31 July 2009

Adopted for Life-Chapter 7

"Often I'll preach in churches about the Lord's Supper and will call on the congregations to go back to using a common loaf and a common cup, with the bread being torn, not daintily picked up in prefabricated bits, and with each person drinking the wine and passing the cup along. I don't mind folks disagreeing with me on this. I'm just stunned by the reason they most often give for dismissing this ancient Christian practice: germs. The common cup is, well, gross to many Christians because they don't like the idea of drinking after strangers. That's just the point though. You're drinking after your own flesh and blood, your family." (Moore, p. 178)

Moore's seventh chapter is about church as a family of Christ, and its role in adoption. Too often, church is an assembly of acquaintances who dress up to stand next to one another on Sunday mornings for an hour or so with ignorant disregard for what is going on the rest of the week. These congregants are unconcerned with one another's needs and often are unwilling to roll up their sleeves and get to work together. In those churches, the Lord's supper is compartmentalized, much like their Christianity. Trays of dainty cups and cubes are passed down the aisle to be consumed because the Lord commanded it, but with no real understanding about what it means.

I do not think how the Lord's supper is observed is how Jesus intended that night in the upper room. He was with His dearest friends. They were eating together. In Luke 22:15, He said to them "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you." He wasn't looking ahead to the church calendar so that he could avoid eating with his band of brothers; he wanted to commune with them, to connect and be with them before he entered his darkest hour. You see, that is why it is called communion--not simply because we are remembering what Christ did, but because we are communing with our brethren, as we remember.

In my heart I desire to celebrate the Lord's Supper the way Moore describes it. I want my church family to be an integral part of our adoption. I want them to be praying for us when someone in the family is sick. I want to be there for them when they are hurting, not just skimming the surface, but getting beneath the crust. I want to share their excitement when they get engaged, I want to cry with them when a loved one dies, I want to pray with them when they are feeling discouraged. I don't want to think about their germs, I want to earnestly desire to eat with my church family, as Christ did.

29 July 2009

Can there be a "Christian" bookstore?

I have been pondering this post about Christian bookstores by Zach Nielsen for a while.

I occasionally visit Christian bookstores, spending some time perusing the shelves. There are three of them within a reasonable distance from Eau Claire and when I have a few minutes, I go in and look around.

Without fail, I am confronted with the "best sellers" rack when I enter the store. Despite the bright colors, dozens of books, and promises of 20% off, I rarely see anything that I want to read. For example, on a recent trip to Family Christian Stores, there were dozens of copies of Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen, a prime advocate of the un-Biblical Prosperity Gospel. Next to Osteen sat scads of "emergent, postmodern, hip, self-help" books that seem to have little to do with Christianity as I understand it.

In the bookstore I most often frequent, the Fiction section is next. The novels that fill this area are typically Christian romance novels or Christian suspense novels. Essentially, they are Christified versions of Danielle Steele and Stephen King, but without mass appeal.

Christian living is also a popular section, with dozens of titles on managing your finances, your mate, your children, your health, or your job. The array of possible topics is dizzying and, at times, conflictual. Next to the Christian living is a small biography section featuring the life stories of famous athletes and politicians who know Jesus.

The Bibles are relegated to the back. Perhaps they don't sell as well, yet in my mind, I think, "why aren't the Bibles front and center? This is a Christian bookstore right?" Many of the Bibles have a theme of some sort--huge concordances, full color maps, and so forth--things to draw you in. There are even theme Bibles like: the Sailor's Bible, the Patriot's Bible, and the Sportsman's Bible. I can only assume that when the editors are putting together theme Bibles, thoughts run through their heads such as, "I know that our readers like God, but they also love to sail. That's it! A Sailor's Bible!" (For what it's worth, please don't ever buy me a Bible that is covered in camouflage or the American Flag--I won't ever use it and I will probably hide it in the basement).

Along with these colorful shelves of books, the side walls often feature Christian music with catchy slogans like "if you like Coldplay, you'll love Jeremy Camp!", the message being, "we know there is some really fantastic secular music out there, but how about settling for this marginally similar Christian band?" There are also videos of dancing vegetables, offensive t-shirts, and gifts that only a grandmother could love (really...only a grandmother).

What are often absent are books about sound theology and Biblical truth (in other words, books that I like). On a recent trip, I found one Mark Driscoll book (Death by Love) and a few assorted John Piper books. Glaringly absent are classic (i.e., old) books by authors such as John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, or Francis Schaeffer. The writings of these men are foundational, yet lack the financial return of a Joel Osteen.

