Thursday, September 24, 2009

Do Not Be Anxious Fools

My Bible has a separation in Luke 12 between verses 21 & 22, but I (Michael) was struck today that these actually go together. Verses 13-21 tell us about the man who wants Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him, followed by Jesus telling the parable of the rich fool who wanted to build bigger barns to store his plentiful crops. Jesus' hearers (including us) are warned that the person who "lays up treasure for himself & is not rich toward God" will meet the same fate as this rich fool. If your Bible is like mine, there is now a separation. All too often, we see the separation, which was not there in the original, & fail to see how the passages are connected. But these are very connected! Jesus issues the warning in verse 21 & then flows right into an admonishment in verse 22 not to be anxious about our lives, even the very basic aspects of what we will eat or wear. But we are, aren't we? Aren't we concerned about meeting our basic needs, especially when money is tight? How will I pay this bill? Will there be enough money to cover groceries? This even spills over into bigger issues. The truck needs new tires & brakes. The house needs a new roof. We need to save for retirement. For us, we can sometimes be overwhelmed by how we're going to afford to pay for this adoption. How in the world are we going to come up with $28,000?! On one income! Then, I read Jesus' words in this passage: do not be anxious, God cares for us more than the birds & lilies. I also see His indictment: "O you of little faith!" Choosing to be anxious - & it is a choice - means that I don't trust that God is in control of my life, that He loves me enough to take care of me. Choosing to accumulate possessions & wealth so that I don't have any worries means that I'm choosing not to rely on God. It also means that my treasure is in my "stuff" rather than in God. But, as believers, we're called to higher & better things. "Instead, seek His kingdom first, & these things will be added to you," remembering that "one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions". If we are seeking after Him, He will give us what we need. So, we have no cause for worry! Then, look where this leads us! God is providing for us, we have no need to worry about our needs, & that opens us up to "sell your possessions & give to the needy". We can do this because we have "a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches & no moth destroys"! We show ourselves to be true disciples of Christ by our outward actions, which demonstrate what we value most & show where our heart is. If our heart is with Christ, then we can easily lay aside our possessions for the sake of meeting others' needs. However, if our heart is with our possessions, then we will cling to, & even increase, them because we can't bear to be without them. And when we are seeking after the world's riches ("the good American life") at all costs - even going into debt & ignoring the plight of the poor to do so - we cannot lay up treasure in heaven. As believers, we have to intentionally & deliberately be counter-cultural in all ways, including how we use our possessions. We can choose to be slaves to the ungodly ways of our culture & lay up no treasure in heaven, but then we must clearly understand that this is "friendship with the world" & "enmity with God". If we choose this, we must be aware that we will have our reward here & our eternity will be hell. Our other choice is to break the chains of our slavery to "things", so that we're free to give to the advancement of the Gospel & to the care of the poor & helpless all over the world. But we can't have both, we can't serve both God & money. So, "choose you this day whom ye will for me & my house, we will serve the Lord"!

*Our most gracious heavenly Father, we thank You with all that we are for providing for us each day! We realize that everything we have - our food, clean water, clothing, home, jobs, & so much more - come straight from Your hand. So often, we forget to thank You, even forget that these things do indeed come from You. Please forgive us & continue to sanctify us through Your Word. Help us to realize that our possessions are not lasting & have not been given to us for ourselves. Help us to use our possessions as they are meant to be in the advance of Your kingdom. Convict us of the millions who are dying each day without the very things we take for granted...& without You. Ignite a passion in us to spread Your Gospel to the very corners of the Earth, showing people Christ's love in our actions. We love You & worship You, for You alone are worthy of all honor & praise! In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why adopt? Why Ethiopia? Part 2

Yesterday, we explained why we're adopting as opposed to attempting to conceive through fertility treatments & such.  Today, we'd like to deal with why we're adopting from Ethiopia rather than domestically. 

