Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Post for Shepherds:The Word Works

There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many, and a consequent want of established, solid religion. In no other way can I account for the ease with which people are, like children, "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14). There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true. There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational, and exciting, and rousing to the feelings. There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better than spiritual dram-drinking, and the "meek and quiet spirit" which St. Peter commends is clean forgotten (1 Pet 3:4). . .Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is "clever" and "earnest," hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully "narrow and uncharitable" if you hint that he is unsound!. . .All this is sad, very sad. -- From J.C. Ryles' Holiness, the Introduction pages 28f, 1877. What would he say about the church today?(See above pic for one example of what is sad, very sad.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Value of Violence

David's Violent Faithfulness
While preaching several weeks back I commented that I have a bit of a rebellious streak in me, and then proceeded to follow that with the confession that there is also a violent streak as well. While this is not what some folks want to hear from their pastor about their pastor, it is nevertheless true and I believe good. Here's just a few reasons why:
1. God has a violent streak also. It's called wrath. It is a subcategory of His justice. Before there was sin there was no wrath. There was nothing to be wrathful against. But there was justice. When angels and men sinned, God's justice demanded His wrath.
2. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force, or so says Jesus the Lord (Mt 11:12).While some would interpret this text to mean that the kingdom of Christ is undergoing attack and that these attacks are from violent men (like Herod Antipas who had John arrested and beheaded), I, with some others, take the text to mean that without the reality in the heart of a holy and diligent violence, one does not enter this kingdom. I say this because of other Bible texts like Luke 16:16, The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. That is, everyone who has entered the kingdom, has come in violently, by the sovereign overthrow of their unbelief and self-worship. Or, hear the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians; I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified (9:26f). Here, Paul writes of a means of perseverance in following Jesus. He says it requires a kind of ruthless violence in regard to the conquering of sin. Now, hear Jesus again; Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small (compressed) and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt 7:13f). Why so few? Because so few are spiritually ruthless.
To wage the good warfare (2 Cor 10) and fight the good fight (1 Ti 1 & 6; 2 Ti 4) requires an undivided allegiance, diligent focus, and relentless violence against all that would damn us. John the Baptist came preaching repentance for entry into the kingdom. He confronted people, even the king, with their sins. He knew unless they dealt violently with their wickedness by killing it (cf Ro 8) they would perish. The kingdom progresses forcefully (as under John's ministry), and the forceful press their way into it (like through that narrow gate Jesus mentioned). It is interesting that Jesus makes these particular comments on violence during his commendation of John. Jesus isn't down on violence. He's for it. Christianity is not for cruisers and bench-warmers; it's for warriors and players. The kingdom of King Jesus moves over the earth like an army over a city or like water over Niagara Falls. I want to be a part of that. By the way, this violent takeover is not rooted in a works righteousness where you can discipline yourself into salvation. The warriors weapons are the weapons of faith (Ep 6; 2 Cor 10), and fueled by faith. Perseverance is the perseverance in trusting Jesus. That's the fight! And our King, in His death, has purchased victory for all of His elect (Jn 6, 10, etc).
3. Jesus was not a pacifist. He was a peacemaker in some sense, but not a pacifist. In the Old Testament God did sometimes judge people for their violence. But it wasn't because of the violence itself but where the violence was aimed. Sometimes He commanded violence (Jos 6, for example). Jesus came to make peace between God and men. That spills over into peace between men and men (Like in Ga 3:28). We get a role in this peacemaking by gospel proclamation. But to label Jesus a pacifist is to misunderstand Him. Spiritually speaking, no one who has ever lived fought temptation with more violence than Jesus (See Lk 22:39-46, for example). And knowing the weakness of His followers, Jesus, in this same exchange, tells them to get up (they were sleeping) and pray (a weapon of faith) so that they would not fall into temptation. For the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (cf Mt 26:41). Now, watch the movie Fight Club and read Hebrews 12. The goal is to watch the movie for help in knowing what it takes to win in general (focus, determination, organization, decision making, ruthlessness, passion etc); and to read God's Word to learn how to win God's way in God's spiritual (not Fight Club worldly) kingdom.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Monday Post for the Flock

