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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adoption Approved...Mine & Yours!

Adoptive parents, are some of my biggest heroes!

I am so humbled by what they sacrifice because of their obedience to follow Christ, no matter what, often not knowing the full ramifications of those sacrifices until much later, after the adoption is approved, when those new daughters/sons, sisters/brothers are brought home.  The adoption process, alone, with its mountains of paperwork, delays, frustrations, and on and on (an emotional roller-coaster for most) is only Chapter One in a multi-inch-thick novel entitled, "Adoption:  The Lifelong Journey!".  

This is the Luebke Family!  Some of my hero's! 
Read about their adoption journey. www.whenyouriseup.blogspot.com

I know that obedience is far greater than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), but this is not choosing one over the other.  This is choosing obedience which, in turn, causes sacrifice at great cost, sometimes.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, because I know God desires to redeem those sacrifices for His good, for developing character, a much deeper dependence on Him and ultimately for becoming like Christ. But I am saying this is a challenge adoptive parents are not fully prepared for, especially when it suddenly impacts their precious biological children so drastically.  Realistically, how can they be, fully prepared that is, when suddenly they see their precious little ones' sweet, endearing, personalities change right before their very eyes.  You guessed it, rarely is that change a positive one.  Sometimes, behavior changes are not those observed as aggression toward a particular family member, but instead a withdrawal into themselves.  Each child is as different and unique as their coping mechanisms are.  However, if you probe deeper, I am sure most parents would reluctantly say they have seen glimpses of this behavior leaking out previously, but certainly not to this extent. 

Sin...it knows no boundaries, this side of Heaven.  We are all more keenly aware of that fact as it reared it's ugly head in CT, yesterday.  All babies are born into sin, except Jesus, of course.  We do not have to teach them to do wrong, but we do have to teach, train, coax, and sometimes bribe them to do right.  Adoption will certainly bring out the sin in all of us. The reason?  I believe it is, partly, because it is such a clear picture of God the Father's adoption of each of us through the blood of Jesus, His Son (Ephesians 1:4-5).  Redemption has always been...from the ugly! The question is, what will we do with that ugliness each time it re-appears?

I am speaking more specifically about the effect adoption has on the biological children/siblings (especially younger ones) in families and then, in turn, the mental, emotional and even spiritual anguish that has on the parents as they watch what they knew and cherished before as "their family" be completely turned upside-down and disintegrate into oblivion, never  to return to what it was previously.  Not surprising is the parents sudden doubt about their decision to adopt, one they KNEW, 'beyond a shadow of a doubt', to be from God before it caused such trauma for their bio sons or daughters.

Much like any other obedience we offer Christ, the consequences (good and bad)--and yes, I am speaking of the consequences of our obedience--often are not fully realized until after the following through of the obedience.  I think we should look deeper and longer at that word obedience, especially as it relates to adoption.  Obedience is an ongoing action, not a one-time deal and it's done.  This is much the same as we should define the word faith.  Both words represent a continual action or ongoing process that is required. 

I realized all this before, but this week it has made a much deeper impact on me.  Sacrifices, due to obedience, are not only personal for mom and dad, but involves sacrifices that the vast majority of biological children are forced to make when God calls the family to adopt.  Forced in the fact they are not given an option, but instead told, "We are adopting!" Basically the same thing that happens when mom becomes pregnant with the next child. "Guess what, Johnny!  You are going to be a big brother!"

However, birthing or adopting an infant into a family with older siblings is much different than adopting a toddler or older child. It is now Game-Day and each competes, with great skill mind you, for lap-time, nap-time, snack-time, play-time, bath-time, potty-time, mommy-time, daddy-time, and even night-time. 



I am convinced adoptive parents, especially those with young biological children, should receive grief counseling in their pre-adoptive training required hours.  The death of their pre-adoption family unit is one that will surely be grieved, but must be done guilt-free.  

I recommend both of these books for those
experiencing grief of many kinds.

God is not surprised by the changes and challenges adoption will cause these precious biological children and their parents.  In fact, He delights in using them.  He intimately knows each one of us and each one of those biological siblings.  He knows what we need in order to develop in us the Christ-like characteristics He so desires us to share with others.  And He knows what each biological child needs to help them attain their full spiritual maturity so they can successfully accomplish all those works He has prepared in advance for them to do, in the future (Ephesians 2:10).  The other half of that equation, though...what will be Johnny's response?  How can mom and dad help Johnny's response be one which benefits him and the family as a whole, in the end? 

This is also true for families with only biological children/siblings.  God designs families, through birth and adoption, through loss and grief, through every circumstance and situation He allows.  His design is for every family member to reach their fullest and greatest potential while holding tightly to His outstretched hand and eyes firmly fixed on Him.

I do know families, where adoption and/or fostering have scarred family members for life and they still do not see any good that has come from their obedience to follow God's leading them to adopt and/or foster children from the hard places.  In the past, resources for families like these have been almost non-existent, but not today!  Today, research and resources are multiplying and families are sharing these new found new-life-breathing tools with those they come in contact with them via the information highways.  Thank God!

One thing to note, attachment issues are not only for those adopted and fostered children you bring home, but they can also affect bio-child to parent relationships and the mom or dad to adoptive-child relationships and bio-sibling to adopted-sibling relationships.  Therapy and counseling for these attachment issues, also common in adoptive families, is now available in most areas of the country.

