Speaking Truth to Empires

I have been reading a lot of NT Wright lately (How God Became King and The Day the Revolution Began). There is a passage in HGBK that seems to speak to our role as Christians today when it comes to truth.

“The difference between the kingdoms is striking. Caesar’s kingdom (and all other kingdoms that originate in this world) make their way by fighting. But Jesus’s kingdom-God’s kingdom enacted through Jesus- makes its way with quite a different weapon, one that Pilate refuses to acknowledge: telling the truth:

“So! said Pilate. “You are a king, are you?”
“You’re the one who’s calling me a king,” replied Jesus. “I was born for this: I’ve come into the world for this: to give evidence about the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
“Truth!” said Pilate. “What’s that?” (John 18:37-38) (NT Wright, HGBK pg 144)

Certainly, we know that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life-” and it is Jesus who gives evidence to the truth of God’s love and grace for the world. Yet, in our world today truth is in such sort supply. We’ve watered down the truth; we’ve created alternate facts and fake news- all of which distract us from what is really true. That Jesus calls us to a way of living that is far different from the ways of the world.

How God Became King speaks of how empires and those in power have difficulty with the truth:

“The point about truth, and about Jesus and his followers bearing witness to it, is that truth is what happens when humans use words to reflect God’s wise ordering of the world and so shine light into its dark corners, bringing judgement and mercy where it is badly needed. Empires can’t cope with this. They make their own “truth,” creating “facts on the ground” in the depressingly normal way of violence and injustice.” (NT Wright, HGBK pg. 145)

Wright could have been writing after the 2016 Presidential election here in America, but speaks of the truth that Empires cannot handle the truth. As Christians, we are to pursue truth- not the truth of the Empire- but the truth of the King, the Living God. A reminder that as the Empire calls us to give our allegiance to the Empire and/or Emperor/Leader, that we are called to give our allegiance and our lives to another King and a different kingdom. As Christians, we are called to speak the truth by shining the light of Christ into the dark corners of the world- speaking out against falsehoods and speaking (and showing) mercy to the least of these.

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Adoption Update: A Cautious Anticipation

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There is a phrase that has entered our vernacular since we began the process to adopt Malachi four years ago. It is “Match Night.” Match night is a day/night when files are released to adoption agencies which propel the adoption teams to match children with prospective forever families based on their preferences. Our program is “Minor/Correctable Special Needs,” so our preferences are based on what “special needs” we are willing to accept in a child we choose.

[Yes, Malachi was part of the Minor/Correctable Special Needs Program…and if you’ve seen him lately, you know that there is nothing “special needs” about him now that he has been cleared from his leg braces for over a year! Praise God!]

There is a temptation to get worked up over a match night because you might get a call/email with a file of a possible child. Early on in the process with Malachi, we decided not to get worked up over those nights. Honestly, we didn’t have time for the emotional rollercoaster!

As we’ve journeyed through the adoption process a second time, we’ve heard that the system (in China) has slowed down considerably. I don’t have any answers as to why (and frankly, it doesn’t matter because God’s timing is perfect). But we received an email from our agency last week information us that things are going to pick up on Tuesday morning for a match night/day. They are expecting 25 plus referrals coming down the pipeline! While there is no guarantee that we will receive a phone call in the near future- it does mean that there are more children who will get to be matched up with their forever family.

Would you join us in praying for the children who will become available in the coming days; pray for the families that will receive their files that a good match will be made; pray that all involved will be able to know God’s love through the adoption process. And yes, pray for us as we practice “Cautious Anticipation” and look forward to the first glimpse of our new son!

 

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Living Generously

The story of the Rich Young Man (or the Rich Young Ruler) in Matthew 19:16-22 is always a difficult passage. People ask me if Jesus really meant for the young man to sell everything before following him. Honestly, I ask the same question. The answer I give is that we are to follow Jesus so closely that following Jesus is more important than holding onto our possessions. That might look like selling everything we have to give to the poor. It might mean reprioritizing our time so that we can be involved in the work of God’s kingdom here on earth. It might look like getting rid of something that has become a little “g” god in our life.

I believe that is the real story of the young man in Matthew 16. When Jesus tells him that he must “follow the commandments” in order to have eternal life, the young man says he had followed them since his youth. What is revealing is that the commandments that Matthew records Jesus providing are the commandments about our horizontal relationship with others.

When Jesus invites the young man to “sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me,” it becomes abundantly clear that the young man has not, and is not, keeping the commandments. He has made his wealth and possessions his god. His life revolves around them. When given the invitation to leave these idols behind and follow the Living God, he cannot do it. His treasure was on earth and not in heaven.

Generosity helps us to prioritize our lives around Jesus. Being generous with our wealth, our time, our talents, and our gifts, we give to help those who are in need. Through generosity, we live as stewards of God’s resources (not ours) that have been given to us to do God’s work (not ours). When we give, we declare that we trust that God will provide as we give of ourselves. Generosity increases our trust in God as God continues to provide and allows us to follow Jesus more closely.

When we give of ourselves, we have less to lose- and everything to gain as Jesus promises us treasure in heaven as we invest in God’s Kingdom work on earth.

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What is Your Orientation?