The work of pastoral ministry is one of disciple-making. Our work is not to grow the church, build the church, advertise the church, expand the church, make popular the church, etc. Read the pastoral letters (1 Tim, 2 Tim, Tit). Pay attention to the commands to Christian pastors. Pay attention to what should absorb and preoccupy us. We are called to be educators, teachers, theologians, thinkers, proclaimers, debaters, etc. This is our work, so says God. We are not nurses, coaches, or psychiatrists. We are shepherds, for Jesus. Shepherds lead and protect by feeding. Faithful teaching of Scripture both leads God's people in the paths of His righteousness and protects them from false teaching and false thinking.

Therefore, we are to be readers. Pastors that don't read don't learn. The truth of Scripture is given in words. It's propositional. The way to understand it is to study it, to learn what the words mean and how they fit into the larger story of redemption. Because this is the case your pastor needs books; books that help him understand "the Book". He needs book money because books are not cheap. If you want to help your church flourish, encourage your pastor(s) in his study. Establish a "pastor's resources" fund within your church budget. My people have been kind to me in this regard. From that fund I get to buy books, magazines, sermon audios, etc that help me learn what the Bible means by what the Bible says. Also, establish a fund that will allow him to participate in helpful and encouraging pastor's conferences. These conferences have been greatly used by the Lord in my own life. They are a time away, and a time to think, and to learn, and to be corrected by Scripture.

Also, encourage your pastor(s) to be a diligent Bible student. Don't nag him about every minute drama in your life. When he delegates responsibility, handle the delegated task, yourself. It's not that your pastor(s) doesn't want to help you. It's that he needs to read and think and pray if he wants to obey God and serve you faithfully. He is the one charged with preaching and teaching. Many tasks pastors are expected to fulfill (because of their title, not their gifting or the biblical requirements) should be filled by the membership. There are folks in your congregation more gifted than your pastor in various areas of ministry (See 1 Cor 12, Ep 4). So help him by doing your part and  by being scrupulous about what you take to him for counsel. Pastors should counsel their people, from the Bible. This is a form of disciple-making.

One more thing, speak to him about his sermons. Paul tells Timothy that he must so give himself to biblical pastoral ministry (disciple-making), that his progress in his work can be seen by his people (1 Ti 4:15f). So as his teaching improves and his sermons become more helpful, let him know that. And ask questions about what he says that you don't agree with or understand. Talk about the implications of what is preached. Verbalize your interest. One of the most encouraging experiences I have is when one of my flock shares with me what they have been learning from God's Word. Sometimes this learning is a result of their own study and reading. But sometimes it comes through my preaching. When I hear them say that they're learning the truths and implications of Scripture, I am greatly motivated to press on in my work, because I preach for their spiritual progress. 

This past weekend a man in our church shared with me what he had been learning from Galatians during his devotional time while on vacation. So I asked him if he would share this with the congregation on Sunday, which he did. It was a good time of edification for our church. Another brother bought books for all of our current elder candidates (The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal - a classic. By the way, this is one book that is cheap, less than $6 new). He purchased extra copies for our book table. He also left an encouraging note in my office on Saturday morning for me to find later (I normally study on Saturdays). I could make a long list at this point of the kindnesses I'm regularly shown by my people (not all of them of course). But I digress. So I will only say here that your pastor is human. He will benefit much from your labors of love, which in turn works to your spiritual benefit. Everyone wins.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Sunday Post for the Shepherds -- Blessing

I'm preaching through Genesis on Sunday mornings. We're in chapter 12 - God's call of Abram. God promises him His blessing so that he will become a blessing to the nations. The Hebrew word translated blessing is sometimes translated kneel. To bless then has the connotation of the blesser kneeling, stooping down, to be near and with the one blessed. It it the promise of help for mission. God's promise to Abram in Ge 12 is not unlike Jesus' promise to the church in Mt 28 where He gives the Great Commission and then says I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Christ's word to His church, Go, make disciples, for I am with you always, is the promise of God to Abram thousands of years earlier, Leave, go to a land I will show you, I have stooped down to be with you. My brothers, today, may we proclaim this Lord who is with us to help us and our people with our particular roles within His mission on the stage of church history. His promise is His presence. We get God! Good Father, make us faithful. Amen.