After the pseudo-rant above, I must answer my question that started this post. Can there be a Christian bookstore? For me, the answer is no for two reasons. First, Christian bookstores are first and foremost businesses--they need to make money and so they sell books that move off the shelves. Second, I think Christian booksellers, particularly in box stores, would be hard pressed to decided who's writing truth, which would lead to shelves full of diluted theology and theological relativism. In other words, exactly what I see when I go to Christian bookstores.

Perhaps I could start my own Christian bookstore. It would have the Bibles up front (no theme Bibles, sorry) and they would be the center piece of the store. Right next door would be a selection of concordances, Bible dictionaries, and commentaries. Then there would be a large section of Christian classics like those mentioned above. They would be cheap because many of them are in the public domain anyway. My biography section would be filled with the stories of martyrs and missionaries rather than athletes and anchormen. I would have a large section on topics of theology, such as exegesis, eschatology, and apologetics. Finally, I would include the writings of a few living men who preach the truth. My music section would include Skillet, but not the Gaither Vocal Band; U2, but not Dino. I would have no kitschy t-shirts reading, "Jesus died for Mii" or "A breadcrumb and a Fish".

Since few people would shop at my store, I guess I will have to continue to get my books from the Internet or Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, which looks a lot like my bookstore (Edwards, but not Osteen).

My encouragement in writing this is that we all remember that just because something is in a "Christian bookstore", doesn't mean it necessarily preaches the truth. Test what you read against the scriptures, as the Bereans did in the Book of Acts, where it reads "They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (Acts 17:11).

28 July 2009

Responding to man's praise

"Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”-Jeremiah 9:23-24.

As I talk with others about our call to adopt, I often hear, "you are such a good person" or "I am so proud of you." When I hear these accolades, I do not know how to respond. No matter what I say, it somehow becomes about me. Replying with a simple "thank you" sends the message, "I appreciate your recognition that I am a good person." But adoption is not about me as a parent. Rather, adoption is about providing a loving home for a child and, ultimately, glorifying Christ and living out the Great Commission.

The irony is that even responding truthfully somehow becomes about me. If, instead of "thank you," I said "I feel God has called our family to adopt and I am just following His direction for my life," I appear self-righteous, because it implies "I am more in tune with God than you are." So I am left searching for a response that directs the attention away from me and onto Christ.

If I falter or fail to respond when you bestow unjust accolades, please forgive me. If I seem arrogant or self-righteous, grant me forgiveness in that too. I am still learning how to divert the focus away from me and to instead boast in the Lord.

27 July 2009

Adopted for Life-chapter 6

"She actually had a measuring tape, for the baby's head. I didn't know who this woman was, but I was disgusted. The woman with the measuring tape said she wanted to measure the craniums of their potential children 'to make sure there is nothing wrong with them.' Another told us that this was her third--and final--trip. The first two adoption referrals she had received had severe and obvious 'attachment issues,' and she had turned down the children. It seemed to me that she was sizing up a litter of puppies or browsing through a line of secondhand refrigerators." (p. 148).

Chapter 6 deals with tough issues, which all of us going through the adoption process think about to some degree. I could easily look at Moore's paragraph above and join him in his revulsion, thinking to myself, "what kind of Cretan would bring along a measuring tape?!? Scientifically, there is no real connection between cranial size and intellect anyway." But the reality is, I face those uncomfortable biases in myself as well. Through the encouragement of some dear friends, we felt called to special needs adoption, specifically Down Syndrome, but I would share the same hesitations as the second woman above regarding a child with "obvious attachment issues." I am not sure how my hesitations fit with Matthew 25:40 where the King will say, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me," though I believe God reveals to us His will for each of our lives and that it will not look the same for every person.

These differences in perspective become apparent when you interact with those around you. Through our adoption process, we have variably considered: international, sibling group, transracial, and special needs adoption, eventually being led to adopt a little girl who is transracial, international, and has special needs. It has been a learning process for us to observe the reactions of our friends and loved ones each step of the way. For example, long ago, God created in my mother a heart to care for "the least of these" and she feels the same sense of urgency waiting for our daughter that we do. On the other hand, Heather's parents expressed impassioned reservation about adopting a special needs child and they have been slower to warm to the idea, but we can see their hearts softening. A good friend of ours told us that he could never love an adopted child as much as "his own children." All of these are valid responses and I have no right to feel my perspective is superior to anyone else's.

