Afraid to be Adopted

adoptionIt’s been quite a while since I last updated my blog. A lot has happened in a short time. My wife and I moved from Nashville, Tennessee to Midland, Texas. We began serving at Crestview Baptist Church. We are living in a house with more than one room and finally have a car with heat and air conditioning. (Praise the Lord!) As well as beginning the conversation about us starting a family soon. Kellye and I have always said we wanted to adopt children one day and recently the Lord has put in on our hearts to think about fostering as well. So in the pursuance of this call on our hearts we have started reading a book call Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. Today though a few lines of him speaking on his experience with adopting his two sons brought me to tears. I had to share this with you all. If you have a few moments, read the excerpt from below and keep in mind our Heavenly adoption into the family of God and what that means.

“When Maria and I at long last received the call that the legal process was over, and we returned to Russia to pick up our new sons, we found that their transition from orphanage to family was more difficult than we had supposed. We dressed the boys in outfits our parents had bought for them. We nodded our thanks to the orphanage personnel and walked out into the sunlight, to the terror of the two boys. They’d never seen the sun, and they’d never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door slamming or felt like they were being carried along a road at 100 miles an hour. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance. Suddenly it wasn’t a stranger asking, “Are they brothers?” They seemed to be asking it, nonverbally but emphatically, about themselves. I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, “That place is a pit! If only you knew what’s waiting for you—a home with a mommy and a daddy who love you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates and McDonald’s Happy Meals!” But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point. It was home. We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they wouldn’t have to fight for the scraps. This was the new normal. They are now thoroughly Americanized, perhaps too much so, able to recognize the sound of a microwave ding from forty yards away. I still remember, though, those little hands reaching for the orphanage. And I see myself there.”

 Moore, Russell D. (2009-04-08). Adopted for Life (Foreword by C. J. Mahaney): The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Kindle Locations 628-636). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

As I was reading this the part when the father looks at his son, who is straining back for his old ,horrible, unloved life, says “That place is a pit!” I began to cry. Thinking about how I so often strain for my past sin, my life before Christ. While I know it was not safe, or good, or even slightly beneficial, that was the only life I knew. For some reason it  We all do this sometimes. Maybe you are doing that now. Afraid to give your life completely to where Christ is leading us. Afraid of the unknown because at least if you know about the painful life you live in, you know what to expect.

In the middle of this description of his sons fear and desire to go back to a unloving orphanage, there is a beautiful thing the father says. He says something souding eerily divine! “That place is a pit! If only you knew what’s waiting for you—a home with a mommy and a daddy who love you…” You see what happened. The father is doing all he can to let his children know that he has wonderful things waiting for them. All they have to do is come with him. But for some reason they are trying to run away from his love. Not because they don’t want it, but because they don’t know a thing about what being loved really means. They are afraid of it. They feared being adopted.

So often I still fear this adoption I  am in. I sometimes catch myself visiting my old life. Playing with thoughts of the past. I have tried to ask myself why many times. The truth is I am still afraid, but I don’t want to be afraid of the love of the Father. Thats really all I have ever needed. I want His love above all. The love of Christ who died on the cross for my sin. What greater love is there than the God of all creation be willing to die for you. There is nothing better.

The best part of that excerpt is when the two boys finally trust their new family. “We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they wouldn’t have to fight for the scraps. his was the new normal. They are now thoroughly Americanized, perhaps too much so, able to recognize the sound of a microwave ding from forty yards away. I still remember, though, those little hands reaching for the orphanage. And I see myself there.”

So here I am today. Loved by the father. Putting more trust into where he is taking me. Excitedly awaiting for what he has in store for me. To show me his love. Are you waiting for the blessings of your father or still reaching for the pain of the past? Don’t you know that place is a pit? If only you knew what he has waiting for you! If only you knew!

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I Want to Bother People (A Life Worthy of the Gospel)

I want my life to bother people. To bother them when they contemplate and judge the actions and decisions I have made in my life. I want the world to look at what i have done and have no explanation for it. I want to live a life worthy of the death of Jesus Christ. To radically abandon what this world considers valuable for the wealth of the relationship with my savior.

Phillipians 1:27 Live your life indon__t_just_think_different___by_wagg34 a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

At no point in my 12 years of faith in Jesus have I ever become worthy of the Gospel, of the salvation that Christ brought to me. This verse has hung in the foyer of my mind for many days and slowly am I understanding the call to live worthy. The question reverberating in the confides of my soul is have I lived my life worthy of Christ. Have I abandoned my prerequisites of comfort and safety to follow Christ Worthy of the Gospel. Have you?