We find ourselves in the midst of a season where we are granted the opportunity to focus, once again, on just how much one single life can impact, not only their one family, but the entire world and even turn it upside-down.

Born to Die!


The birth of Jesus Christ! No one life, death and resurrection has impacted the masses, as His!  Jesus Christ...our very own adoption approval, by God Himself, for Him, God-Almighty, to become our Father, our Abba, our Daddy!  
ADOPTION APPROVED! 

But wait!  This is only Chapter One in a multi-inch-thick, never-ending, novel entitled, "His Adoption:  The Eternal Journey!"  


 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—
to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
that he lavished on us.
With all wisdom and understanding,
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  
to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things 
in heaven and on earth under Christ.  
Ephesians 1:3-10

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Orphan Care & Adoption! It Is Not One Or The Other, But Both!

This is part 1 of, at least, 2.

"Coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world!"  What did He really mean?

In the beginning, one thing I questioned God about, more than once, was why would He choose me for this task when I did not have a positive view of adoption and/or foster care?  Charles and I never adopted and never fostered children.  We did not ever feel God leading us in that direction.  But we did have multiple friends, through the years, who experienced heart wrenching situations because they adopted or provided foster-parenting.  These situations were not just cause for temporary heart-ache that came and went, but they were and are life-altering ones that will never be forgotten and have forever impacted our friends lives.

Now I know. He knew that I would not sugar-coat this thing called adoption to the families that He sent my way; I had seen both sides of adoption.  He knew it would take my seeing families ripped apart, with my own eyes.  These were my friends, the parents, who had simply opened their all-consuming loving hearts to those who had known no love, assuming they would be overjoyed to have someone finally love them--when in reality, they could not be.

For many years, the adoption world was filled with stories of only 'happily ever after endings'.  For the most part you only heard the negative ones if your life some how personally touched those that were secretly dying inside and trying desperately to maintain some semblance of sanity because of the noble act of adoption and/or fostering.  Resources for these families in desperate need were non-existent and they were forced to deal privately with the guilt of their failure, falsely believing the lie that their love for their adopted/fostered child(ren) was just not strong enough.

Today, multiple resources are now available for these families and the self-quilt is beginning to be balanced with the knowledge of how great neglect and lack of nurture affect children adopted and fostered from the hard places.  This does not take into account for those who have been abused in others ways, especially sexually.  In addition, the Internet, blogs, and Facebook have opened up the truths on the other end of the spectrum of adoption, children who have been so scarred by their past that they cannot receive their adoptive/foster parents love and the reality of human-trafficking of children as it really does relate to adoption is made more easily accessible.

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Resources:

Tapestry Ministry of Irving Bible Church


Empowered to Connect



Saturday, November 17, 2012

How Do Christians Fit Christ In Christmas?

Re-posting this blog post from last year and adding the sentiments of Rachel and Joseph, now ages 25 and 29 respectively.  Both are thankful we did not do "Santa Claus" and our Christmas gift giving was and is minimal.  Christmas is not about giving or getting gifts, but about giving of ourselves to each other.

The only difference between the majority of American Christians and the rest of the population--in their Christmas traditions--is their addition of celebrating the birthday of Jesus, for a few moments on Christmas Day and attending their churches' special Christmas concerts or dramas. 

After Charles and I were married, before children came along, we decided we would NOT include Santa Claus as one of our Lloyd Family Christmas traditions.  My well-to-do family had lavished my sister and I with extravagant Christmases lauding Santa as the most incredible gift-giver of all.  Santa easily took the place of God, in our lives, growing up.  My parents were avid church-goers and God was a part of our lives, albeit a very small part, as relating to Christmas and throughout the year.  Charles' family, on the other hand, were nominal in their focus on Santa and kept Christ the center of their Christmas traditions.  


When Rachel and Joseph grew older our decision did bring with it some challenges as we had to train our children not to reveal the "precious secret" to their classmates at school or to their cousins. We simply told them each family made decisions for how they would celebrate Christmas and explained why we had decided not to 'follow the crowd' on this one.  This was not the only decision we made where we had to explain why we did something this way while other families, yes Christian, did it that way.

I never will forget the time Joseph asked me why our family was different from other Christian families.  It was the last day of school, just before Christmas break, when he was 13.  His question caught me off guard.  I did ask him for clarification, but his was a simple answer and I no longer remember it.  I proceeded to explain to he and Rachel--she was in the car with us--that their daddy and I tried to make decisions based on the love Jesus Christ has shown us.  "We are so very thankful for His sacrificing His life for us, that we want to show Him our appreciation by living lives that we believe are pleasing to Him.  While that is our goal, we still make mistakes...but, ultimately that is our motive for the decisions we make."  I have no idea if this was a sufficient answer for him or not, but I have never had him ask that question again. 

After becoming a follower of Christ, at the age of 14, my perspective on my family's money and their lifestyle began to change and my innate desire to get more and more began to wane, as Christ became my central focus.  I wish I could say that I always made wise financial decisions, over the years, but that just is not true.  However, things, for me, have lost their priority and the quest for deeper relationships has taken over.  Yes, on occasion, I do regress to allowing my "want-er" to kick-in, but it isn't long until the Holy Spirit reminds me of my much needed refocusing and a clear realization that,  "I really don't need ____ and it would probably do nothing more than collect dust or get stained".