What I do know is that God has called our family to special needs adoption (Luke 14). Although we will continue to consider the thoughts and perspectives of others, we are doing what God has called us to do. On page 158, Moore wrote, "if your parent or grandparent or some other family member rejects your child on the basis of his or her race [or I would add whatever background], then your first responsibility is to the child." I resonate with this and I think deep down, the people who know us well agree with the principle, even if they don't agree specifically with what we are doing. My prayer though, is that through this adoption, we show Christ to our family and our community, but most importantly, to our child.

God, I pray that you would be working in me.
Ready me for the challenge of becoming a father yet again.
Teach me to love as You first loved me,
with unreserved compassion and patience.
Not only for my children,
but for others who cross my path.

Grant me understanding and mercy
when I become frustrated with attitudes
I perceive contrary to your own.
Forgive me in those circumstances
for feelings of righteous indignation
and help me to recognize
that it is only by Your grace that I have the privilege
of serving You in whatever capacity you deem fit.

I pray also that You would be working in your church
to care for the fatherless.
Create a thirst in individual hearts
and in the church to bring orphans home,
to pour out Your love on those less fortunate,
so that we may be seated together
at the marriage feast of Christ.
Open our eyes to see that great need exists
outside of our homes and churches,
and that by extending ourselves through your grace,
we can live out the Great Commission
to those who need it most.

26 July 2009

12 years ago

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth-Proverbs 5:18

Twelve years ago today, I had the honor of marrying Heather. In some regards, the time has flown by as a rushing river and in other regards, it seems as though we have always been together. We have shared so much of our lives as one flesh, working diligently together to honor God. We have experienced the joy of living in 7 homes in 4 states. We have been blessed with two wonderful children (and a 3rd on the way). God has also granted us the privilege of a wonderful church family. His blessings abound!

In today's society, the concept of marriage is increasingly diluted (or is it deluded?). Couples, even those professing faith in Christ, live together before they are married to make sure they are "sexually compatible." The divorce rate for "Christians" is similar to that of the populous and, in fact, we often hear of pastors who divorce because "things just didn't work out." It is scarcely possible now to watch the news without finding reference to the attacks on the legal and constitutional definition of "marriage."

Yet, I remain hopeful about Christian marriages in general and mine in particular. Considering that my parents have each divorced twice, my hope doesn't make intuitive sense and in fact, my friend Ben asked me how I could feel this way in light of my background. I told him that because of God's grace and a Biblical view of marriage, I am profoundly secure in my union with my wife.

I know that a Biblical view of marriage, which speaks of man and woman as one flesh (Gen 2:24), the Biblical headship of the husband (Ephesians 5), and the loving submission of the wife (I Peter 3) is unpopular with many people, but this is the way God intended marriage and when people follow that model, God is glorified. I have seen friend's marriages crumble and when they ask what went wrong and how Heather and I are different, I point to these principles, which inevitably make them uncomfortable.

Heather and I were privileged to witness the union of a Godly couple yesterday. They shared their first kiss at the wedding. Their vows reflected a Biblical view of marriage and I could see evidence of a servant's heart in the groom. During his blessing, the father of the bride stated his hope that we would all be there with the new couple as they celebrate their golden anniversary. I believe that, God willing, they will thrive for those 50 years, as will many of the other Godly couples we communed with there.

I pray that God would help me to be a husband after Christ's heart--to love Heather as He loved the church and sacrificially gave Himself up for her. I love you always, my dear.

(Also, check out this post by our good friend Gen)

25 July 2009


For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. -Habakkuk 2:3

As our baby waits on the other side of the globe, I feel a sense of urgency, a gnawing. I want her here now, joined with the rest of our family so that we can begin to develop bonds, to attach, to make her a part of us. Still I wait.

In watching my wife, it is clear that she also feels this emptiness. The peace that normally surrounds her, the peace that others are drawn to, has dimmed. She awakens in the middle of the night, for hours at a time. She has developed pain in her neck that medicine is not healing, I suppose because a pill is not the cure this time.

You see, I am good at solving problems. I can usually examine a situation and come up with a reasonable solution. My wife is the detail person, the manager. What plans we come up with, she sees through with due diligence. We have poured out those traits in this situation too, but for a host of reasons, we can't go any faster.

