January 16, 2005

BABY POWER

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2

A man and woman are happily adrift in a rubber raft on a rolling blue sea. Nestled in each other’s arms, they are dreamily nuzzling each other. Suddenly the man tenses.

“There they are! I saw one!”

The woman peers over his shoulder. Nothing. All she sees are the waves rolling by.

“What did you see, dear?”

He ignores her and reaches for a wooden paddle. He hefts it and stares grimly over the water. Suddenly the woman sees them too! A whole school of them is swarming around the raft and leaping out of the water. The woman grabs a paddle and joins her man in trying to smack the invaders back into the sea. But a particularly bold one slips past their defenses. It plops in the raft, rolls over on its back, and says its first word: “Mommy!”

That parable from author Mary Pride reveals our society’s fear of babies. We’re bombarded with messages that it’s wonderful to have lots of sex but horrible to have lots of babies. You can’t afford to be “unprotected.” You are “at risk” of getting pregnant if you don’t take the proper precautions. If you let down your guard, even for a moment, one of those terrible, tiny tots will jump into your raft and wreck your life.

Planned Parenthood encourages this mindset. The name is misleading. Planned Parenthood don’t plan parenthood; they prevent it. They keep babies from being conceived, and they abort millions who have already been conceived. It would be more accurate for Planned Parenthood to be called Planned Barrenhood.

Wonderful Invasion

Far too many of us have bought into the notion that babies are a frightful invasion to be driven back. Babies are an invasion, all right. They are an invasion of love into our selfishness, an invasion of joy into our dullness, an invasion of mystery into our predictability, an invasion of purpose into our aimlessness, an invasion of wonder into our boredom, an invasion of life into our lifelessness. Babies are an invasion of blessing and promise and future.

Why would such a wonderful invasion scare us? Perhaps we’re scared of babies because we’re scared of the God who creates babies. We don’t quite trust God to do what’s best and meet our needs. We don’t want too many babies, and we don’t want too much of God. Babies make demands on our time and energy, and so does God. Babies bringing us challenges we can’t handle on our own, and so does God. We can’t be happy unless we’re in charge, self-sufficient, and have everything go according to plan. But babies aren’t always convenient, and neither is God. Babies have a mind of their own, and so does God. Both are bothersome; we can’t control either one. Many of us prefer a barren, tightly controlled situation rather than trusting the bothersome blessings of God’s unpredictable, exciting plan for us.

In this program, I’m not going to get into whether any method of birth control is right or wrong, though the subject deserves more thought than most people give it. Many people—even church people—take for granted that birth control is just a matter of personal preference. They just assume that any method is fine and that if you want to prevent the possibility of a baby, it’s morally okay to do so. This casual acceptance of birth control is at odds with historic Christian teaching. Up until the past few decades, almost every Christian group opposed artificial birth control. If you think that this was just the opinion of some old-fashioned popes and bishops, think again. Almost every branch of Christianity—Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox—taught that artificial birth control was wrong. However, today’s program isn’t about judging the morality of various techniques of contraception; today’s program is about babies.

Whatever we might think about contraception, one thing is certain: many of us are dead wrong in our attitude toward babies. We’ve soaked up society’s idea that overpopulation is a fearsome plague and that babies are a problem to be solved. But according to the Bible, babies aren’t a problem to be solved but a blessing to be celebrated!

The Baby Brigade

In fact, babies are part of God’s overall strategy to show his greatness and defeat evil. In Psalm 8 the Bible says, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” God creates stars, and sets his glory above the heavens, but when he wants to trumpet his praise and silence his enemies, what does he use? Babies!

God prizes his baby brigade, and God’s people also value the baby brigade, at least if they know what’s good for them. The Bible says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5). Children are a heritage, not a hazard. They are rewarding, not ruinous. If we look at children in light of the Bible, we won’t see them as enemy arrows to be feared and avoided but as arrows in our own quiver, weapons in our own arsenal, blessings from God to make us fearless and strong.

What’s your attitude toward children? Some of you listening to me have learned that you’ve got a new baby on the way. How do you feel about that? When you first found out, did your heart sing—or did it sink? Are you tempted to destroy that unborn baby with Satan’s arrow of abortion? Or do you see your baby as a precious arrow from God to arm you and advance God’s cause and drive back his enemies?

Some of you already have children. How do you see them? Are they blessings to be enjoyed, or just burdens to weigh you down? Bringing up children takes a lot of time and energy. My wife and I know this as well as anyone. We have seven children—four daughters followed by three sons—and we home school them, so we know that parenthood can sometimes be tiring and frustrating. But it’s also exciting and rewarding. We’re crazy about every one of our kids, and love having a big family. What’s your basic attitude toward your children? Are you rejoicing in them or just trying to put up with them and survive till they move out? Your kids can sense whether you resent them or rejoice in them. If your attitude is negative, it hurts them. If your attitude is positive and you prize them, it helps them. Learning God’s truth about baby power can lift you beyond the everyday grind and help you to delight in God’s design for children.