Hebrews 11:24-26 Tells us that  “By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Moses decided to live a life worthy of the Gospel. Worthy of the calling God had put on his life. He gave up the power of the world, at that time, to become a shepherd of sheep. He gave up the wealth of the nile for the threat of the wilderness. Do you understand what Moses gave up for the greater reward of Christ. He gave up the American dream of money, a big house, nice car, and being revered by those around him. That is a life worthy of the Gospel.

Moses risked all he had to gain more than he could have ever dreamed. Living a life worthy of the gospel means we serve of savior with everything we have. If he calls us to give it all for him then so be it. If he calls us to change our jobs, move from family, risk our health, give up the comforts we have dreamed of since we were seven, then so be it. Because our salvation is worth more than all the things of this world. Could you be like Moses though? Could you resist the power of the world for slavery to Christ?

Luke 7:41-47 Tells of a parable of two debtors forgiven by the lender. One had a debt of 5 dollars and the other a debt of millions of dollars. Who has greater love for the forgiveness shown. Jesus says it is the person who has been forgiven more. We are the people who have been forgiven of the largest debt of all time. We sinned against the only God of creation and deserved death. Christ through his death brought salvation into the world. Christ died in our place to pay the debt that we could not cover. Our thankfulness and love for him is our faith in him. To even try to display how humbled we are by being able receive salvation, we must live a life worthy of the calling of the Gospel. To give up everything to gain everything. To be willing and waiting to abandon all that we think we are to become the servant God needs us to be. This is the calling he has put on our lives. If we can truly understand the cost of our salvation then our lives need to be lived in service to our Savior. That is the only way to really live a life WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL.

Is your life so radically serving Christ that it unnerves the depths of people who see you live? Is it confusing to the lost because of how much you love Christ? Have you been lying to yourself for years now pretending to be worthy when in reality you match perfectly with the grey tints of the world. Can they tell a difference between them and yourself? Can you?

Conservative Christians Start Supporting Obama

Whether you are a liberal or conservative as a Christian you are to support/honor the leaders of this country, especially Barack Obama. It is not an easy idea that I suggest but one that is ordained and desired by Christ. I am a conservative Christian that has leanings towards being a constitutionalist but I am going to support our president and I hope by the time you finish reading this you will to.

 1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 1 Peter 2:1316, 18-19 For the sake of the Lord submit to every human institution. Do this whether it means submitting to the emperor as supreme ruler, or to governors as those sent by the emperor. They are sent to punish those doing evil and to praise those doing good. Submit to them because it’s God’s will that by doing good you will silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Do this as God’s slaves, and yet also as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil.Household slaves, submit by accepting the authority of your masters with all respect. Do this not only to good and kind masters but also to those who are harsh. Now, it is commendable if, because of one’s understanding of God, someone should endure pain through suffering unjustly.

The words of Peter have been echoing in my heart for sometime now. Before Peter ever starts to tell us to submit to a worldy authority he reminds us of our final authority, Christ. Peter gives Christians three different descriptions that link us to Christ. He says we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood and a holy nation. We are a chosen race not by the color of our skin but by our newness of birth in Christ. We are a royal priesthood because we can now communicate directly to God the father because of the Son’s sacrifice. It takes these first two descriptors to finalize the last one. We are called a holy nation of believers. The sovereign separate people apart from other political control because we have our own ruler and his name is Jesus. So before we take another step we need to reconcile a harsh truth.

WE ARE NOT AMERICANS BEFORE WE ARE CHRISTIANS!!! Our first allegiance is not to the stars and stripes but to the SCARS AND STRIPES that Christ bore when he endured the crucifixion. So this is not a question of how do we balance faith and politics. It is an understanding that we are ultimately submitting our lives to Christ and if he appoints a leader  we don’t agree with we must still support them. This being the best way to glorify Christ because God placed him in that position. Once we come to this truth, as difficult as it might be, we are left with asking ourselves how?

Now some might disagree with me in this but my only understanding on when we are to not support the leader God has ordained is when his leadership and laws go against maintaining the righteousness of God. The best example we have is in Daniel 6. Daniel refuses to bow down and worship a statue because is was sinful. We have to make these clarifications just as Daniel did. There is nothing inherently sinful about the Obama Healthcare plan. It is not trying to push people to sin by submitting to it as law. Again, though, we are left with the question of how do we glorify God by supporting the law of our leaders. I believe the answer lies in scripture.