In my head I know that God's timing is sometimes different from my own and that He works everything out according to His plan. I just wish that message would make it to my heart. As we wait, I pray that God would:
  • grant us a sense of peace, recognizing His perfect timing.
  • heal Heather and help her not to carry her stress in her body but rather, to cast her anxieties upon him (I Peter 5:7)
  • prepare our family and friends for bringing home this child of God.
  • watch over our baby, to keep her safe and to be preparing her heart to join us here in our home.

24 July 2009

Adopted for Life-chapter 5 (redux)

I love when reading of God's word intersects with what is going on elsewhere in life. I know that God speaks to us through His word, but sometimes, it is evident that His word is timely and specific.

Throughout chapter 5 of Adopted for Life , Moore touches on the many decisions that we encounter in the adoption journey. I was struck by his chapter conclusion, "One's life story is typically made up of little decisions...The most important thing for you to know about these decisions is that whatever you decide, you're not going to wreck God's plan for your life. Whatever your views about how God's kingship fits with human freedom, you know as a Christian that God is at work in bringing about his good purposes for you. Your decisions fit, mysteriously, into that overall plan." (p 144).

At the same time as I was contemplating this life of decisions, I began studying Ephesians again. In the first chapter, Paul wrote about predestination. Actually, the power of the first chapter slipped by me the first time, but when I went back and looked again, I was blown away. Beginning in verse 4, it reads, "In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will." Through the metaphor of adoption, we learn that God chose us for His family according to His purposes, but I wondered, what does this passage say about our decision to adopt?

Here is what I came away with:

It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the decisions we face. Sometimes they are little ones, like "chocolate or vanilla?" and sometimes they are big, scary, life altering decisions like "should we adopt?" The implication of those decisions become so much easier to deal with when we recognize that our sovereign Lord has a grand plan. As Christians, we were lovingly adopted into God's family, through Christ's death and resurrection, according to the purpose of His will "before the foundation of the world" (verse 4). So, too, the decisions we make every day are a part of God's plan and, as Moore points out, we're not going to "wreck" it. We should take comfort in our own powerlessness knowing that we have a God whose good and perfect will far exceeds our own fallibility.

23 July 2009

Adopted for Life-Chapter 5-the Big Red Ball

Moore writes, "It is true that your social worker may see things very differently from the way you do, especially in the matter of discipline. Your social worker may give you advice about parenting, and some of the advice may sound insane to you. One of the social workers with whom we interviewed recommended that we should not use negative words, such as no, with the children. She counseled that we find positive ways to rephrase things so as to avoid 'breaking the child's will." I asked her what we should do if the child were doing something we thought could be dangerous and she replied, 'Well, sometimes it's good to find things to distract the child like, say, a big red ball.' When she left, I told my wife, 'I do not ever want to be caught in a dark alley with that woman's children.' Maria quipped, "At least not without a big red ball.'" (p. 132).

This was a major concern for us when we first met with our social worker. We knew that, inevitably, a discussion about childhood discipline would arise. We employ many techniques in child rearing, including spanking. There are frequent mandates in the book of Proverbs to spank children including, for example--"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him" (13:24). When it finally came up, thankfully we avoided a ridiculous discussion like the one above.

Interestingly, in 1979, the Swedish government made spanking illegal. This website cited research that, "one year after this ban was adopted, the rate of child beatings was twice that of the United States. According to a 1995 report from the government organization Statistics Sweden, police reports of child abuse by family members rose four-fold from 1984 to 1994, while reports of teen violence increased nearly six-fold."

If you want to learn more, read here, here, and here . Even better, go spend some time with families who employ Biblical discipline with their kids or adults who were spanked (not abused) as children. You will find secure, confident, and disciplined individuals.

22 July 2009

Luke 22 The 2 betrayers?

In Luke 22, Jesus and the apostles are dining together and Jesus tells them that he wanted to eat this last passover meal with them before he was to suffer. He then says, "But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Much like the disciples, I think my first inclination would have been to ask who the betrayer would be. Thoughts running through their heads, "certainly it cannot be Peter, nor John, but who?" They are looking for the person who will betray the Christ. In their humanity, they lose sight of the fact that this will be their last meal with the man they have spent 3 years with, their rabbi, their Messiah. He has just told them that he is about to suffer and that he will be betrayed. What do they do? They start fighting about who is the greatest? You can imagine Peter, who was so passionate, in there mixing it up.

