need.

Satan certainly is our powerful enemy who seeks to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). What we also have to recognize is that part of us is an ally of Satan: our sinful nature wants nothing to do with God or his word (Galatians 5:17). The Bible describes what the sinful nature is capable of producing (Galatians 5:19-21). We are accountable for what we do and say and think; we cannot simply blame Satan for our sins.

Your daughter certainly needs the messages of law and gospel from God’s word. I hope she is receiving them from worship attendance, family devotions and personal Bible reading.

What I would encourage you to do is seek Christian counseling for your daughter and yourself. If you have not spoken to your pastor about your situation, please do so. You may also be interested in the counseling services provided by Christian Family Solutions, an agency within WELS. They offer in-person counseling and video counseling from the privacy of your home. Counseling can uncover and address the issues that are complicating your life and your daughter’s life. I encourage you to explore this option. God bless you and your daughter.

My question is regarding family planning. My husband and I have been so blessed to have three children! We want to know the church's stance on God-pleasing family planning (for the long-term). Thank you so much!

You will find good information on the website of Christian Life Resources. It is an organization within WELS.

Once you get to their website, look for a tab titled “Beginning of Life.” One of the subjects under that tab is “Birth Control.” You will find numerous articles there that address your question from a biblical perspective.

Typing “family planning” in the search box will also provide you with good reading material.

This link will take you to the website of Christian Life Resources.

God’s blessings to you and your family.

A few fellow WELS members in our church choose not to immunize their children. I have some concerns because we have a Christian day school and my children also attend there. Some of the members who choose not to immunize have made their beliefs public and one even went as far as using a website that says God does not want us to immunize. This website states that immunizations contain fetal parts from aborted fetuses. I am wondering if there is any direction from the WELS about immunizations? Thanks.

What I can do is refer you to the web site of Christian Life Resources.  Searching “vaccination” and “immunization” will yield numerous results of reading material.

Additionally, I can pass along the response to a previous question on this topic before I began service as the responder to questions.  The question submitted was:  “Is there anything stated in the Bible on vaccines? Some say that things that are added to some of these vaccines could be harmful. Is there anything in the Bible that helps us decide whether it is right or wrong to vaccinate our children?”

The response was:  “Vaccinations did not occur until the end of the 18th century so it is not spoken of directly in Scripture.  Scripture does provide principles that guide our view of vaccinations.

“Four objections to vaccinations are commonly raised:

“Objection # 1: Vaccinations represent a failure to trust the providence of God as the Great Physician and Protector.
Yes, we are to trust God (John 14:1), but we are also to be responsible stewards of God’s blessings (Matthew 25:31ff; Romans 2:6; 14:12).  Vaccinations are one way we protect our lives.  In the same way we protect our lives by looking both ways before crossing the street.  We make decisions and take precautions to keep our lives and the lives of others safe.  Does looking both ways represent no trust in God?  Of course not!

“We make reasonable efforts to protect God’s blessing of life.   If deemed safe and effective, vaccinations would be such a reasonable effort.  Furthermore, as the Christian reflects his greater concern for others (Philippians 2:3-4) he or she will want to weigh the potential danger to others of contracting a disease or illness because we chose not to be vaccinated.

“Objection # 2: Immunizations were unethically developed.
It seems fairly certain that some immunization were unethically developed and/or tested.  For example, evidence suggests that the vaccines for Hepatitis A, chicken pox and MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) were cultured in cells taken from children aborted in the 1960s.  The concern is that by availing oneself of such an unethically developed vaccine we condone or lend credibility to the unethical way it was developed.

“Scripture teaches us that we are all sinful.  Our righteous acts are comparable to filthy rags.  For that reason, sin is a component in the development of anything in our world.  A house may have been built 50 years ago by a builder who cheated a subcontractor out of some money.  Do we see living in that house 50 years later as condoning the dishonesty?  Our automobile may have been designed by stealing secrets from another manufacturer years ago.  Can we now not drive that vehicle?

“Sin taints everything in this world.  The solution is not to cut ourselves off from all things but rather to work to right the wrongs.  If vaccines were developed unethically, Christians will want to get into positions of influence to stop such unethical research.  Speak against the sin not the results.  If you cut yourself off from anything touched by sin what then do we have that has never been touched by sin?