Please do not misunderstand me and think we did not give gifts at Christmas, because we did and we do.  But, to keep from succumbing to the added pressures of shopping only during the Christmas season, I bought our children's "Christmas" all throughout the year.  Typically, I would be finished with my Christmas shopping by October every year, taking advantage of sales all year long instead of having to fight the temptation to impulse-buy amidst the BLING of Christmas from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Now the Christmas BLING starts just after Halloween (this year, 2013, it started with back to school sales).  I would often buy Rachel and Joseph things they needed, like socks, underwear, shoes, and place those under the tree, in addition to a few toys and books.  Since Charles and I never felt the need (oh, we felt it, but resisted) to have the newest and best, when it became available, our children never expected to receive the newest and best at Christmas or any other time of the year. 

I wish I could tell you that our family has done some incredible self-less acts of kindness during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, through the years, but we really have not.  I hear incredible stories of how families give-up their Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to serve those less fortunate, but we have never done that...not yet, anyway.   

As I listened to Christian radio this week, during their prayer time, I was struck by a prayer request that was shared.  "Please pray for our family as my husband has been laid-off and we do not want our children to suffer without Christmas presents this year."  Why is it Christian parents feel so much pressure and place so much value on the presents?  I have copied part of an article and a chart below **** forecasting what the average family will spend on Christmas gifts this year. Keep in mind this does not include money spent on decorations or for food. 

I know these are cliche', but when has there ever been a more appropriate time in our lives to be more concerned about His presence and not the presents?  Are we just "fitting" Christ in our Christmas traditions or is He, truly, our reason for the season?

It is not too late to change your focus...mom and dad, grandmom and granddad.  One friend has already informed me, this year, their family is making a change--to break the American tradition from getting to giving.  Their children are older, high-school-age and under, but they all agree it is time for a change. 

Let me encourage you to not make drastic changes, but instead deliberate changes.  Change is best received when it is wrapped in a process.  And remember God is always focused on the process.  The process of getting us from here, right now, to that ultimate goal of becoming more like Christ to the world around us.  He is in our every moment, every day and He wants us to take notice of that fact.

Christ is our ultimate example for how we should give.   His everyday life was given for others and through His death He has given us life, abundant life!  Not just salvation and eternal life, life abundant...for today!  We do not give to earn His love or approval, but we give out of a heart full of gratitude for all that He has done for us and all that He is doing and all He will do.  Our acts of service--our giving--and our obedience let Jesus know that sacrificing His life for us was not in vain.   His gifts---keep on giving!  Will yours and mine? 



Here is a link with multiple scriptures related to Our Giving.

***According to the American Research Group, Inc. website: 

2012 Christmas Gift Spending Plans Return to Pre-Recession Levels

Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $854 for gifts this holiday season, up from $646 last year according to the twenty-seventh annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc.
In telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,100 adults nationwide conducted November 11 through 14, 2012, the average planned spending of $854 for 2012 is up over 32% from average planned spending in the 2011 survey and the planned spending matches planned spending of $859 in 2007. 

Year Average Spending Percent Change

2012 $854   + 32%
2011 $646 - 2%
2010 $658   + 58%
2009 $417 - 3%
2008 $431   - 50%
2007 $859  - 5%
2006 $907  - 4%
2005 $942  - 6%
2004 $1,004  + 3%
2003 $976  - 6%
2002 $1,037  -1%

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Miracles of Life-Change! Only Him!

 
Witness to 3 miracles of life-change in less than a month!  He has taken my breath, again! I have never seen this, with my own eyes, before!  I have prayed numerous times for God to do a miraculous work to bring life-change.  I have heard stories years after, but never experienced it while it was happening so drastically before me.  I am humbled beyond belief as I have seen God's Holy Spirit break through years of pain and suffering into hearts that were hard, calloused, unresponsive, and stone cold; thought to never be penetrable, with loved ones devastated, lying in a pile of emotional debris, and having no hope of ever seeing any change or improvement.



Twice, it has been with grown men causing a tornado of destruction to all members of their families because of their own self-absorption, self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness.  They were completely oblivious to the damage they have caused until, UNTIL, the Spirit removed the scales from their eyes. No, I do not understand the ways of my God, nor His timing for causing blinded eyes to suddenly see.  But what I do know, what I have seen and heard is these men are each completely broken as they, for the first time in years beyond a decade for each of them, suddenly realize the pain and suffering they have caused those they truly love the most. Who was that man that did all that?...is the question that now plagues them, possibly, for the rest of their lives. 

While the third miracle holds some differences, to be sure, and much has still to be written because of the horrific trauma buried from the past, for this little one so loved by God, the blessing of watching God do only what He can do is more than humbling and almost to the point of overwhelm.  There are no words to describe it.  Tears flow from my eyes, freely, as I am faced with seeing GOD IN THE FLESH living and moving in these three...transformed lives!

This race is far from over.  The finish line has not been crossed, for any of the three or their loved ones.  Much repair is still required and breaths are being held because of the great fear of their possible regress.   


Can it be?  Is this really true?  Will this really last?  Who is this person; I/we have never seen this side of him before?  One cries uncontrollably and his shoulders quake up and down because of what he has done?  He is genuinely remorseful for the intense pain and suffering he has caused me/us; one more deeply than an another.  What will tomorrow be like? What does this mean for me?  What is my responsibility, now?  Do I dare let him back in?  Do I dare to love him, again?

