Love come to life inside of me

29 Aug

Ephesians 2:1-10 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 Have you ever thought about how utterly useless and hopeless a dead person is?  A dead person does not participate in life.  A dead person is never involved in a conversation.  A dead person is never the life of the party. (pun definitely intended)  A dead person is not involved in anything that concerns life.  Well, in this very well-known passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians you only have to get four words in to realize that we are in a bit of a predicament. The Bible says, “And you were DEAD…”  This does not mean that you were just not really involved in doing things God wanted to do, or that you were more interested in something else, or even that you were simply apathetic to the whole situation.  It means that you, and I, were dead.  As in you were not functioning as a living member of society.  I am stressing this point to remind us all of the dire situation we are in when we are living in sin apart from Christ. There is no hope of working your way out of that situation.  There is no possibility of smooth talking your way into a better position.  There is no reasoning your way into a more desirable standing.  After all, you have to remember that dead people don’t do ANYTHING.

However, you then move down to verse four and see possibly the two greatest words in the Bible, “BUT GOD…”  We were completely dead in our trespasses and sins, BUT GOD saw fit in His immeasurable mercy to show us grace and bring us back to life.  One of my favorite sayings is, “In Christ, we are not bad people that God made good. We are dead people that God made alive.”  How incredibly true, and how incredibly wonderful!  God came down to us and rescued us when we were totally unaware that we were even in need of being rescued.  God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, made a way for a dead man to come to life!  We can be raised from death in sin to life in Christ as God the Father calls us to Himself through the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel is wonderful!  As followers of Christ, please remember to never get over the gospel.  The Gospel is not the diving board from which we jump into the pool of Christianity.  IT IS THE ENTIRE POOL ITSELF!  You don’t ever move past the gospel.  It just continually draws you deeper into relationship with God.  It reminds us daily of our inability and Christ’s unlimited ability.  We can’t , God can. Find rest in that today.

May We All Cling to the Vision of Christ

18 Jun

Vision.  It is something that can difficult to find.  It is something that is absolutely necessary. It is something that, at times, can be downright elusive.  It is something that you must have as a leader.  It is something that people need.  It is something that we must cling to even when there is no tangible evidence of it.  Vision.

Proverbs 29:18 teaches us, “Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” When there is no vision, or prophetic teaching, present then the people become ungovernable or rebellious.  I think it is vitally important, though, that we take this down to an individual level and not just stay up at a corporate level.  If I am not clinging to the vision that God has placed in my heart through the Holy Spirit, then I am blowing in the wind and tossed about as I go through life.  Each follower of Christ is imbued with a vision of purpose and calling at the point of salvation.  Now certainly, it may, and usually is not, immediately be completely clear.  However, rest assured that as you grow in your walk with Jesus, the vision of Christ will become more and more clear to you. You will begin to understand new facets and components of what God has uniquely gifted you as His adopted son or daughter to do.

This is the point at which you face a life-altering decision.  Jesus will call each of us out of a comfort zone at one point or another.  It is possible that He will call you out of your comfort zone on multiple occasions.  So, will you stay true to what is familiar and comfortable, or will you take the step of faith and get out of the boat as Peter did to go after Jesus?  

It’s not always easy.  In fact, it usually isn’t easy.  However, if we follow after the Lord, we will be in the best place possible.  It is when we are following after the Vision of Christ in our lives that we will be most stretched, most pushed, and most challenged in our faith, but it is also when we will most grow, develop, and advance in our walk with Him. And if God has placed a vision in your heart and promised to lead you in a certain direction it will come to pass.  Habakkuk 2:2-3 reads,

“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

So, what will you do? Will you stand frozen in fear of leaving what is comfortable and familiar, or will you follow after the vision that God is calling you to in Him?