“Objection # 3: Immunizations can be dangerous.
In most developed countries there are regulations requiring strict testing to assure the safety of vaccinations.  Yet, there always seems to be exceptions.  Thousands of people may have no negative effects from a vaccine and then someone gets seriously ill or dies from the same vaccine.  Ever since statistical analysis caught foothold back in the early 1800s people “play the odds” on the safety of things.  How safe is driving, flying, sailing and walking?  Everything has an element of danger.  Christian freedom affords latitude for making such judgments on the relative safety of a vaccine.  In this country statistics usually demonstrate a vaccine to be very safe before it goes to market.  If you have an acquaintance, however, who had trouble with a particular vaccine your judgment will be skewed.  In an imperfect world there is always the possibility of an error.  Use your best judgment.

“Objection # 4: Immunizations can encourage irresponsible lifestyles.
In 2007 the Texas governor ordered all girls entering the sixth grade to have the HPV vaccine.  The vaccine prevents the HPV virus which is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer.  The concern some people had was whether giving the vaccine to a young girl would encourage promiscuity.  Will immunization enable ‘safe sinning?’

“Sinful people have an uncanny ability to twist what were meant as blessings into something reckless or sinful.  We take more risks when we have a safety net or harness.  We place our lives at greater risk if we feel we have a better car, better boat or better safety gear.

“As God provides ways to preserves our lives and well-being, those methods are genuine blessings.  Hearts devoted to God receive those blessings with thankfulness and purity.  Our sinful nature, however, will continue to find ways to corrupt God’s blessings for selfish pursuits.  We appreciate God’s blessings and we use His Word to hold the line on our wayward tendencies.”

Is it wrong to disinherit an adult child that is living in open and unrepented sin and you know that the money would be used for sinful habits? God says that we need to be good stewards and leave an inheritance for our children. Would it not be better to leave that money to a church or another area that would help the spreading of the gospel?

In the Bible God has not specified precisely how we are to distribute, at death, the possessions he has entrusted to us. He allows us to make those decisions in Christian love and wisdom.

If you are of the opinion that it would not be beneficial or helpful for an adult child to receive money through your inheritance, then your thought of redirecting your assets elsewhere is understandable. There is nothing unscriptural about that intended course of action.

Even though I do not know your situation, I would encourage repeated efforts to address and try to resolve the obstacles that have you thinking of disinheriting your child. If you follow through on that plan, ill will in family relations could very likely result. Clear communication with your child will be most helpful—for the present and the future.

If you are in need of resources for estate planning, WELS Ministry of Christian Giving offers an estate planning guide. This link will take you to that guide. God bless you and your family.

My son moved in with his wife before they were married. After they were married, it came to light that his wife is Wiccan. He has stopped coming to church. Our pastor is threatening to excommunicate him. He refuses to talk to us or our pastor about this. Furthermore, we suspect that he has also started practicing Wicca. What can we do?

I am sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like you have contact with your son and his wife, but your son is limiting the topics of conversation. With that understanding, I will proceed.

I am wondering if there is a way that you can maintain contact with your son and his wife without regularly bringing up the topic of his spiritual life. Please don’t misunderstand me. What is going on in his spiritual life is serious and dangerous. He already knows that from previous conversations with you and his pastor. What your son really needs in his life is a regular Christian influence.

Although the apostle Peter was addressing wives and husbands, his words (1 Peter 3:1) can be applicable in a father-son relationship like yours. Let your son see your Christian faith and example. Certainly, share with him truths of Scripture as you can, but let him see your faith in action.

Beyond your example, are there other Christian friends, congregational members or family members who could reach out to your son with their Christian love and Christian witness? Who are the Christian people your son respects and might allow to offer Christian influence and conversation?

I probably don’t have to remind you to pray, so I will encourage you to think about enlisting the help of fellow Christians to ask God to work in your son’s heart (and the heart of your daughter-in-law). Pray that God brings about right attitudes and beliefs toward the Bible and the only Savior from sin, Jesus Christ. Neither you nor your pastor can change anyone’s heart, but God certainly can. I will join you in prayer that God does just that. God bless you.

Is it biblical for parents to give more privileges and independence to boys than girls?

There is nothing in the Bible to suggest parental preferential treatment of boys. Distinctions between boys and girls in Old Testament Israel that resulted from Mosaic laws or customs (for example, inheritance laws) are no longer applicable for New Testament Christians. Parents today will seek to treat their children, both boys and girls, with equal love. Above all, that means bringing them to Jesus in baptism and then following up with training and education in the word of God (Ephesians 6:4).

What resources does WELS provide or suggest for a parent of a child struggling with homosexual tendencies?