The LORD is with me like a dread champion - Jeremiah the Prophet (20:11).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Should Christians Engage in Sarcasm, He Asked.

A friend suggested I address this question as a blog post. I told him I would work on it; which means I'll think about it sporadically as it occurs to me over the next day. So, for whatever it's worth, here's my on-the-fly answer: yes, and no. First, let's define "sarcasm". According to Merriam-Webster, sarcasm is a cutting or contemptuous remark or ironic criticism or reproach; and there are examples of Bible saints using this verbal device. One of the most famous is recorded in 1 Kings 18 - the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. During the competition Elijah says to the prophets about their unresponsive deity, Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened (v27). The text calls this Elijah's mocking of the false prophets. His use of sarcasm is neither approved or condemned in the text. It's simply given. Personally, I like it a lot.

The Apostle Paul repeatedly used sarcasm in his letters to the churches, especially the sick churches. For examples see 1 Corinthians 4, 6, & 9.

John the Baptizer used sarcasm. See Matthew 3 & Luke 3.

Jesus used sarcasm. When speaking to the Pharisees, for example, the Lord would often ask them the biting question, Have you not read . . . ? It was His ironic criticism of the "most learned" of Israel not knowing basic Old Testament truth (Mt 12 & 19; Mk 12). He spoke the same way to Nicodemus, a Pharisee himself (Jn 3). I imagine there was sarcasm in Jesus' voice when he asked, Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, "Show us the Father"? And the examples could continue. But let me summarize.

Sarcasm, like many devices, is good when used to make much of God and the Word of God. It is not good when used to make much of ourselves and our opinions. By sarcastic comments, people are insulted and shown to be less than they think. When the aim of this is to show someone, with love and sobriety, his ignorance of God, it may be useful. It's a form of correction. But when it is used to exalt self in the presence of others by showing their weaknesses next to our own strengths, it is unloving and selfish and sinful. Blessed is the person with the wisdom to discern the moments when sarcasm is helpful.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Monday Post for the Flock

Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should lie from the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:13f

Remember those who lead you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:7f

Let the elders (pastors) who rule well be counted worthy of double honor (income), especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. for the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." 1 Timothy 5:17f

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Post for Shepherds

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
Martin Luther

It is not humble to be hesitant where God has been clear and plain.
Mark Dever,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some Class Notes That Have Counted

I am for the academy; especially while our churches fail to identify and train qualified pastors. Some of the most truthful and helpful words I have ever heard came from the hearts and mouths of my seminary professors. Following college I began seminary studies at the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (MABTS) and finished at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). I finished having done exactly half of my grad school time in each institution. If I had it to do over, I would not have chosen a Baptist institution though I think highly of both of the schools I attended. I think instead I would have gone to Westminster in California, or Reformed Theological in Orlando. Nevertheless, I was helped much by my Baptist teachers.

I carried the same Bible to class every day (Or on the days I went to class. I did do my share of skipping) and wrote in it the statements and questions I wanted to be sure to remember. Here are a few of the better words:

If you compare yourself to Christ, you'll be humble enough to be useful -- Dr Lanier in 4/02, SEBTS.

Our marriages are to be pictures of the way God is willing to treat us in Christ --
Dr Liederbach in 2/02, SEBTS.

Speaking to pastors, Act like a shepherd -- Dr Owens in 4/02, SEBTS

Meekness is born in constant misrepresentation, like a piece of stiff, tough, hard leather that has been worked over and now, though soft, remains tough as old boots. Meekness has been illustrated by speaking of the broken horse; while before it was wild and dangerous, is now tame and useful. What's left out of that illustration is the tear in the horse's eye, because it has been genuinely bruised --
Not sure of the source. But it sounds like Dr Lanier, SEBTS.