Judas is clearly the betrayer referenced, but 13 verses later, as a part of the same conversation, we find out that Simon Peter, "the rock" will also be a betrayer of sorts. Christ tells Peter that he will deny him 3 times--he will betray Christ. What a shock to one who was probably in the thick of the "Who's the greatest" rally.

What happened to these 2 betrayers?

Peter denied Jesus 3 times and the rooster crowed. He went out and wept bitterly, repented and through the mighty power of God, was an unswerving voice for the early church, never (as far as we know) denying Christ again. In fact, in John 21:15-17, Christ asks Peter 3 times "Simon, do you love me more than these?", in a way reversing the three denials. Peter preached Jesus as Messiah until he was martyred.

Judas on the other hand felt remorseful but not repentant. He recognized he had sinned and attempted to undo his actions on his own by speaking with the chief priests to no avail. He hung himself and his bowels were spilled out in a field.

Did you ever think about this? Judas' betrayal was to fulfill scripture (Zechariah 11:13), but had it not been, he could have repented and asked for forgiveness from the father and he would have been forgiven?

I think we all have tendencies to be like these apostles. We lose our focus on the cross, we think about ourselves, and we deny Christ. When you do this, who do you want to be like? Do you want to be like Judas who tried to fix it on his own with no success or do you want to be like Peter, who recognized the power of the risen Messiah?

Becoming an efficient prayer

This was inspired by Stuff Christians Like.

Over the past several weeks, I have considered how to make my prayer life more efficient. You see, I am pretty good about getting up and reading my Bible and other edifying Christian books. My prayer life, however, I feel leaves something to be desired.

So, I set my brain to work on solving the problem of becoming a better pray-er (I don't really know how to spell it when I need to say "one who prays"--is it "prayer" or "pray-er").

Here are some tried and true techniques:
Popcorn prayers (or shout outs to God)-The theory behind this is that whenever something comes to mind, you toss it up to God--perhaps in a sentence or so. This can happen anytime throughout your day. For example, you are walking down the street and find your eyes wandering and give a shout out, "God, I just looked at a woman lustfully. Forgive me." Once done, you move on--simple as that. We even make use of group "popcorn prayer" at church. The leader will say something to the effect of, "let's pray together. We'll do popcorn prayers."
Member 1: "God, be with our church. Guide the leadership."
Member 2: "Remember our country, God. Guide the leadership."
Member 3: "Help me to be a good husband, Father. Guide my leadership."
Member 4: "Lord, I really want a new I-phone, but only if it is in Your will."

Lord's Prayer Pray-er: We all know that Jesus taught us to pray (Luke 11:2-4), "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation." My line of thinking goes something like this--Jesus taught us how to pray, so if I pray the Lord's prayer, I need not say anything else. The Lord's prayer covers it and in fact, perhaps if I say anything else, I may be like one of the hypocrites.

He knows what we need: As a variant on the theme of the Lord's prayer and popcorn prayers, one of the quicker prayers we can use is something of this sort: "God, you know what I need. Amen."

Worship Music as prayer: If you listen carefully, certain worship songs are prayers...kind of. If I just sing the right songs, I am praying. "Take my heart, and form it. Take my mind, transform it. Take my will, conform it. To Yours, to Yours, O Lord!" See how easy that was? If you ever see me driving down the highway belting out "Jesus take the wheel!" You will know I am just praying.

Using the A-C-T-S method: You've certainly heard of this structured approach: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It goes a little something like this. "God you are awesome! You are great and holy (How did David make this look so easy?!?). God I ate too much...again. Help me to turn away from this sin (is eating really sinful, God?). God I am a worldly man, drawn to the things of this world. Lord forgive me. OK, God, you already know all the bad stuff I did. Sorry. God thanks for sending your son. Thank you for my wife and my kids and my church. Thanks for the food that I binged on. (OK, what is the "S" again? supplication? what the heck is supplication? Oh yeah, this is the part where I get to ask for stuff!)." This is usually the longest part. "Dear God, please bless our church. Please provide us with a new refrigerator, Lord, as ours is getting too small and you know that we will need one if we are to bring home more children which you call a blessing. Make my kids beautiful, smart and compliant. But only if it is your will Lord. Amen." Importantly, I have heard that you should be careful not to mess up the order on this one. It is A-C-T-S, not S-C-A-T. or some other variant. If you don't get it right, your prayers may be hindered.