The answer I have shared with the wife and the ex-wife of the two men was...WAIT!  Let God show you.  And, "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ".  The rampage of thoughts that whirl around these ladies' minds is exhausting.  Seek Him so He can give you the right response, whatever that is. They both want to be God's response to the father's of their children.  Miracles, too!  But it still hurts, like a burn, that seemly is never allowed to heal as the wounds are intentionally scraped over and over again, which ultimately leaves heavy scaring.

What will God ask them to do in response to these miracles of life-change they have been chosen to witness and experience?  Will it hurt, again?  For sure.  But, only He knows how much and only He can give them what they need to respond His way...with His response. 

I can't help but think how God's heart is scraped and scared by my own sin against Him...day after day.   And yet, His love for me never waivers.  I cannot comprehend this kind of love.  My mind will not allow it.  This, too, is a MIRACLE!



We do not serve a God who does not know and does not understand and does not empathize with our deepest needs.  We serve a God who is intimately aware of each of our needs and He is the ONLY answer for each of them for each of us.  He does not ask us to walk this road alone, instead He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  Strategically around us, He provides those we need to lock arms with and kneel down with, so we can all be...His response.  

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"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete."  2 Corinthians 10:4 - 6.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrew 4: 14 -16.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

His Peace...What Is It...Really?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 

I have often contemplated the human idea, majority Christian philosophy, as it relates to our "peace-theology".  Once again we try to force God into our own limited human-thinking. 

  When I found the article below, by Tom Terry, I decided I could not write a better one, so here is the link to
 

"I Have A Peace About It, Or Do I?  God's Will"


I Have A Peace About It: Or Do I?
God's Will

03/18/10

Christians often justify their decisions by saying, "I have a peace about it." Is that a cop-out? Is God's peace subjective? “Peace” is one of those Christianese terms that is sometimes used in the context of decision-making as a test for God’s will. Often when a Christian says, “I have peace about this or that,” they mean that they take that particular thing to be God’s will for them. Every Christian I’ve gotten to know over a length of time, no matter what country or culture they are from seems to have this universal catch-phrase in common. “Peace” is used as a barometer to determine the right thing to do in a given situation. Many go so far as to say, “God has given me a real peace about it.” (As opposed to him giving a false peace?) 

In my Christian experience I’ve sometimes taken to using the peace barometer to aid decision-making. Rather, I should say that I used to do that. I don’t do it anymore because, uh, well, because…
I don’t have a peace about it. 

In all seriousness, as a Christian when you say you “have peace” about something it means nothing more than you “feel good” about it or there is an absence of emotional conflict. Some Christians refer to a “supernatural peace” taking their cue from Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is a comforting passage, but one that is often mistakenly called upon when trying to determine God’s will. This is a mistake because the scripture never gives us instruction to use “peace” as a barometer for determining God’s will—rather, the scripture uses conviction. Peace can be a byproduct of an already-made choice, but not always. 

“Peace” from a biblical view is first “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), meaning that our enmity with God has been erased by the atoning working of the Lord Jesus on the cross. Because of Jesus, God is no longer in conflict with those who have received him. We are “at peace” with him. 

Second, biblical “peace” is a lack of internal conflict, or perhaps we shall also call this internal enmity, with ourselves about something. In both cases this kind of peace does not proceed or coincide with a decision to do something, rather it is a byproduct of an already-made decision—sometimes. I’ll explain that qualifying “sometimes” in a moment. 

Take a close look at the book of Philippians for the context in which Paul was speaking when he briefly, almost in passing made his reference to the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” First look at when Paul said what he said, as it will aid our understanding of Paul’s context. Paul wrote this epistle while imprisoned by Rome awaiting judgment by Caesar for his evangelism activities (1:7). This was equivalent to a charge of political treason, punishable by death. Paul had peace about what he was doing and about what he would suffer because he had already made a decision—in advance—that it was right for him to set his face toward imprisonment and suffering. 

How many of us would have peace with that kind of decision? 

Paul’s imprisonment is fascinating since he deliberately set out on a mission that he knew beforehand would get him arrested. Let that sink in. I think I’ll go to jail and be executed. Yes. Ah, yes, I have peace about that. Paul’s imprisonment was no accident. He intentionally worked in such a way as to keep himself in Roman custody after he was arrested. 

During Paul’s time in Ephesus he set his face to go to Jerusalem knowing full well that if he preached Jesus while there (and being Paul he could not avoid it) he would be confronted and arrested. Look carefully at Paul’s words to his Ephesian brothers. “I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself…” (Acts 20:22-24). Did you notice that phrase, “constrained by the Spirit?” This is Paul’s way of saying, “I’m not really sure I like this idea, but God is moving me in this direction so I must do it regardless of my personal feelings.” Now, does this sound like Paul used “peace” to make his decision about God’s will? Not at all. Paul didn’t need supernatural peace for the decision-making process, he used conviction provided by, as he said, the Holy Spirit. Upon his arrival in Jerusalem Paul attempted to appease an angry mob of Jews that God had given the same blessing of salvation to Gentiles (Acts 22:21-22). At every step making his defense over a period of years Paul upped the ante saying things to his prosecutors and accusers that were all but assured to get him into further trouble. It was as if Paul was orchestrating things so that he could get to Rome, under Roman guard, to force a hearing for Christianity before the Roman emperor himself (Acts 25:11-12, 26:31-32, 28:18-20). In fact that is exactly what one late professor of theology taught Paul was doing. “[Paul’s] appeal to Caesar brought Christianity directly to the attention of the Roman government and compelled the civil authorities to pass judgment on its legality. If it was to be allowed as religio licita, a permitted cult, the persecution of it would be illegal, and its security would be assured. If, on the other hand, it was adjudged to be religio illicita, a forbidden cult, then the ensuing persecution would only advertise it and offer an opportunity for a demonstration of its power” (New Testament Survey, Merrill C. Tenney, “Results of the Pauline Imprisonment,” page 329). 