Ministry comes from giftedness, not from position -- Dr Hammett in 11/97, SEBTS.

It's always easier to go back than to fight the fight before you --
Dr Owens in 4/02, SEBTS.

Just because something is figurative doesn't mean it's any less real --
Dr Walker in 3/96, MABTS.

The following 2 are my favorites; so simple, yet so profoundly biblical.

Keep your heart warm to the Lord --
Dr Dunavant (one of the happiest people I've ever known) in 4/95, MABTS.

Be content to follow God --
Dr Bill Murray [my all-time favorite professor, who, by the way, was a full-time engineer with a PhD in Greek and only taught, to my knowledge, one year at MABTS (1994-95). It seems that the administration preferred more domesticated employees. I am so thankful to have known him. He was brilliant and humble. He prayed for us and with us. He wept with those who wept and rejoiced with those who rejoiced. He spoke the truth in love which meant he sometimes challenged the establishment. What a gift he was to me in those days. Praise God for His sweet providence. I hope Dr Murray is somewhere today teaching Greek and, as a by-product, sound theology].

Some of you may look at the dates of the quotes and wonder how long I was in seminary. I was actually in only 3 years going full-time each semester (An MDiv requires 98 credit hours). But I transferred from MABTS to SEBTS halfway through because I like change. Then I dropped out of SEBTS several weeks into my final semester with only 14 credit hours remaining, mostly because I was angry. Never mind about what. Then, by God's kindness and providence, went back 4 years later to finish, which required an 18 credit hour semester. The challenge wasn't the course load (my final year in college I did 18 then 21 to get out in 4 years), but the second semester Hebrew class. I had taken first semester Hebrew 4 years earlier and had not made the effort to retain what I had learned. By the time it was all over I was so eager to be done that I didn't even show up to graduate. I played two rounds of golf instead and drank several of my favorite brew. I do not regret that decision.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Words That Carry The Difficult Day

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because he has anointed me. . .to provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1a & 3.

For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren
The Apostle Paul, Romans 8:29

We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above our strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. . .
The Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth --
Jesus, Matthew 28:18

This day's been crazy but everything's happened on schedule --
Caedmon's Call, Table for Two

The sum of which is that God has foreknown (foreloved) all of His own before He created them. This is the foundation for Paul's famous words at the end of Romans 8 that speak of the indestructible love of Christ from which the Christian cannot be separated. The proof of God's ongoing saving love for His people is that He has always been loving them as they are. In other words, when God was loving us before creation, He was not doing so ignorant of who we are and what we are like -- sinful. He knew us perfectly then and loved us perfectly nevertheless. This redeeming love, by grace, is forever the possession of the foreknown.

So when Paul says that he was troubled, burdened, despairing and dying as one of the foreloved, he means for us to take heart because God brings such trials upon us to teach us to trust Him and to strip us of our trust in ourselves.

And because all authority belongs to our Lord whose saving love for us is a constant, we may rest in His limiting of the pressure, since by it He means not to destroy us but purge us. In other words, our pain is planned. It is not random or haphazard. It is designed and sent as a tool in our sanctification. So Caedmon's is right - From our perspective this day may seem crazy. But everything is occurring on schedule - His schedule. Bless His holy name.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Monday Post for the Flock

A Juniper Tree - like the one that Elijah (my favorite Old Testament character; duh) sat under and prayed to die (1 Kings 19).
Mondays can be cruel to pastors; especially if they aren't happy with the day before. I imagine that many of the 1500 or so pastors that quit each month do so on a Monday. So I urge you to pray this for your pastor(s); that he will, in keeping with the Apostle Paul's instructions in the pastoral letters: 