Praying in the car (shower, bed, movie theater): You can pray while you are doing other stuff. Capture your commute for Jesus. Jon talked a lot about this in his post "Teaching Yourself to Breathe Underwater". I have attempted this method and I suck at it. I start driving, turn off my radio and start praying away. (One of the true beauties of cell phones is that you can talk to yourself in your car and no one thinks you are crazy). About 5 minutes later, I get bored and I begin to wonder what is playing on the radio. Perhaps it is one of those worship song/prayer combos.

Clearly, I haven't figured out how to pray yet. As I read the Bible, I look for clues about how to strengthen my prayer life. I think it really comes down to a matter of the heart. David was a man after God's own heart who sought Him earnestly and had a passion for praising and talking with his heavenly father. He did not do it out of a sense of obligation, or an item to check off of his to do list. He did it because he wanted to spend time with the father and knew that he was worthy of all praise.

Thoughts? Ideas?

should you stay in a marriage?

A couple of days ago, I was listening to Dave Ramsey. Someone emailed in that her husband just "discovered" that he was gay; however, they decided they would stay together for their young child until she was 18.

Dave recommended divorce. He said something to the effect of "ask any family therapist with any brains. They will tell you that staying together for the kids is a bad idea." Really? For what it's worth, I am a licensed and board certfied psychologist who is also a Christian. I also have a master's degree in counseling, where my primary focus was on marriage and family therapy. I briefly did research in the area of paternal absence and my results were pretty clear that separation isn't good for the child. Specifically, we found a link to childhood aggression.

Other research briefly described here demonstrates that children from divorced families are:

  • more likely to suffer academically
  • more likely to have legal problems
  • more likely to live in poverty
  • more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol

More importantly, what does the Bible say?

Malachi 2:16 (NIV): "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel"


I'm looking forward to this book

Jared Wilson authored "Your Jesus is Too Safe." It is definitely on my list to read.

Here is a quote from a recent interview with I-monk:
"I like to call this a two-fisted gospel. If you aren’t articulating the gospel of the kingdom regularly and also seeking to live the kingdom out, you aren’t discipling anyone in the way of Jesus.
The danger for most folks of my sort is that we really become admirers of the gospel, not treasurers of it. And admiring it is not really centering on it. When it’s got you forgiving your cheating spouse or serving people in the ghetto or even mowing your neighbor’s yard, it’s changed you."
You can read the rest of it here.

Thinking God will run out of welcome home banners

Jon over at Stuff Christians Like wrote a great piece on forgiveness. He said, "Forgiveness is the thing I ask for the most. In my head maybe I know that God’s forgiveness is eternal and inexhaustible but in my heart I feel like He’s going to run out of it. That He’s got a limited supply. And I’m burning them up, one by one, sin by sin."

I struggle with this in my own mind. I wonder how God can forgive me again for doing something sinful. It comes to a point when I think, "I'm scared to ask again. What if He says no this time? If I were Him, I wouldn't forgive me. I don't even deserve to be in His presence." Yet I muster up the courage and ask...again.

He welcomes me home, not because I am good, but because He is merciful.

21 July 2009

Adopted for Life-Chapter 4

  • "The galloping forward of such technologies means that we may one day see a world in which only Christians have Down syndrome babies in their strollers, only Christians have bald little girls fighting through chemotherapy, only Christians have little boys in 'husky' size paints struggling against childhood obesity. What an impoverished world--for all of us--that will be."

We are faced with a world in which reproductive freedom is combined with advancing technologies and may lead to designer children. The "good" children will be kept and the genetically undesirable will be killed. This may be yet another attempt at making ourselves perfect through good works, in this case genetic manipulation. Pray that this does not happen.

Ecclesiastes 7:13 "Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?"

20 July 2009

I-monk on creationism/Genesis

I-monk posts about Creationism with some very interesting comments. The interesting thing is that I was just thinking about astrophysicist Hugh Ross, old earth/young earth creationism, and how to present science to my children as we home school them.

What do others think?

This may explain some of my patients

Al Mohler talks about Nature Deficit disorder. SEND YOUR KIDS OUTSIDE!!!