Whether Paul would be executed or set free it was a win/win situation for Paul and a lose/lose for Rome. If Rome had simply ignored Paul and sent him on his way, Christianity would have remained in further obscurity. Paul’s strategy would either bring greater freedom to Christians to advance their faith, or cause greater suffering for the church at large. Some might have asked, who was Paul to make such a decision for the whole church

It was in this environment of difficult, sacrificial, painful choices and imprisonment that Paul wrote to his Philippian brothers, urging them to sacrifice themselves for one another, writing that his own life was nothing apart from Christ, even noting his suffering and many sacrifices to get to where he was. Isn’t that an interesting notion? I’ve sacrificed a lot to get to prison where I can suffer and be mistreated for the sake of Jesus, and possibly cause you more suffering.
 
In the midst of all of this, when Paul knew that great suffering awaited him still, then and only then does Paul refer to the “peace that surpasses understanding.” In fact, Paul went on in the same chapter to describe how to attain that peace: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you” (4:9). What example did Paul set for his Philippian brothers? He was an example of a man who lived godly as he embraced suffering and imprisonment with both arms for the sake of the Church and the sake of Christ. It was in that context that Paul wrote about peace – a context where Paul intentionally chose to intentionally suffer though he could have if he wanted, intentionally avoided it. By chance, do you see a pattern here? 

In this context what do we learn from Paul’s admonition of peace? It is that “peace that passes understanding” isn’t something that is given to make decisions. Where will I live, where will I go to school, what will be my job, who will I marry, etc? Paul didn’t even use the peace barometer to make decisions about the persecution of the church. He used conviction. 

Feeling good or bad about decisions is not abnormal, and does not require Paul’s “peace that passes understanding.” The peace that Paul refers to is supernatural because extreme circumstance require extreme conviction, and sometimes extreme encouragement. Feeling good or non-conflicted is not peace in the biblical sense. Peace in the biblical sense is that jaw-dropping, “how does he do that” sense of security and firm conviction in the face of absolutely overwhelming odds and opposition where no sense of sense makes sense to accept it. It is what the Apostle Peter had when he walked calmly to his own execution and begged to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of his Lord. It is what the early martyrs experienced when they smiled at the flames alight under their feat as the kindling began searing their flesh. It is what Paul experienced after he resolutely, firmly, and purposefully with deep conviction set his face to go toward imprisonment and suffering and embraced it at every step of his journey until the butcher’s axe severed his head from his neck. It is not to stand when the world demands you sit. It is the conviction to stand when the world cuts off your legs and greases the floor—and your conviction persuades others to stand with you. THAT is the kind of peace the Bible promises. 

Sometimes. Sometimes it’s a bit delayed. 

The night before the Lord Jesus was lead away to be crucified he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane asking the Father to, “remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). Yet at the same time his resolution was set, “not my will, but yours be done.” Did Jesus have “peace” at this momentous moment of decision – the decision to embrace the cross? Not in the slightest. Look at the following passages: “And there appeared to him an angel from Heaven, strengthening him (22:43). Rhetorical question: Why would Jesus need strengthening?
 
Answer: Duh! Look at the following verse, even more revealing: “And being in agony he prayed even more earnestly” (22:44). Jesus’ stress was so great that it brought about hematohidrosis, causing blood vessels around sweat glands to burst so that he “sweat drops of blood” (22:44). Was this a Jesus “at peace” or was this a Jesus resolute in his decision regardless of his feelings? Clearly, the latter. 

He was suffering great mental and emotional stress knowing what was to come. Yet remarkably he embraced the cross anyway. In stark, almost violent contrast Hebrews 12:2 paints the picture of Jesus’ kind of peace this way: “Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame…” Jesus didn’t embrace the suffering of the cross because he “had peace about it.” He embraced the suffering of the cross for the peace it would bring us later. 

When you make decisions about what course your life will take remember that “peace” is not designed to help us make decisions. If that were the case then all of our decisions would be designed to run from suffering like children. Rather, peace is the byproduct of decisions that are pleasing to God, regardless of suffering or joy. Yet also remember the suffering of the Lord Jesus who did not experience peace in the immediate aftermath of his decision. Instead he set himself resolutely to go to the cross because of his conviction and love for us. “Peace” had nothing to do with it except for the peace he was making between God and men. 

Whom do you admire in the scriptures or in history the most? Chances are, like Jesus they are people who endured great suffering or turmoil, and either because of it and/or through it transformed the world around them. 

And they didn’t always feel good about it. 