I can provide you with links to three different kinds of resources.

This first link is to a number of articles from Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS. The articles range from news pieces to scriptural commentaries.

This second link is to an area of this web site where a couple of parents write of their experiences in explaining same-sex relationships to their children.

The third link is to pertinent books that are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

Finally, don’t overlook the resources of your pastor. In addition to materials he might have, he can listen to you and offer scriptural responses. God’s blessings to you and your family.

What is WELS' stance on surrogacy?

Christian Life Resources is an agency within WELS that provides expertise and sound biblical guidance in matters like the one you asked. With that in mind, I could probably help you the most by directing you to information on this subject that they make available on their web site.

This link will take you to the results page after searching for “surrogate.”

I have a struggle as a parent. I, like Paul, find myself doing what I do not want to do and not doing what I want to do. I find complete forgiveness and love in Christ. When I fail I run to the cross. In his forgiveness I strive to live each day better than the day before. Sometimes I do, but often I fail. The struggle I have is feeling guilt over the consequences of my sins on my family. I tend to get stressed out and lose it with my children. Often I lack the patience I should be displaying and my children need. We have a large family, so often there is conflict taking place within it. I know I am forgiven for the time I act out of anger or frustration, but I also realize that this behavior may leave lasting marks on my children's mental health. I find myself praying this prayer, "Lord, help these children turn out well, despite my parenting mistakes." I know my sin is forgiven, but how can I find comfort when dealing with the earthly consequences of sin?

To me, your prayer illustrates a good understanding of our human frailties and limitations on one hand and God’s unlimited power and love on another hand.

You understand well how confession and absolution fit in with your relationship with God. What I do not know is to what degree confession and absolution are part of your family’s interaction with one another.

The Bible tells us: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…” (James 5:16) When we have wronged other people, we certainly want to confess our sins to God, but we also want to confess our sins to the people we have wronged. Here is where I could see the importance of confession and absolution in your family. Family members can be drawn closer together in the bond of love when they confess their sins to one another and forgive one another.

If you are concerned about “leaving lasting marks” on your children’s lives in a positive way, one of the best things you could do for them is modeling the Christian faith in the areas of confession and absolution. Your children will learn a great lesson when you have reason to say to them, “You know, kids, we are all the same in God’s eyes. We are sinners who have been forgiven by God. We all sin in different ways every day. Try as I might, I fail in my efforts in being the best parent I can be. Please forgive me for _______. With God’s forgiveness, I want to do better in being his representative in your lives.” Christian families can experience the “joy of salvation” (Psalm 51:12) again and again when parents and children engage in heartfelt conversations of sin and forgiveness.

As you go about your parenting responsibilities, take heart in the fact that God works through imperfect people. In spite of our mistakes and sins, God can carry out his good and gracious will in the lives of others—including our children. The truth of Romans 8:28 applies even to your parenting skills.

Finally, I don’t know if you are aware of a resource for parents through Forward in Christ. It’s “Heart to Heart Parent Conversations.” This link will take you to the site. God bless you and your family!

We have a 25-year-old daughter who has a college degree, works 2 jobs, has a car payment and student loans. We suggested she live at home to save on bills, but would like to move out so she has her independence. My husband will not even discuss it with her or me. This is causing stress in both our relationships and I don't feel it should be an issue that divides us as a family. Thank you and God bless.

You are correct.  This does not need to be an issue that divides you as a family.  While I lack much information about your situation, your family could be struggling with how the fourth commandment finds application as all the family members age.

When your daughter was little, it was fairly clear how the lines of authority fell within the family.  As in the case of any family, you and your husband were to instruct, guide, model and discipline your daughter as best you could, and your daughter’s obligation was to respond with loving obedience and respect.  (Ephesians 6:1-4)

As your daughter grew older and lived more independently, the fourth commandment did not disappear from your lives.  However, the scope of its application did change.  This change manifests itself, no doubt, in that you and your husband supervise your daughter’s life less and are more of an influence on her.  At the same time, your daughter is to continue to show loving respect to you and your husband.  Tensions can arise, of course, when three adults—you, your husband and your daughter—express opinions about specific situations.

I would encourage you to speak to your pastor.  He is in a position to sit down with you and guide you all through a loving discussion of this issue.  God bless you and your family.

What are the benefits of bringing infants to worship?