  1. Stay where he is (1 Tim 1:3)
  2. Protect the church from false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-4, 6:6; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:25; Tit 1:9-13, 2:15)
  3. Keep the faith & a good conscience (1 Tim 1:19, 4:16, 6:12-14)
  4. Pray (1 Tim 2:1-2, 8)
  5. Lead men and women to embrace their God-given roles (1 Tim 2:9-12; Tit 2:1-6)
  6. Enforce pastor/elder & deacon/deaconness positions, qualifications & rewards (1 Tim 3:1-16, 5:17-22; Tit 1:1, 5-9)
  7. By laboring in, striving toward, taking pains with, being absorbed in, & paying close attention to, keep and teach sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:1-16, 5:1-7; Tit 2:1, 7-8)
  8. Avoid foolish controversies & lead others to do the same (1 Tim 4:7; 2 Tim 2:14, 23; Tit 3:9)
  9. Discipline himself for the purpose of godliness & be an example of it (1 Tim 4:7, 12, 6:11; 2 Tim 2:19, 22, 3:14-15; Tit 2:7-8)
  10.  Give attention to the public reading, teaching & preaching of God’s Word (1 Tim 4:13, 16;  

2 Tim 2:15, 4:2; Tit 3:8)
  1.  Exercise his spiritual gifts (1 Tim 4:14)
  2.  Relate properly to all within the congregation (1 Tim 5:1-16; Tit 2:6)
  3.  Perform church discipline (1 Tim 5:19-22; Tit 1:9-13, 3:10)
  4.  Keep an eye on his health (1 Tim 5:23, 4:8)
  5.  Teach his people to submit to their authorities (1 Tim 6:1-2; Tit 2:9-10, 3:1-2).
  6.  Instruct the rich on the danger of trusting their wealth & on its good use (1 Tim 6:17-  19)
  7.  Not be ashamed of Jesus, but embrace suffering to follow Him (2 Tim 1:8, 2:3, 3:1, 4:5)
  8.  Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 2:1)
  9.  Teach the teachers who will then teach others (2 Tim 2:2)
  10.  Think about what Scripture texts mean (2 Tim 2:7)
  11.  Remember Jesus Christ (2 Tim 2:8)
  12.  Be sober in all things, do the work of an evangelist & fulfill his ministry (2 Tim 4:5)
  13.  Seek God for a tamed tongue (2 Tim 2:16; Tit 2:7-8, 3:8)
  14.  Keep an eye out for trouble-makers (2 Tim 4:14-15)
  15.  Be diligent to meet pressing needs (1 Tim 6:18-19; Tit 3:13-14)
  16.  Help other pastors in a timely manner (2 Tim 4:9-13, 20; Tit 3:12)
  17.  Establish order in the church (Tit 1:5)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Pain

"Pastors that don't cry have no clue what life is about."
John Piper, commenting on Acts 20:31

Friday, August 6, 2010

Calvin, Abram, and Us

While reading Calvin's commentary on Genesis to help me think through chapter 12 so that I may teach it faithfully on Sunday, I saw the following thoughts and think it good to share them.

Wherefore, if we desire to follow God with constancy, it behoves us carefully to meditate on all the inconveniences, all the difficulties, all the dangers which await us; that not only a hasty zeal may produce fading flowers, but that from a deep and well-fixed root of piety, we may bring forth fruit in our whole life.
Page 244

We are not indeed all indiscriminately commanded to desert our country; this point, I grant, is special in the case of Abram; but generally, it is God's will that all should be in subjection to his word, and should seek the law, for the regulation of their life, at his mouth, lest they should be carried away by their own will, or by the maxims of men. Therefore by the example of Abram, entire self-renunciation is enjoined, that we may live and die to God alone.
Page 351
By the way, the entire Calvin Commentary Set (22 volumes covering most of the Scriptures) is now being sold for only $100 at In some cases, a single volume is worth that. Here's an idea, if you don't want the set, buy it for your pastor. It can only help him, and by use, your church. Or, buy yourself a set and your pastor a set. Go generous.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In Defense of Cats

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures - Psalm 104:24.

In 2005 I took a group to the Nashville Passion Conference. While there I heard my favorite preacher John Piper speak briefly of his dislike for the smaller cats. He does like the larger ones - lions especially. Yet he has no good affection for the kind that make good pets. He said he does not expect to see them in heaven, due in part to their arrogance.
So following the conference I sent him the note below. I doubt it ever made it to his desk.