In contrast to the worldview that runs from suffering, that makes it decisions through escapism, the scripture encourages times when we must embrace suffering, for out of it and through it great deeds are done, lives are transformed, and yes, even heroes are made. For there is nothing admirable about the man who embraces his personal peace at the expense of doing the right thing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Journey is the Destination! Part 1 Which Brings Him the Greatest Glory... Easy or Hard?

When everything falls into place we are instantly filled with elation and inspiration and quickly proclaim, without reservation, "Obviously, this was God's will!" "Everything, just fell right into place!" Incredible!" 

Whatever
...has come to pass, with little or no human effort, and we equate that with being God's will...without a second thought. 

But what of the path that is filled with constant struggles, trials, detours, which seemingly never ends, where there is much human effort and for an extended amount of time?  What then?  Is this route as much "God's will" as when everything falls into place?

If we experience a rough ride we are constantly second guessing our decisions, or God's plan, or both, as do others.  Wondering why me is not an uncommon thought.  Thoughts of doubt swirl around in our heads, carelessly.

The path could be challenging and dangerous!
Will it bring Him greater glory?

Some of us are fully aware of the Enemy's schemes and know full well the promises of God, but there are times when we succumb to the Enemy's ploys, at least for a time. He delights in causing us to doubt and is a master at doing so.  And for some reason his most successful plan of attack comes when God allows us, leads us, to walk the rough path.  

Why do we view these two scenarios so vastly different?  Everything falling into place vs. the road of long-suffering.  Is the first greater cause for bringing glory to God?  Or are the stories of endurance, when all odds are stacked against us, what bring Him the greatest glory?

According to the stories God shares in His Word, rarely does He choose to grant His children the easy way out for accomplishing His will in their lives.  Instead, it is most often through the tough times that must be endured, day-by-day, putting one foot in front of the other--all the while being forced to rely on Him since we are helpless within ourselves and can do nothing without Him.  Funny thing is, Jesus tell us in John 15...apart from Him, we can do nothing. 

So which of these scenarios, bring God the most glory? Or should they be considered equal in their glory of Him?

As we think of the examples God gives us, Noah comes to mind, first.  This is a man, obedient to God's call, who labored more than 100 years to build a gigantic boat, no doubt enduring continual ridicule day after day.  Noah was in his late 400's - early 500's (vs. late 40's - early 50's) while he was constructing the ark, not a spring chicken.  The rain began when he was 600 years old.  Noah's sons were born when he was 500 years old, so they spent their childhood watching their father build the ark, exactly as God commanded.  According to Peter, God waited patiently as Noah built the ark (1 Peter 3:20).  Okay, let me get this straight...God was ready to wipe-out His people because their hearts were evil all the time, but He waited patiently while Noah built the ark to do so?  Huh?  So many things to learn about our God from the life of Noah! 

Rain was not in man's vocabulary at that point in time.  No one had seen rain; much less a flood caused by rain.  Noah had to have lost his mind!  Poor man and pity on his family.  Noah never convinced any converts (except his family) to follow him into the ark, not in 100 years.  But God had already prophesied it would only be Noah's family that would board that boat along with the animals. He had also prophesied Noah's sons would bring wives with them.  Noah's obedience to God persevered day-in and day-out, working tirelessly for over 100 years.  Can you imagine faith like Noah's, today?  No doubt, you and I would certainly join in his ridicule and drown when the rain came.

100 years with not one convert...nada, zero, zilch! 
Would we, could we...persevere?

Next, comes Joseph.  His life was filled with trials, discouragement, betrayal, which started early, within his own family, at the age of 12.  This was in the midst of his knowing God's hand was on him, but it sure did not seem like it, from our perspective anyway, for a very long time.  After his brothers schemed to kill him, threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery, Joseph finds himself being falsely accused by his Egyptian master's wife.  He spends many years in prison for something he never did and was forgotten by two cellmates when they were freed because of his gift of dream interpretation, which he shared freely with each of them.  However, while in prison, Joseph allows God to use him, in spite of the rough road, and he is placed in charge of all the prisoners and all that was done there.  This had been his experience in his master's house, as well. 

All of the above, was God's hand on Joseph.  When Joseph is finally freed from prison, 13 years later, following his interpretation of the Pharaoh's dream, he is placed in charge of all of the land of Egypt.   During a famine, his brothers come face-to-face with Joseph while searching for food.  When they realize it is their long-gone and forgotten brother, they are terrified and fearful of his retribution.  Instead, Joseph forgives their hate and abuse of him and gives one of the most powerful, empowering reasons of forgiveness known.  "But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."   

Joseph had plenty of human reasons for retribution against his brothers, his master's wife, and his ungrateful cell mates?  However, Joseph recognized God's hand on him throughout his life, even on that rough path that seemed so unfair and never-ending.  Through it all, Joseph never stopped being who God called Him to be.  Wherever God allowed Joseph to be, despite his circumstances...Joseph was God's...he was all His...no matter what!

How many of us grant Joseph's level of forgiveness for a simple insult or mistreatment by a family member or co-worker?  Suppose we looked at those actions against us through Joseph's eyes?  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." Our perspective of our daily circumstances would certainly be much different, as would our level of stress and drama.  Our relationship with that one who had misused us would not be broken and God could continue to use us in that relationship in ways He might never could had our response been human

God receives great glory when our lives demonstrate His character.  The lush fruit of His Spirit, abundantly alive, and permeating through our lives to others, despite the unfair circumstances surrounding us, shout He is alive to the world!