You ask for benefits, and I offer this as a partial list of perceived benefits derived from bringing infants and small children to public worship gatherings:

  • This allows the Holy Spirit to enrich the child as the Spirit wills, even though we may not know precisely how. (The words of 2 Timothy 3:15 as well as Matthew 18:6 tell us that the smallest among us may nevertheless believe and know the Bible in some way (aside from the blessings of Baptism). While we may not grasp the how, we eagerly anticipate the Spirit giving what he wants to give, however he chooses.)
  • This, in time, trains a child in the basics of church etiquette and decorum while in public assemblies when people are gathered around God’s Word and sacraments. This takes time and repetition, but it yields results we give thanks for by the time a child is a bit older.
  • This is a fine way of testifying to the world that our families are all God’s people and belong wherever God’s people gather for worship. This gives joy to fellow worshipers as they behold the next generation of believers beginning their participation in worship assemblies and gives encouragement to visitors and newcomers who have children and see that their entire families are welcome. This encourages our own members with small children and tells them that despite potential disruptions and distractions, their whole family is welcome, and we consider the training of the youngest a high enough priority that we are willing to endure some distraction ourselves.
  • This gives fellow worshipers opportunities to lend a hand periodically to assist busy and sometimes frustrated parents who are engaged in the important but challenging process of training their youngest. Problematic situations are often opportunities for practical love and kindness to spring into action.
  • This allows the congregations to ponder and develop ways of serving parents who often find it hard to concentrate on the Lord’s law and gospel during worship assemblies. The provision of tools and encouragements for home study or mid-week study may be a part of this.

While a longer list is possible, I’ll pause merely to say we are not blind to the challenges are potential problems involved here. It is little wonder that so many churches provide suitable nursery areas and so many deacons and ushers are trained to offer alternatives when infantile outbursts threaten the hearing of God’s Word for many in attendance. Let us strive to strike a suitable balance here. Life this side of heaven will always bring challenges to accompany blessings from our God.

What can parents do if an adult child strays away from the faith? Our daughter quit going to church when she was in college. She is now in her mid-twenties, still will not go to church, and does not want to talk to us about it.

Our sincere sympathy goes out to you parents. The grief that Christian parents of a backslidden child endure is great. This heartache is compounded when parental control is diminished or lost because the child has become an adult and is able to silence or willfully ignore and despise the testimony of the parents. In general you have three tools at your disposal:

  1. You can pray. Keep your daughter in your intercessions. Ask God to act providentially to get and keep her attention and interest (even if it be through severe trials). Ask him to supply Christian witnesses to law and gospel who may be given access to her when you have been shut out. Ask God for the ability to continue to love her and have confidence regarding her return to repentance and faith, rather than growing bitter or despondent because of your disappointment.
  2. You can offer clear though limited testimony to law and gospel when opportunities surface. Your daughter may not want to “talk about it” but if you promise not to engage in an ongoing dialogue every time you see her (which is perhaps what she fears most because of a guilty conscience), you can ask her for one sit-down conversation at which time she can explain to you what she feels and why and you can explain to her what you feel and why. And in that kind of setting, law as law and gospel as gospel will be your primary tools as you sow the seed of God’s Word.
  3. You can continue to testify to your daughter by attitude and lifestyle that she will observe. Here I am thinking of a cheerful, happy contentment and optimistic approach to daily life that gives Christ all praise and holds no grudges to those (including children) who disappoint or embrace ideologies contrary to your own. Continue to feed and fuel your own faith-life through the gospel, and as you grow spiritually you will also grow in your ability to cope with this disappointment, trust God’s capabilities despite your limitations, grow more fervent in prayer, and ultimately serve as a billboard of Christian contentment and joy for people (including your daughter) who have temporarily at least settled for much less. The goal is to attract them winsomely to the Lord who gives his people, in addition to pardon and eternal life in glory, such blessings despite hardships during our earthly pilrimage.

Is it wrong to put a child up for adoption? What are circumstances, if any, when a Christian may give up a child for adoption?

It is not wrong to place a child for adoption. It is, however, often a painful decision. Within the Christian context there are two ways to look at it: biologically and beneficially. The biological perspective is that parents have a responsibility to raise their own children (Isaiah 49:15) or to entrust them to immediate family when they cannot (Exodus 2:1-9). The beneficial perspective focuses on benefiting the child’s needs.

The Bible presents a clear, general directive: love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40); family members head the list of “others” whom we are to love (1 Timothy 5:8).