But what if you don’t have children? For that matter, what if you still are a child? Well, you don’t have to have children of your own to benefit from what the Bible says about baby power. After all, you were once a baby yourself! When you see God’s great purpose in creating babies, you see God’s great purpose in creating you. Whoever you are, whatever your situation, you can benefit from knowing God’s plan for baby power.

Jesus and Children

So far we’ve seen the Bible’s declaration that God uses children to praise him and silence his enemies and strengthen his friends. Now let’s look at the attitude Jesus himself had toward children. Jesus spent his time on earth as a single man and had no children of his own, but does that mean Jesus doesn’t care about babies? Jesus was (and is) the Son of God, but does his greatness mean that he’s too busy with important things to pay attention to little ones? No, Jesus is never too busy for babies, and he loves them. Jesus’ followers sometimes treated children as a nuisance, but Jesus set the disciples straight. The Bible says,

“People were bringing little children (and “babies” –Luke 18:15) to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus loves children. As a man, Jesus never had a wife and never fathered any children, but as God he is the Maker of all children. And remember: Jesus was once a baby himself. Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb and grew there and was born as a baby and experienced all the joys and challenges of childhood. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Jesus loves little ones and blesses them. Never did Jesus say children need to become grownups before they become important, but Jesus did say that grownups need to become like little children or they’ll never enter his kingdom.

Once Jesus was asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He took a little child and said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” So much for the idea that greatness is for adults only! “And,” Jesus went on, “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6). Not once did Jesus ever speak of children messing up the lives of grownups. But he had terrifying words for grownups who mess up children!

Jesus treated little ones as treasured citizens of his kingdom, that much is clear. But did he ever speak of baby power? Did he ever count children as important allies in his battle with evil? Indeed he did. The Bible tells how Jesus challenged some corrupt money-grubbers in God’s temple and drove them out. Then people with all kinds of problems and sicknesses and disabilities came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. As Jesus was doing all this, a number of children were praising Jesus as their Lord and Savior and Messiah, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” This enraged the religious bigshots and experts. How could Jesus let know-nothing children give him such high praise?

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they snarled.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:16) Jesus left those words hanging in the air, without quoting the rest of the verse; but he knew the rest of Psalm 8:2, and so did those religious experts. They knew it said, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” The fact that those leaders didn’t like Jesus or the praises of the children unmasked them as enemies of God! The children put them to shame by giving Jesus the praise the leaders should have been giving.

What about you? What’s your attitude toward Jesus and toward babies? If your overall attitude toward children is hostile, something is wrong. Ask yourself whose side you’re on. Are you on the side of God’s enemies who see little ones as unwanted intruders and see Jesus himself as an unwanted intruder? Or are you in the Lord’s army, valuing children, humbling yourself like a child, and praising Jesus?

Nine Month Miracle

God uses baby power to praise him, to deal with his enemies, and to bless and arm his friends. How does he do that?   One way is through the sheer wonder of a baby’s body. In our home, we have a CD-ROM for our computer called Nine Month Miracle. My children love it, and so do my wife and I. It shows the stages of a baby’s development within a mother from the first moment of conception until birth. It’s not produced by a religious organization; it comes from a maker of anatomy software for schools and medical students. But an unborn baby is such a marvel that the company calls it a nine-month miracle. The Bible spoke of this miracle long before computers and CD-ROMs were invented. In Psalm 139 David said to God, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).

God sometimes uses the nine-month miracle of a new baby to fill his enemies with wonder and set them on the path to becoming his friends. Whittaker Chambers was a communist, a hardcore atheist. But one day, looking at the intricate designs of his infant’s ear, this atheist suddenly knew there had to be a God. There just couldn’t be an ear like that, or a baby like that, without God. Chambers ended up putting his faith in Jesus Christ.

You may ignore God for years and years, and then one day you’re a parent or grandparent, holding a new baby in your arms: “fearfully and wonderfully made,” a nine-month miracle! Your cold, hard heart is flooded with a fresh sense of amazement and love. You hold that precious life, and you know, you just know, there has to be a supreme Creator of life. The very existence of that baby points to God. Each dimple is a revelation. Every coo and giggle and cry for love is a hymn in praise of God the Creator. That baby makes every denial of God sound hollow.

My Little Extra

The marvelously formed body of each baby speaks of God, and so does the social development and unique personality of each little one. Take Jonathan, for example. Jonathan’s mother, Barbara Curtis, wrote an article titled “My Little Extra” which appeared in World magazine. She says, “I call Jonathan my little extra because he has an extra chromosome—you know, that extra one on the 21st pair that causes such consternation in most potential parents. Down syndrome, it’s called.”

On the baby’s birth announcements, Barbara quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” “That’s how I felt about each of my children,” says Barbara, “and that’s how I felt when they put this new little baby in my arms and I could see he looked, well, just a little different.” Her husband and she named him Jonathan, which means “Gift of God.”

Jonathan nearly died and needed surgery to save his life. Some Down syndrome babies have been denied life-saving measures even by their parents, and many have been killed by abortion even before they could be born. But Jonathan’s parents loved him, and his doctors cared for him, and he lived. He spent a month in intensive care and was rushed to the hospital six times in the first fourteen months of his life. But he made it.