Joseph embraces his youngest brother, Benjamin!

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25




Additional Old Testament stories which share the same requirements of human perseverance clothed in God-filled character include Abraham, Job, Daniel, Jacob and Esther, just to name a few.  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3






Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Will They Hear?

The issues surrounding the Cochlear Implant (CI) are vast, as is the Deaf Culture.  This post will only cover a miniscule portion of the CI controversy.  Expect additional posts in the future.

Oddly enough, even though I have multiple Deaf family members I had never heard about the CI controversy until I went back to school in 2000.  In fact, my knowledge of the CI was almost nil; the amazing device nicknamed "The Bionic Ear" that allows some deaf people to hear. I began to learn about the Cochlear Implant (CI) and the debate that surrounds it, almost from the first day of class.

Research for the CI had begun in the 1950's with the FDA approving them for adults, in the US by 1985.  In 1990, the FDA approved them for children and in 2000 one CI was approved for children, as young as, 12 months of age.  Today more than 220,000 people have received CI surgery world-wide.  In the US alone, more than 43,000 adults and more than 30,000 children have received CI surgery. 



I have come to one conclusion, after 11 years of researching the CI, intentionally and through life-experiences, there will always be a debate surrounding the CI.  I will devote this post to only four of the reasons why I believe this is so.

1) The CI success is not always fully experienced by all CI recipients; often success- or the ability to function normally in a hearing world-is based on each unique individual.

Allow me to stop and explain the diverse meanings for that word success as it relates to the CI. Success used by the CI medical community most often is talking about the surgery itself being a success, not whether or not the recipient is eventually granted the ability to function and communicate normally (hearing and speaking with ease) in the hearing world.  Success can simply mean the recipient can hear sound, but not necessarily interpret its meaning accurately.  Honestly, the word success can take on many different meanings when talking about the CI.  Make sure you know which one is being used when.

Many variables are related to the success of a CI.  Those variables include, but are not limited to, the recipients own unique form of deafness (see the blog post "The Uniqueness of Deafness") and the recipients drive from within to please and master speech.  Another defining factor is whether or not the recipient is post-lingual or hearing and speaking prior to the implantation.  The amount of parental involvement, or lack thereof, can also greatly impact the CI recipients success.  The quality of the CI recipients post auditory/oral therapy (training for speech) will impact the level of success attained, as will, how these two interact with each other. Sometimes speech may develop greatly for the recipient, but the ability to hear clearly may not, and vice versa, and the list goes on. 

2)  This is related to number 1, in result.  Number 1 deals with the individual, while number 2 deals with the CI device. 

The CI is not a perfect replacement for natural hearing.  It does not  duplicate the sound of God's own creation nor does it provide clear communication in speech and hearing for all recipients. 

The sound a CI recipient hears is much different from the sounds one hears with natural hearing.   Sometimes those sounds can eventually be determined with clarity by the recipient's brain and sometimes they cannot.  Often those who had the ability to hear before implanting the CI have an increased ability to acquire this skill.  However, this ability varies greatly from one individual to the next.  There used to be sample audio tapes on the Internet of how a CI sounds to the natural ear, but those have now been removed.




3) Not all deaf people are candidates or qualify for a CI.

This article explains the criteria necessary to be considered a candidate for a CI.  This fact ensures the world will always have deaf people who will use sign language as their mode of communication.

4) Those we associate with most will greatly impact our perspective of the CI and its controversy.  If we associate with those who are in the Deaf Community or have Deaf family members our perspective will be influenced by that more intimate association.  But if someone (hearing or deaf) is never exposed to the Deaf Community they will obviously be influenced by them very little, if at all.  And if we only associate with those in the medical community we tend to hold only to their view.

For those of you who do not know, many times when a child receives a CI their parents are told not to allow them to sign for fear they will not learn to speak.  Research proves otherwise.  Some parents are deciding on their own to go ahead with both. 

I am fully aware of the many reasons given for why hearing parents-and yes, some deaf parents-want their deaf children to learn to speak and to hear.  I know they want them to be like them and to be able to communicate with them freely.  I know they live in a hearing world and they must therefore function in a hearing world.  I know hearing and speaking will give them a better chance at a better job.  I know they would have unlimited access to everything out there.  I know.  I know.  I know.  But, what if....?

What if...we the hearing people are missing His plan as to how we should relate to people who are deaf and/or Deaf?  What if...the Deaf Community is missing His plan as it relates to the hearing world that surrounds them? 

We have so much to gain from knowing and getting to know each other better.  We need the Deaf and they need us. 

Do you know that the US percentages fall grossly behind the rest of the world in bilingualism?  Most countries utilize an educational system of bilingualism, but not the US?  The majority of the world's population speak at least two languages and some three or more.
So how can hearing people improve their ability to relate to those who are deaf and use sign language to communicate?  Is this a valid question?  Or should we just stay in opposition to each other, divided by mode of communication and culture?

What if it wasn't the ASL team against the CI team? What if we all became the Bilingual and Bicultural team?  All of us fluent in English and ASL simultaneously!  I can't begin to comprehend the impact this would have on our world, can you?