Humble Orthodoxy

13 Apr

It is very seldom that you can find such profound truth explained so thoroughly in such a small book.  However, that is what I have found in Joshua Harris’s new book, Humble Orthodoxy.  Joshua takes a look at the importance of adhering to orthodoxy for us as followers of Christ.  His ultimate idea is summed in this statement found on page 5, “truth matters…but so does our attitude.  This is what I mean by humble orthodoxy: we must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility.”  How true are these words?  With our current cultural landscape being one where you find either those who are arrogantly boastful of their command of knowledge in orthodoxy, or the exact opposite where you find those who are nearly heretical in their unorthodoxy, a book like this is vitally important.

I love the fact that this book is so accessible.  It is short enough that you can read it in and hour or so, but it is practical enough that you can take what you learn and immediately apply it. It was very thoughtful in its approach to pointing out the fact that our attitude is a huge part of the way that we teach, correct, and inform others in orthodoxy.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of becoming overly critical of those who disagree with “your” orthodoxy.  It is so true when Joshua writes on page 26, “if being right becomes more important to us that worshiping God – then our theology is not really about God anymore.  It’s about us.”  This is an integral idea of the entire piece.  Humble orthodoxy is all about Jesus, and really has nothing to do with us.

Harris ends the book with a challenge.  What are you going to do when your orthodoxy comes into question?  He writes on page 61, “We must be humble even as we contend for the truth and seem to be losing.  God hasn’t commanded us to win.  He has told us to trust him and do as he has taught.”  It is difficult sometimes to keep this mindset when you are so ardently passionate about the truths of God, but God doesn’t need us to fight the battles for him.  Overall, Humble Orthodoxy is a great book.  I would highly recommend it for those who are ministry leaders and those who are sitting in the pews from week to week.  It is good for every Christian to understand how to defend our faith in a way that draws people to our Savior, not offend and push them away.

Right here, Right NOW

11 Apr

That’s how you feel after the home study is finished- you want the child RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

Recently, He-wood and I were part of a panel of adoptive parents with an audience of prospective adoptive parents. Sharing the journey of adoption is hard but necessary. God has been so faithful to us throughout the whole journey and we know he will continue because in all honesty it doesn’t end when we finalize the adoption.

One of the questions we got and we’ve heard before is what do I do to prepare. My heart sinks because 90% of what you would do to prepare while you are carrying a child or your wife is carrying a child is the exact same as for an adopted child. You have certain things you will always need to do. Obviously you need to get supplies- car seats, sleeping arrangements, supplies to feed whether its a toddler or a baby they need these things. I stockpiled diapers because I knew we were set on an infant. If you are getting an older child maybe buy a gift card once a month to a shoe place or clothing store so they can help influence the clothing choices once they are in your care. A pediatrician is needed along with childcare if both parents will be working. If one is planning to stay home after the child comes then maybe start living off one income and saving the other for finances of the adoption.

Things that are adoption specific- maintaining an active status with the adoption agency and keeping paperwork up to date. Finding an adoption attorney- someone who specializes in this an understands the laws. Note about pediatricians- if at all possible find one that is pro-adoption and consider the race of the child. We were blessed with a practice where the two main doctors we always see one is an adoptive mom herself the other is African American which is key to helping our transracial family. If you have an older child- particularly of a different race- consider where they will get their hair done. I am looking forward to Wee-Wood 3 having a great relationship with a barber- Lord and budget willing. Speaking of budget- adoption can be costly. Ask your HR rep if there is adoption assistance. Have a Both Hands project like we did to raise funds. Sell stuff, garage sell, make stuff to sell…etc to help you afford adoption. Also explore the tax laws on adoption tax benefits since they change from year to year.

Another aspect is education- while you may not be reading “What to Expect While You are Expecting” doesn’t mean reading should be crossed off your list. Grab books, blogs, etc about how to educate yourself on the many different facets of adoption. Help your family understand how to be part of the process and allow them to know how to answer questions people ask. People will ask the grandparents crazy things just like you.

Prayer and Patience- You can never pray too much for the birth parents of your child. I can do a post on open verses closed adoptions later but lets just say we grieve (and know our child will too) that right now I cannot tell Wee-wood 3 what his birthmom looks like. What his birthfather’s favorite sport is…does he even like sports? What would make them proud of him? I pray she chooses to have openness one day. Also pray for their safety and support during this tough time. While it’s a very happy time for you it’s one of the hardest decisions they have ever made.