The end of 1 Peter 2 is speaking to servants. He encourages them to endure suffering, and not be disrespectful to their master. We, too, must not be disrespectful. Our speech when trading ideas with others must not be hostile towards our leaders. Even if we disagree with them, they are placed by God to lead us. God has placed their law to rule over us for His glory. We must always keep in mind that we serve God by submitting ourselves to these leaders. I understand the difficulty of what I am asking. How do we honor a leader when we disagree with how he leads? Or how do we honor a law we don’t support if it’s not inherently against the righteousness of God. That will be something that we individually have to figure out. We are not called to agree with our authorities, but to honor them. I challenge every one of you to seek wisdom from God in how to make this applicable in your lives.

This truth will have to be lived out very practically for me. I do not want to badmouth our president anymore. I will state my opinion, thoughts, and beliefs honorably. If those who are my authorities do otherwise I will submit to their decisions and support/honor them. That does not mean that I agree, but does it means that I am a resident of a holy nation and my true master has ordered me to submit myself to his appointed officials and their leadership. While I am still trying to work out the best way to do this I will ask for wisdom from Christ, always remembering that to not support them would be to not support the decision of God, and that my friends would be Sin.

Jumping in a Pool Counts as Baptism…

John Piper has asked the question, “Should we make the gates of the church more narrow than the gates of heaven?” John was referring to baptism requirements of incoming members. He asked this because he had many Presbyterians joining his church and many were sprinkled/baptized AFTER conversion. What I am left asking myself though is, “Does that count?” Follow me in my thinking and let me know what you think.

 Acts 8:36-38 As they went down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?”  He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. (CEB)

The scripture just quoted is from the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Phillip had listened to the spirit which led him to this man on a desert road. He shared the Gospel with him and the man became a believer. When the Ethiopian saw the water he desired greatly to be obedient and be baptized. This is a great example to all Christians of how we submit our lives to Christ. We are commanded to repent and be baptized time and time again in the Bible. ( Acts 2:38   Mark 1:4   Matthew 3:11-16) In all these examples, when we see someone baptized, they are completely plunged underneath water and then pulled back out.  We have to ask ourselves why?

The answer lies in jewish tradition. Baptism or cleansing by submersion did not originate with John the Baptist. All traditional jews would submerge themselves in things called a Mikveh. This was almost like a walking tub. It was not used for bathing though. It was utilized to restore someones purity. Hence that is why women used it after “that time of the month” and men used it to restore spiritual purity. But to restore ones self to acceptance to God they had to be completely covered by the water. So when John came on the scene he wasn’t preaching a cleansing that would only last for a short time. He was preaching a spiritual baptism that would make you forever right with the Creator. The water, therefore, was a public declaration and a physical representation of the spiritual reconciliation Christians experience. I can’t explain this phenomenon but when I was baptized it did not save me but I was able to experience in my body through my nerves the beauty of how Christ had saved me and washed away my sin. As the water dripped of the edge of my nose, I realized that this is how Christ sees my sin. No longer staining me but washed off and now made pure.

So for me, my baptism by immersion was very important, but how could I not validate someone’s similar experience if they were “baptized” a different way. What I am referring to is the sprinkling someone receives after faith in Christ. I believe two foundational truths in this argument. 1) That faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior is the Only requirement for Salvation. 2) That Baptism by immersion is the correct way to follow in obedience to Christ. While i don’t believe many who read this will disagree with the first truth, some may find reasons to argue with the second.

For me, I believe that it is not the action of a man that saves him but Christ alone in his grace. The argument of baptism by immersion or sprinkling is like arguing buying a Cardinals baseball jersey from St. Louis or a jersey from Big Lots in Montana. In the end you both support the team publicly. It doesn’t make either one of you less of a fan, and when you both show up to the World Series you both get let into the gates to watch the greatest game ever played. Not to mention you sit beside each other cheering for your team. So there we have it. Should we make the gates of the church more narrow than the gates of heaven? I don’t think we should.

While I will always stand with scripture and say that the most authentic way to be obedient in baptism is immersion, I will not exclude a brother in Christ because he got his jersey somewhere else. I will encourage him to follow in obedience through immersion, not to nullify his first experience, but to push him to be like Christ in every way possible. Christ saw it necessary to be completely covered by the water. So I will lead all believers to follow in that same suit.

New Study: All People Born Dead and Blind

I don’t know if you have ever taken time to really let the lyrics of Amazing Grace sink into your soul but recently scripture has made these words so much more beautiful. Let me help you see the same beauty.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Acts 9 is the moving story of Saul’s conversion where Jesus destroys Saul’s selfishness. What standsout to me, though, is the question Jesus asks him.