During those trying times, was it all misery for the Curtis family? Not at all! Listen to Jonathan’s mother:

Throughout this period, our daily life with Jonathan was pure joy. He needed a little extra help to meet his potential… Perhaps because we so rejoiced when he was home and healthy, we relished our new responsibility. We’d gather in a circle on the floor around Jonathan and wait for the slightest lifting of his wobbly head. Then we’d cheer as though he scored a touchdown… My older children grew more caring and compassionate every day. A stronger unity was built into our family. That’s why we all understood when my son Matthew said, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone had a brother with Down syndrome?”

If you think Barbara Curtis is just trying to put the best face on an unfortunate situation, listen to the rest of the story: “When we found out what a treasure we had in [Jonathan],” she says, “we decided we wanted more.” And so the Curtis family adopted two more children with Down syndrome.

“Yes, it has been a challenge,” she writes. “But with adversity has come an expansion of my heart. God has helped me not just to accept, but to rejoice in his plan for Jonathan. Martin Luther once said, “For whoever believes, everything is beneficial and nothing is harmful. For those who do not believe, everything is harmful and nothing is beneficial.” Down syndrome children and all babies glorify the Lord and bring blessing to those who trust him. They seem harmful only to those who won’t trust God and won’t prize their special baby.

Spirit-Filled Baby

Every new child is a physical marvel; every new child is a special personality; and, what’s more, children in God’s baby brigade have a spiritual identity and purpose. God’s Holy Spirit can be living and working already in a baby. Take John the Baptist. As an adult John was a mighty man of God, setting the stage for Jesus himself, but even as a baby, John was empowered by God. Before John was born, God told John’s father, “He will be a joy and delight to you … and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth” (Luke 1:14-15). In fact, even before John’s birth, the Spirit was stirring in his soul. John’s mother, Elizabeth, was pregnant with him when Jesus’ mother, Mary, learned of her own pregnancy. Mary came to tell Elizabeth, and when the sound of Mary’s voice reached Elizabeth’s ears, baby John leaped for joy inside his mother (Luke 1:44). That unborn baby couldn’t organize his thoughts or say anything, but God somehow gave him a sense of Jesus that made him jump for joy.

Strange though it sounds, it’s possible for a child to be born again spiritually even before it’s born physically. Every baby (except baby Jesus) is conceived and born with a sinful nature, but even so, the Spirit of God can claim the child as his own and implant spiritual life in that child even before the child can understand or be conscious of what is happening. The child’s faith and knowledge and love of God must still grow and develop, but even at the earliest age, God’s work and the spark of spiritual life may already be there.

Peter Eldersveld was the speaker on the Back to God Hour until his death in 1965. God used him to call many people who were far from God to turn around and put their faith in Jesus. People told him “how they were rescued spectacularly and dramatically out of a life of sin, maybe in their middle years, or maybe after a wasted youth.” But that wasn’t Peter Eldersveld’s own experience. He was a man of deep and genuine faith, but he couldn’t say, “Before such-and-such a day, I was far from God, and afterward I was a follower of Jesus.” He had godly parents and was baptized as a baby. Peter Eldersveld’s personal testimony was this:

I have never known a day in my life when I could not believe that I was a child of God. Now don’t misunderstand. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been a great sinner… But no matter how great the sins, there has never been a night in my life when I could not lay down my head and believe that God forgave my sins. My parents brought me up that way from the very earliest moments of my life. They brought me up to believe a promise, a covenant promise. They promised me that their God would be my God even if it cost Him the blood of His Son. And that promise has been fulfilled.

Some people God brings to new birth and faith in Jesus only as adults. But others, like John the Baptist and Peter Eldersveld and countless other children of godly parents, the Lord touches in their earliest years. He gives them new birth and spiritual life before they ever have a chance to know life without God.

Some of you listening to me can’t remember a day of your life when you didn’t know God and trust Jesus as your Savior. Others lived far from God for awhile and then came to faith. What matters most isn’t when or how God saved you, but the simple fact that he did save you and made you his child.

Some of you, though, still don’t know God. You are still outside God’s kingdom. How can you enter it? By becoming as a little child! Stop thinking you’re big enough and strong enough and good enough to make it on your own. Depend on your Father in heaven to care for you. Trust Jesus to wash away your sins by his blood. Count on the Holy Spirit to give you new life in Christ and fill you with childlike humility and wonder and love.

And once you know Jesus, won’t you join me in celebrating baby power? Let’s welcome the babies God sends into our lives. Let’s prize our children and delight in them. Let’s marvel at the miracle of birth, and at the miracle of new birth. Let’s offer our children to the Lord and pray for them and teach them God’s promises from the earliest age. Let’s rejoice that Jesus took babies in his arms and blessed them before they could even talk. Let’s rejoice that the Holy Spirit can enter babies and make their spirit alive in Jesus even before they know what is happening. When we hear our little ones praying and praising God, let’s not just think it’s “cute” or trivial. Instead, let’s rejoice that out of the mouths of children and infants God has ordained praise because of his enemies to silence the foe and the avenger. Let’s make Satan tremble! Let’s affirm baby power and add our voices to the children in praising our Creator and Savior.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.