If God had wanted hearing people and deaf people to be totally separated from each other He would have allowed a much greater percent of Deaf parents to give birth to deaf children.  He has not done that.  95% of all deaf children are born to hearing parents. 

The vast majority of the hearing world never identifies with the deaf world or even realizes there is such a thing.  However, almost all deaf people are exposed to the hearing world-first by their own hearing parents and family members-and then on a daily basis for the rest of their lives.

Obviously, God's plan allows for some deaf people to remain deaf since no technology has been developed to eradicate all deafness in the world and since He has never chosen to heal all people who are deaf and since there those deaf people whose CI success is limited and since there are those Deaf people who like being deaf just fine.

The Deaf are an unreached people group, meaning less than 2% know about and follow Christ, here in America and world-wide.  Who's going to tell them if we don't allow our deaf children to learn sign language?  If none of the CI children ever learn sign language nor their parents or siblings, will there be anyone God can call to those fields that are ripe unto harvest?

We jump at the opportunity to teach our hearing babies sign language; why is it that we forbid our deaf babies to sign?




Maybe, just maybe, God has a plan to use some of the deaf children born to hearing parents or adopted by hearing parents to reach the more than 2 million Deaf people (those who identify with the Deaf Culture) living in America who do not know Jesus.  Maybe He plans to call them overseas to share the gospel in sign with millions of other Deaf peoples around the world.

Please don't limit God's plan for these deaf children or for yourselves; His plan for reaching the Deaf with the love of Christ is much greater than any of us can ever imagine.




   
 






Saturday, August 4, 2012

The American Christian's Obsession with God's Protection!

God's protection--rather praying for it--has become an American "Christian" obsession.  I must confess that I, too, participated in this obsession for a time...when my children were young.  In the early years, daily praying God's protection over them felt like some magical guarantee He would protect them from all harm, no matter what. 

My perspective and expectation of God's protection and the definition of safety has evolved for me over the years, as has my understanding of God's greater purpose and plan to use pain and suffering for His glory and our good.  Since this did not come through my own experiences with my children, I have learned this through others' personal experiences and by gaining a better understanding of the scriptures depicting God's full perspective on His choosing to provide safety in any given situation or not. 

As Rachel and Joseph grew older, began to drive and to travel on educational and mission trips around the world, people would often ask if Charles and I were terrified something awful would happen to them.  How could we stand to let them go?  

Why is it that they were, suddenly, more likely to be harmed or injured just because their distance from us would be greater than ever before?   Was there some increased ability I personally had to protect them, myself, if they were in close proximity to me? 

The better question.  What ability do I really have in truly protecting my children, from anything, whatever their age or geographical location?  The best question.  Do I really want to limit God's working in my children's lives by asking Him to protect them when that is not His perfect plan for their lives or will not produce increased spiritual maturity?

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The quote, "The center of God's will is the safest place to be!" is a misnomer.  Once again, our definition of safe and God's definition of safe is often on opposite ends of the spectrum of this earthly life.  Does it mean if we are in the center of God's will then we will be safe from all harm?  I wonder if the Nate Saint and Jim Elliott families would agree with that analogy?  What would Jesus think?

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The Enemy delights in setting Christians up where it will look like God has failed them.   Doubt is the root cause for our faith to wither and even die, if we let it.  When we place un-scriptural expectations on our God we are giving the Enemy an open invitation to walk right in and deceive us.  Once deceived into mistakenly thinking "Thus saith the Lord", we become as vulnerable as an infant simply lying on our backs waiting for him to devour us.  Be careful when taking verses out of context and trying to force them to fit your situation, especially where safety is concerned.  We often do this without even realizing it. 

1 Peter 5:8-10
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Apparently, suffering in this world is not only very probable, but inevitable.  If we or our children are not currently suffering some kind of trial, get ready...there is one on its way!  Don't dread or be afraid of it, instead...welcome it.  Yes, I said...welcome it!

I have, on occasion, prayed with a sister granting God permission to do whatever it took--including physical, emotional, or mental pain and suffering--for a wayward child to be brought back to His fold.  This is a huge leap of faith when a mother is willing to pray this kind of prayer.  The heartache a mother feels as she watches her own child suffer is extreme, but for some the thought of them rebelling against their Savior is even more heart wrenching.   

When we can embrace God's perfect love for us and for our children, then we will be able to trust God with our children's safety and with His help, embrace His decision to not always grant them safety from this world's "evils".  If the choice is safety or His will, I will choose the latter.

1 John 4:16b-18
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When I pray for my children, these days, I ask God to protect them from the evil one as Jesus prayed for us (whatever that means, John 17) and ask Him to allow whatever will bring Him the most glory to be done in their lives.  If He chooses to allow them to suffer pain, will I be able to embrace it as His best, for their good?  I pray that I will. 

I was so tempted to post Romans 8:28 here.  Remember?   Don't use scripture out of context.  As I re-read the entire chapter it makes so much more sense to post the entire chapter.  This is a monumental part of God's love letter to us.  Taking it out of context minimizes its impact on our lives.  Ask His Spirit to envelope you in this passages' intent as you read through the 8th chapter of Romans allowing your mind and your heart to experience, once again, the immense love God has for you and all that entails.  All the while, in the back of your mind, think of how this scripture applies to our obsession of praying for God's protection. 

 

 

Romans 8

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.