I am a bit perplexed by men who do enjoy one kind of God's creatures but not others. I tend to think these men are insecure, in need of a dog to obey their every command, greet them at the door, and lick their faces so that these men feel better about themselves. Dogs are one of the more easily controlled beasts. That, I am sure, appeals to many men.

By the way, my cats do what I tell them. They come when they are called. They also show allegiance and affection, and are always glad when I come through the door. In addition, I have seen one of mine stand on our front steps to stare down three large dogs that wanted on our porch. My cat never flinched - but the dogs did. Cats, along with squirrels and monkeys, are also among earth's greatest athletes, which I admire. To appreciate cats well, you need to know how to relate them. They, like dogs, are pack animals. They thrive when the ranks are well established. And I'm the alpha pack member. They seem pretty happy about that, as my wife and daughter are when I live up to my God-given roles regarding them. This kind of biblical nourishing headship produces good affects upon them, and even upon the beasts for whom God is concerned (Ge 1:26-26; Ex 20:8-11; Pr 12:10; Je 12:1-4; Jon 4:11).

Hello Dr. Piper – I simply must say that your statement on cats at the recent Passion 05 conference was not accurate. I realize it was said in a good spirit of light-heartedness and that is how I received it. However, I have been thinking about it a little. Every reason you gave for disliking cats is a reason I prefer cats.

Cats are not arrogant. They simply don’t need you. Dogs (I have a big one – Deacon), for example, need you to show affection to them, and feed them. That might be why you can step on them and they simply say “thank you”. But cats are not so needy. If you determine not to pet your cat today he will be just fine. And if you determine not to feed him today, he’ll just go outside, tear the head off of a bird, and eat its entrails.

However, if you do determine to feed your cat today, he will still go outside and tear the head off of a bird. But he will not eat the entrails. He’ll take the carcass in his mouth, bring it inside the house and lay it at your feet. This is exactly what happened with my cat and my wife while I was away in Nashville listening to you preach. My wife Marian wakes up one morning to find a love gift at the foot of the bed. This sort of thing happens regularly (I have 3 cats). The cat doesn’t need to kill, he’s eaten. But he kills anyway – for you. Therefore I say the love of a cat is a purer love.

So maybe there will be little cats in heaven with the big lions. Maybe they point us to God by reminding us that He doesn’t need us either, but would certainly kill to make us happy.

See you at the Bethlehem Conference,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reminders of Grace in the Faces of Orphans and Strays

All day Friday and half of Saturday my wife and I were seated, with other couples, before many who presented much information on adoption. We're in our second process having finalized the adoption of our daughter in September 2008. I appreciated much of what was said and am sure it will prove helpful to all who listened. One important aspect regarding adoption that I did not hear concerns adoption as acceptance. Bringing an orphan into your home for keeps is not only about his/her having no other parents, though it is about that. It's not mostly about our own inability to conceive. It's not the last option after infertility treatments have failed. It's not about our need to parent. Adoption is worship. To adopt in Jesus' name is to glorify the God who Himself takes in spiritual strays and orphans; not strays and orphans because we have been abandoned by others; but strays and orphans because we have abandoned our Maker and Father. We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way. . .Is 53:6.

Adoption is a way to worship this God by accepting the fatherless into our families. And it is redemptive. Who but God in Jesus Christ could take two tragically broken situations - a parentless child and, in many cases, a childless couple, and bring from them the beauty and glory of adoption?

Adoption is not an end in itself. It is a means by which we make much of the ways of God, from whom His children have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba Father!" (Ro 8:15)
To any in the adoption process reading this: Adoption is not your life. God is. Having been through the process I realize you can easily come to feel as though all hope for completion and happiness are riding on this process. It is not. God forbid we make an idol of parenthood. Remember, God is out to sanctify us by purging us of our idols so that we may image Him in His world. (2 Co 3:18) No other thing I have ever experienced, with the possible exception of marriage, has been more used by Father to grind to powder my golden calves, mix them with repentance, and pour them down my throat (Ex 32:20). This is a great mercy.

My daughter was an orphan. My cat was a stray. Both remind me daily of God's grace.