God consistently describes the immediate family as mother, father, and child(ren). This is the ideal setting for raising children (Ephesians 6:1,4). Where there is no mother or father because of death or divorce, other family members and friends often take an active role in helping to raise the child(ren). Sadly, when a child is born outside of marriage, the child’s mother often is left to raise the child alone.

When is it appropriate for a child to be placed for adoption? Because the biological mother often is the one facing this decision, let’s use her perspective.

She typically is alone, perhaps young, poor, or facing some malady that makes it difficult for her to raise her child. Her decision often is complicated by an emotional attachment or a sense of biological duty. But she needs to remember God’s command to be more mindful of others than of herself (Philippians 2:3-4), prayerfully consider whose welfare is being best served, and what is best for her child physically and spiritually.

It isn’t wrong to place a child for adoption with someone else if there is reasonable assurance that God’s directive on how to raise a child (Proverbs 22:6) will be met and that the child will learn about Jesus as Savior and Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

Birth mothers often describe making this difficult choice as “placing” their child for adoption. They view it not as a surrender but as an important parenting decision they are making for their baby.

As parents of an adult homosexual child, how much of a relationship should we maintain with our child and friend? We do not want him to think we condone this homosexual relationship, but we still love him and feel he needs our Christian influence. We also do not want our young grandchildren to think this is okay.

You have my sympathy as you strive to maintain relationships with your homosexual child and friend. I am thankful that you DO desire to maintain a relationship since that will allow you opportunity to give suitable witness to your convictions and to demonstrate parental kindness despite the spiritual plight of your loved one. I recognize that your doing this will necessarily involve awkwardness, often leave you in situations where you will be unsure of how best to conduct yourself in Christian love, and periodically arouse anger and resentment in your child and partner because of their impenitent lifestyle. And you will grieve over the inaccurate and flawed example that will be set before your grandchildren on a daily basis. You have a daily petition in your prayer life until repentance is shown.

You ask “how much of a relationship” should be maintained. There are no strict formulas to follow. Christian love is keenly alert to specific relationships, opportunities, threats, and people—and expresses itself with flexibility as long as divine truth is not compromised. You have already identified key issues and voiced proper concerns, so I suspect you will do just fine despite awkwardness and emotional pain. Perhaps all I can counsel is that you maintain clarity in your testimony as you speak the truth in love. Clarify what you cannot and will not accept and why you at the same time desire to maintain a relationship with your child. Take every opportunity your child gives you while being content when your child gives you precious little opportunity. And maintain the cheerfulness that comes with the confidence that God does not desire to be done with your child and that he does not have the limitations imposed on you. In your intercessions ask God to work miracles, to use other witnesses for the truth to interact with your child, and commend your child confidently to divine providence that can crush the rebellious spirit and make sinners open to the truth. The pressure is ultimately on God, not you, just as the power is his, not yours or mine.

Can you give my some guidance on what the Bible says about a parent who favors one child over the other? My husband has an obvious favorite in our three children and it really bothers me. I feel like he is greatly discouraging our other two children.

I grieve over your concern and can imagine how unsettled you must be as a Christian parent who seeks only the best for your husband and children.

Based on your question, I will have to assume that (1) your husband really is showing favoritism with your children and this is not just your imagination, (2) your husband is aware that you observe and disapprove of this (rather than his being clueless or utterly ignorant about what’s happening or how it’s happening), and (3) he is your Christian brother as well as your husband, that is, Bible guidance will be meaningful to him.

You could give Bible examples of favoritism (like Jacob favoring Rachel over Leah or Joseph and Benjamin over their siblings) and show how this never results in healthy family relationships. It asks for trouble and is pretty sure to get trouble. But this approach doesn’t bring the power to change hearts, since it is basically a law approach rather than a gospel one.

I recommend that you point your husband repeatedly to the attitude and actions of his dear heavenly Father and Lord Jesus. Such love! Such a gracious Giver of every good gift. And your husband is on the receiving end of all that. No more and no less than anyone else, “for God so loved the world . . .” And your husband’s high calling in Christ is to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-2), to be more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). And God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, etc.). The hope is that your husband will grow in his understanding and appreciation of all that God has done to redeem him graciously and pardon him freely. And that he will be led to be more and more like God, in rejecting partiality and favoritism as inconsistent with Christian lifestyle as well as wise parenting.

Also, keep pointing your children to the same grand truths. This applies to them too. As they grow and mature they will increasingly find that their highest security and emotional balance will rest on the unmovable promises of a faithful God who delights in them even when earthly representatives may fail them.