There is so much to be done and this child is just coming into your family in a different way,  but preparation is still so similar. I’m a firm believer that whether you are walking out of a hospital with a biological baby or out of an adoption agency with an adoptive child you are never fully going to be prepared…but I think that’s God’s plan. If we were fully prepared we wouldn’t NEED him.

Dug Down Deep Review

31 Jan

I received a copy of Dug Down Deep to review some time ago, and I am just now getting around to reviewing it. It was a great read. It was very accessible. Being that it is a book about theology, I wondered if it would be a book that was very academic or if it would be one that would appeal to a wider audience. It has a very wide audience and it will appeal to many different types of people.

Dug Down Deep is the type of book that a brand new Christian would just soak up, but at the the same time it is a book that can remind the veteran Christian of the things that make the Lord great that they have experienced in their lives already.

I would recommend this book to church leaders and lay people alike. It is a great resource to add to your library.

I need you. Lord, I need you…

30 Jan

I’d like to pose a question.  Here it is: If the power of the Holy Spirit DID NOT move in our worship services, would anyone know or recognize the difference?  I read this in a book the other week, and I was immediately cut to the quick.  I had to begin to wonder if this was true in our services at our church.  Are we, am I, more concerned with the service itself, the songs themselves, the sound, or the atmosphere in the room that I lose sight of the only thing that really matters?  It has affected the way I plan a worship service each week.

Think of how vitally important the Holy Spirit is in everything that we do as Christians.  Without the Holy Spirit to guide us, we are lost when it comes to how to interact with God the Father.  My mind is taken to the words of Moses in Exodus.  Moses has already been up on the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments once.  He came down the mountain to the sight of all the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf.  He breaks the first tablets from God and punishes the people according to what God commands.  He goes back up the mountain and receives a second set of tablets.  At this point, God commands Moses to gather all of the people of Israel and leave from Sinai.  Moses and God then have this conversation:

Moses said to the Lord, “See you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.  You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore,, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.  Consider too that this nation is your people.” And [God] said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And [Moses] said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.  For how shall it be known that I have found favor in you sight, I and your people?  Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

It is God’s presence that makes us, as Christians, unique from every other people on the face of the earth.  If God’s presence is not with us when we gather for worship to sing, read Scripture, and hear the Word preached, then we are doing it all for nothing.  Our songs are just songs.  The words are just words.  If God’s presence is not with us, if the Holy Spirit does not move, then we are simply singing and preaching for no reason.  However, when the presence of God is there, when the Holy Spirit moves, it is a glorious thing that happens.  Humans can commune with the Creator of the universe.  Simple people can interact with Almighty God.  Lives and destinies can, and are, changed for eternity.  When God shows up, in the form of the Holy Spirit, things are drastically different to the Glory of God the Father!

I pray for God’s Holy Spirit to descend on each of our services every week.  Because I want to take the position that Moses takes, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.”

You’re the one that I want…

18 Jan

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat, I have an awesome wife!  We just all have to go ahead and agree on that, cause it’s the truth.  That being said, I think I need to tell you a little about her.  She is, quite simply, amazing! She is an awesome friend, a great mother to our children, a throw down chef, and a good teacher.  She is truly my helpmate, and exhibits the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman.

My desire is that I can be the husband back to her that God has called me to be.  Paul lays it out for me in the letter to the Church at Ephesus when he writes, 

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
(Ephesians 5:25-33 ESV)

I want to love my wife sacrificially.  I want to put her before myself.  I want to encourage her and lift her up.  I want to help her to grow into the follower of Christ that God has called her to be.  However, the fact of the matter is that I can’t do those things for her.  But, Christ in me can!  Thank God for sending His Spirit to help me (and all Christians for that matter) to be the people that He created us to be.  I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit I can be the husband that She-Wood needs.  She is a wonderful woman, and I love her madly.  I want to honor her as my wife and the mother of our children by being the type of husband that is described in Ephesians.

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