A friend told me about the time he went to perform a wedding ceremony in the Poconos. He had driven up from Delaware to do the ceremony. The bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome- all the things you’d expect from the wedding. Since most weddings take place on Saturday, like this one, he had to leave partway through the reception in order to get back home in Delaware so he was rested to lead worship the next morning in his church. So he pressed the home button on his GPS and started driving.

After an hour or so of driving, my friend told me that he did not recognize any of the landmarks around him. Especially at a time where he should be coming near Philadelphia and familiar roads. After some more investigating, he pulled over and looked at his GPS. He discovered that the Home button on his GPS no longer was oriented to his home address, but an address in the Western part of Pennsylvania. He had spent the last hour or so driving in the wrong direction. Even though his GPS was providing the right directions (to the wrong address) he would never arrive back home following the GPS. The GPS was oriented in the wrong direction.

Paul writes in Romans 8:5 that “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

There are two kinds of people- those whose lifestyles are oriented towards gratifying our flesh (See Galatians 5:19-21) and those whose lives are oriented towards the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:8). When our minds are oriented towards the flesh we live in opposition to God. We make decisions that create a gulf between us and God. No matter how much we desire our lives to look different, we will not experience the total transformation until we reorient our lives to be in step with the Holy Spirit. This means we need a renewed and transformed mind which leads to a transformed way of thinking. This transformed way of thinking leads us to a transformed way of living.

How do we reorient our lives on the Spirit? Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do no conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test and approve what god’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

A mind reoriented on the Spirit refuses to conform to the pattern and expectations of the world. This reoriented mind knows and has made peace with the fact that a mind on the Spirit is going to look act differently than a mind oriented towards the flesh. The reoriented mind also knows, in part because Paul tells us, that we must renewed each day. If we are to stay oriented on the Spirit, we must create space throughout our day to look and listen for God’s activity and voice in our lives.

In what direction is your life oriented to? If your desire is to orient your life to the things of God- what are you putting in your mind? Are they things of the flesh? Or things of the Spirit?

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Hurry Up and Wait

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What Mr. Chapin Taught Me About Complaining- And Why It Matters

I grew up in a small farming community in North West Pennsylvania. Our school was small  which gave you the opportunity to build relationships with a wide range of students and teachers. One teacher that all of us had at some point was Mr. Chapin. Mr. Chapin was our Junior High (we weren’t even a Middle School) English Teacher. He was a bit of a crazy character. He was shocked when there were students who didn’t know the song, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” and when some of our classmates confessed to never seeing “A Christmas Story,” a TV and VCR was in class the next week and we watched it.

I remember one class (probably many classes) where a classmate was complaining (I don’t think it was me) and after the rant was finished, Mr. Chapin looked right at the student and said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” The student stammered and couldn’t come up with a response. The student was just, well, complaining. Mr. Chapin then told us, “Don’t complain unless you are going to do something about it.”

That stuck with me, more than the grammar lessons; more than diagramming a sentence (still can’t do that). I think it stuck with me because I am prone to complaining. It stuck because I often complain without anything constructive to add to the discussion.

There are a lot of reasons to complain. But if we are not ready to get involved to make the situation better, then we don’t really have a reason to complain. It’s not enough to sit around complaining without having something or doing something constructive to add.

  • Don’t like the current political landscape and culture? Work to improve it and make it better.
  • Don’t like your church? Stop complaining and ask the pastor/leader how you can help make the church the best church it can possibly be.

Mr. Chapin taught me, and I need to remember, that it is not enough to complain. That each of us have tools and gifts to improve the situation for ourselves and for those around us. The question is do we care enough to get involved? Or do we just enjoy the sound of our own voice?

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Adoption Update: Every Dollar Counts

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We’ve got some exciting news to share!

You likely know that pursuing a private adopting, especially an international adoption, is an expensive undertaking. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Adopting a second child from China is no cheaper than adopting the first. Unfortunately there is not a frequent adopter discount. But there is help!

We are excited to share that we have received a $6,000 matching grant from Life Song for Orphans!

This means that for every dollar donated by family, friends, and total strangers through Life Song for Orphans will be matched. Your $20 gift becomes $40. Your $100 gift becomes $200. Your $3,000 gift becomes, well, if you make a $3,000 gift you’re going to win naming rights for our child. (Ok, I just checked with the boss and she said that’s not true)

We need your help because to qualify for the matching grant- the money cannot come from our bank account- otherwise we’d funnel everything in that we could! Lifesong provides the grant as a way to activate family and friends to assist those who are adopting. So we need your help! It’s your help that can help us raise $12,000 in the next 112 days ($6,000 donated + $6,000 matched = $12,000).

So, you’re interested in giving? There are two ways to give:

  1. Give Online our mySTORY page from Life Song for Orphans This is the fastest way to give to help support our adoption fund. You can also share our page on Facebook and Social Media to invite your friends to hear our story!
  2. Give Offline by sending a check made payable to “Lifesong for Orphans.” Please place our Family ID Number in the memo line. Our number is: #6563. If you do not include the Family ID#, then we will not get credit for your donation.  Mail your donations to:  LIFEsong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. Your donation is to LIFEsong for Orphans, who have full discretion of use of your donation. They do intend to honor the donor’s suggested use.

We are honored that you would even consider supporting this endeavor financially. Our prayer is that you will be blessed as you join us on our journey!

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