So...why Ethiopia?  There are so many reasons I can give!  The most important reason is that we simply feel God leading us there.  We could have gone the domestic route - we thought about it & may do so in the future - but we simply feel that for now, God is leading us to Ethiopia.  We believe our God is sovereign & that He ordained that all of our children - birth & adopted - be ours from before the foundation of the world.  The most basic reason that we're adopting from Ethiopia is that our children are in Ethiopia, just as God has willed.  Like I said, we've always wanted to adopt (seriously, like from the time I was 12 & Michael was a teenager), but we thought we would wait until after we had "our own" children.  (As an aside, I detest that phrase now; they won't be our biological children, but they will be "our own" children.)  Then, my sister- & brother-in-law started the process; we were over at their house one night this past January & spent literally hours watching You Tube videos showing adoption stories, a lot of them from Ethiopia.  Watching all of these children who had no one suddenly becoming part of a family was simply extraordinary!  I cried the whole time & was completely drained by the end of the day.  Michael & I drove home talking about how we didn't have to wait; we could adopt now.  One reason we chose Ethiopia is because of how speedy their process is compared to other nations.  But the main reason, other than God's leading, is that as we began researching Ethiopia to get a better feel of the culture, we discovered the dire situation facing these beautiful people.  For Ethiopia's orphans, many of whom are living on the streets, life is a daily struggle to survive.  There are between 4 & 6 million orphans in Ethiopia alone, & most of them don't live to see their 5th birthday; they're dying from starvation, preventable diseases, & subhuman conditions.  More than 26,000 children around the world die every single day from these conditions!  That's 1,080+ every hour, 18+ every minute!  Imagine if our church were representative of these statistics.  In a matter of minutes, not one child would be left alive.  Learning this, we simply couldn't turn our backs on the situation.  We have to save these children.

One of the "flagship" verses of adoption is James 1:27.  As Christ's church, we are all called to "visit orphans & widows in their distress".  We just recently heard a sermon explaining that "visit" means save, as in all the times that God "visited" His people in distress.  He didn't just comfort them & then leave them in their situations; He rescued them from the situations.  We are all called to rescue orphans, whether by means of adoption or by means of facilitating adoption.  You know what's been amazing in this for me personally?  I've never met my children - they may not even be born yet - but I know that before creation, God planned them to be mine, & I love them to the very bottom of my soul.  I may not have them in my arms yet, but they are firmly planted in my heart.

*Our most gracious heavenly Father, please help us, as Your adopted children, to reflect your heart by adopting orphans from all over the world.  These children are so precious, & they need us to rescue them from poverty, disease, & death.  We can't do it without You, though.  Please make Your people - Your bride - burn with a passion for adoption for Your glory!  In Christ's holy name, Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why adopt? Why Ethiopia? Part 1

Michael & I have been asked more than once now 2 questions in particular regarding our adoption:  Why are you adopting rather than trying to conceive on your own or with a doctor's help?  Why are you adopting from Ethiopia rather than domestically?  I recently corresponded with a dear friend concerning these 2 issues, & I figure that for every person brave enough to ask these questions out loud, there are a few more who are wondering.  So, I would like to share our reasons here.

It's probably easier to start with why we're adopting at all.  First of all, it "just so happens" that we have both always wanted to adopt transracially, specifically African.  We are not able to conceive right now due to my PCOS, but weight loss will clear that up (which we are working on), & Lord willing, one day we will be "bellied up" (an awesome expression that's new to me!).  Regardless of if we ever have biological children or not, we will adopt.  We want to adopt in addition to having biological children, not in lieu of.  Adoption is costly, & we could spend that money on fertility treatments instead.  However, God has chosen not to create a child in my womb right now, while He has chosen to create all of the many children around the world who have become orphans through no fault of their own.  We believe our money is better spent rescuing these children rather than bucking against God's plan for us in our barrenness.  God is concerned with orphans, as He testifies in His Word, & we as His children should reflect His heart.  In adoption, we show the world God's love for & adoption of us.  He is, after all, an adoptive Father Himself.  Because we have been adopted "vertically" by Him, we have a desire to adopt "horizontally" the orphans in this world.  These are children who have no one to love them; no one to protect, support, or comfort them; no place to call home.  They are worthy of all of these things, & by adopting them, we show the world who God is.  Isn't that beautiful?!  We also fulfill the Great Commission in adoption.  We are taking children who, if left as orphans, will most likely never hear the gospel of Jesus Christ & are training them in the admonition of the Lord.  We are discipling them in Christ!  Again, it's just beautiful!

I'll cover why we feel led to adopt from Ethiopia rather than domestically in the next post.