Acts 9:4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?” (Common English Bible)

What’s strange about this question is this is the first time Saul has ever met Jesus. The people Saul has been harassing, persecuting, and killing have been Christians. Only a couple of chapters earlier did Saul sit there as Stephen became Christianity’s first martyr. Saul was the punk kid holding the coats of the guys stoning Stephen. Not to mention that the reason Saul was on this road was to discipline more Christians and to make an example of them. The reality of Saul’s actions was not that he was persecuting Christians. He was attacking, harassing the very righteousness of Christ.

So Christ being merciful revealed the spiritual blindness Saul had lived with his entire life by making his real eyes useless. I wonder what he thought those few days he could not see. All he could reflect upon were the words of Jesus in his ear. “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Over and over these words rang in his mind, till it became clear that it was not only his actions against Christians, but his entire life had been an active war against Christ and His righteousness. The truth is that we all are just like Saul.

Whether you are a christian or a non-believer, all sin is an active harassment of the very righteousness and glory of Christ. I don’t believe that most of us have stood in the crowd rooting on the brutal murder of an innocent; but we all have stood idly by as sin triumphs in our lives. When you lie, when you steal, when you hold anger in your heart, you attack the glory of Jesus. When you lust after that person walking by or those images on that computer screen, you harass the righteousness of Jesus. When we sit passively by as we watch sin rip through this world we become just like Saul standing beside the killers with the stones. We may not have thrown anything but we are just as guilty for not standing up for Christ.

Ephesians 2:1-2 1 At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. 2 You used to act like most people in our world do. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. (CEB)

We all were dead in trespasses against God. We have disobeyed the will of God. The thing that bothers me the most are the temptations I have to revert back to my life before Christ. So many times have I still harassed the the righteousness of Jesus because I have fallen to sin again. We all do this. How many times have you stood by as someone lusted over a person walking by? Or haw many times have you lost yourself on a computer screen realizing the last half hour has been spent in sin? Could you even count the times you told a little white lie to impress someone? Where we attack Christ most is not “big” sins like murdering someone. It is in every breath that we have. We are in a constant war trying to overcome an enemy that knows us better than we know ourselves. This is what I believe Saul pondered over for those few days his eyes we blinded.

When he was told that Christ wanted to save him and use him for his work, not only were his eyes able to see again but he was able to truly remove his spiritual blindness and see his sin in all its destruction. He was able to say, “NO MORE WILL I HARASS THE SAVIOR.” This is my hope for all of us. To remove the scales over our eyes and see Christ everyday, to seek to not persecute him but glorify him in all things.

So that we all can sing that wonderful song…

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Youth Ministry Needs Parental Involvement like Schools need Teachers.

I would like to call out to all my parents in the church for help. To all the warriors on the front lines of the homes that mold and shape the youth of Inglewood. To the ones who spend actual time hoping that their children will come home safe from a field trip or friends house. To the ones who wisely discipline and correct young minds when they stray off the path. The reason I call out to you is for you to come along side of them in their faith and activity in church as well. For you are their example and directors. The real teachers. I need your help.

Students today are confronted by the realities of the world at an alarming rate. Realistically students see drug use on TV, sexual ads on billboards, violence in cartoons, and have inappropriate conversations with friends. With all this stimuli going into young minds, how are parents to be heard over anything else. The church has always preached that parents must teach and repeat the things they want their children to grab onto. Where we lose the battle is not in telling them the truth, but in thinking that we are drowned out by all the other things telling students what life should be like.

I want to share a quote with you and ask you to guess where it came from. “Nearly three out of four parents believe their children’s friends and classmates have the most influence… Yet contrary to what parents think , kids say mom and dad have the biggest impact on the choices they make.” Any guess as to who said this? It came from the research side of Coors Brewing Company. Even the world knows that parents are always the main impact in a student’s life.

That’s is why I am calling to my parents and adults of Inglewood Baptist Church to come and be a part of Inglewood’s Youth Ministry. When a parent is excited and involved so are their children. Come and volunteer for one of our retreats, camps, or events. Come and input from your life experience in our Home Bible Studies. Share stories with not only your child, but their friends of lessons learned from a life lived. I am excited about what the Lord can do when he gets parents and students side by side straining for the glory of Jesus Christ. So come and help encourage our students to a life filled in Christ well past their years in a youth ministry.