HT: Zach Nielsen

Adopted for Life-Chapter 3

On page 79, Moore writes:

  • "An orphan protecting adoption culture is countercultural--and always has been. Some of the earliest records we have of the Christian churches speak of how Christians, remarkably, protect children in the face of a culture of death pervasive in the Roman empire. The followers of Jesus, though, did not kill their offspring, even when it would have made economic or social sense to do so. This is still distinctively Christian in a world that increasingly sees children as, at best, a commodity to be controlled, and at worst, a nuisance to be contained. Think of how revolutionary it is for Christians to adopt a young boy with a cleft palate from a region of India where most young people see him as 'defective.' Think of how counterintuitive it is for Christians to adopt a Chinese girl--when many there see her as a disappointment. Think of how odd it must seem to American secularists to see Chrisitans adopting a baby whose body trembles with an addiction to the cocaine her mother sent through her bloodstream before birth. Think of the kind of credibility such action lends to the proclomation of the gospel."

Christians are often accused of being exclusive and judgmental or perhaps even racist and hateful. What would it say to the world about what Christianity really is if we took it upon ourselves to look after the "least of these?"

Luke 21 and the faith of Polycarp

This morning, I read Luke 21, which is a rich chapter. I could likely write a post on each of the verses, but I was particularly struck by verses 10-19. Jesus is talking with the disciples about future things:

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

I have no idea when Christ will return (though verses like 10 make me wonder), but I admit I have had some trepidation about how I will respond when faced with adversity. I read about early Christian martyrs like Polycarp, with awe. When he was arrested and was to be burned alive by the Roman proconsul for his faith in Christ, he told his captors, "Leave me as I am. For He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails." Wow! What power in that statement. Polycarp was simply living what Christ promised in verses 13-15--he "bore witness, knowing how to answer". His death likely did more for the advancement of the kingdom even than his life, which was lived for Christ.

As I read this passage and am reminded of Polycarp and other martyrs for the faith, I take heart. If I am someday faced with adversity of this magnitude, I do not need to rely on my own strength and in fact, I cannot. God will provide the words that I need and the strength to not back down. It may mean death as it has for many martyrs for the faith, but "by our endurance, we will gain our lives", eternally with the Father.

19 July 2009

Head Coverings: I Corinthians 11:2-16

2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

I don't know why, but I got a bee in my bonnet today about head coverings (like the head covering reference?). I started thinking about this for a couple of reasons. First, I believe scripture is inerrant and I want to understand scripture accordingly. Second, I fear that the Christian church picks certain issues to harp on but minimizes others. For example, the church is often concerned with homosexuality as sinful (I Corinthians 6:9, among others), but may overlook other issues addressed in the New Testament as cultural. The head covering reference seems to be a perfect example.

I think it is easy to dismiss this one as cultural. Apparently, temple prostitutes in Corinth would keep their heads shaved and so this reference had real meaning to them. I am struck however, by verse 10 and verse 16. I don't think it is so easy to dismiss the idea of head coverings as simply "cultural."

I guess I am left with verse 15, where it states that a woman's hair is given to her as a covering. Anyone else care to share your insights?

When we pray, how do we view God?

From Already and Not Yet:

"How often do I approach the throne of Grace in prayer with a heart that does not understand the weight of what I am doing. I am going before the King of the Universe, not a bank teller, not a Santa Claus at the mall, but how I so treat it that way. I often flippantly throw up some prayers that suggest I am talking to another man, maybe a respected man so I show some level of reverence, but not the level that should go to the King of Kings!"

The parable of the ten minas

I read in Luke 19 today, the parable of the Ten Minas. It tells a story of a nobleman who gave 10 minas to each of 10 servants and told them to "engage in business" until he returned (v 13). Two of the servants invested and reaped treasure on their investments, so the nobleman entrusted them with more. One servant did not invest because he knew the nobleman to be a "severe man." In verse 26, it reads, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

I was trying to reconcile this with Luke 18, which tells the story of the Rich Young Ruler. He keeps the whole law, but when he is told to give everything he owns to the poor, he becomes "very sad". 18:25 reads, " For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

In chapter 18, we read that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, but in chapter 19, we read that to those who have, more will be given. The difference seems to be that in chapter 19, the faithful servants are investing the resources entrusted to them by God, whereas in chapter 18, the man's riches are his own, at least in terms of how he responds to them.

Those of us who have been entrusted with much may be entrusted with more, provided we invest it and see that everything we have belongs to the Father.

Adopted for Life-Chapter 2

"When Maria and I first walked into the orphanage, where we were led to the boys the Russian courts had picked out for us to adopt, we almost vomited in reaction to the stench and squalor of the place. The boys were in cribs, in the dark, lying in their own waste.

"Leaving them at the end of each day was painful, but leaving them the final day, before going home to wait for the paperwork to go through, was the hardest thing either of us had ever done. Walking out of the room to prepare for the plane ride home, Maria and I could hear Maxim calling out for us and falling down in his crib, convulsing in tears. Maria shook with tears of her own. I turned around to walk back into their room, just for a minute.

"I placed my hand on both of their heads and said, knowing they couldn't understand a word of English, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." I don't think I consciously intended to cite Jesus' words to his disciples in John 14:18, it just seemed like the only thing worth saying at the time." (Adopted for Life, page 25).

I was choked up as I read this yesterday. Jesus tells his disciples that he will "not leave us as orphans." We will not be left behind, yet how many children today are left behind because it may cramp our lifestyles? I pray that the church moves mightily to care for the fatherless.

18 July 2009

Adopted for Life-Chapter 1

I just started reading Russell Moore's Adopted for Life. In it, he writes about the role of adoption in the Christian life. I hope to share some of my thoughts about it here. I just finished chapter 1. He gives a good summary of what, in part, this book is about.

But this book is also, and perhaps most especially, for the man who flinches when his wife raises the issue of adoption because he wants his "own kids"--and who hates himself a little for thinking like that. It is for the wife who keeps the adoption application papers in a pile on the exercise bicycle upstairs--as a "last resort"--but who is praying fervently right now for two lines of purple to show up on her home pregnancy test. It is for the single twenty-something who assumes that he will marry after a couple of years in the post-college job force, find a nice girl, have a honeymoon for three or four years, and then they'll start thinking about getting pregnant. It is for the pastor who preaches about adoption as an alternative to abortion on a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday but who has never considered how to envision for his congregation what it would mean to see family after family after family in the church directory in which the children bear little physical resemblance to, and maybe even don't share the skin color of, their parents. It is for the elderly couple who tithe their Social Security check, dote on their grandchildren, and wonder how they can tangibly help the young couple who ask for prayer every month that they might be parents--and who never seem to show up for Mother's Day services.

I definitely can see some of myself in this first chapter. I hope to discover more.

If we believe the Gospel, doesn't seem contradictory to...

I-monk presents several points for our consideration.

For example:

If we believe the gospel, doesn't it seem contradictory to...

Hold on to all of your money and possessions exactly like the non-Christians next door? Money and possessions are a pretty predictable sign of where your real treasure is, according to one well known authority.

Read the rest of it here.

The Practice of the Presence of God

I was studying Luke again this morning and as I read about the rich young ruler, I was reminded of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, who called us to live continually in God's presence, no matter our circumstances.

Brother Lawrence lived a simple monastic life during the 1600s in France. He wrote 15 brief letters, which demonstrated an intense desire to be in the presence of God and to live solely for his glory. The final letter is presented below, but I would commend you to read all of them, which should take less than an hour.

Fifteenth Letter:
God knows best what we need. All that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we would always be ready to receive both the bitter and the sweet from His Hand. It would make no difference. All that came from Him would be pleasing.

The worst afflictions only appear intolerable if we see them in the wrong light. When we see them as coming from the hand of God, and know that it is our loving Father who humbles and distresses us, our sufferings lose their bitterness and can even become a source of consolation.

Let all our efforts be to know God. The more one knows Him, the greater one desires to know Him. Knowledge is commonly the measure of love. The deeper and more extensive our knowledge, the greater is our love. If our love of God were great we would love Him equally in pain and pleasure.

We only deceive ourselves by seeking or loving God for any favors which He has or may grant us. Such favors, no matter how great, can never bring us as near to God as can one simple act of faith. Let us seek Him often by faith. He is within us. Seek Him not elsewhere.

Are we not rude and deserve blame if we leave Him alone to busy ourselves with trifles which do not please Him and perhaps even offend Him? These trifles may one day cost us dearly. Let us begin earnestly to be devoted to Him. Let us cast everything else out of our heart. He wants to possess the heart alone. Beg this favor of Him. If we do all we can, we will soon see that change wrought in us which we so greatly desire.

I cannot thank Him enough for the relief He has given you. I hope to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.