Category Archives: Journaling

Adoption isn’t ultimate. God is.

The last nine months have been some of the most unsettling months of my life. These months have brought about difficult and trying circumstances and situations that have been outside of my ability to directly influence or make decisions about.

The situation that has been at the top of that list has been adoption. About seven years ago we began doing foster care with our county. As a cop I saw just how often kids needed to be removed from homes in which their well-being was in jeopardy. We also decided to begin pursuing international adoption from Haiti sometime after that.

After several years of waiting to have a placement from Haiti, we wondered if we would ever adopt from that country. However, God saw fit to bring about a situation in which we faced the decision to adopting both locally and internationally at the same time. Both situations came to head in the last 9 months and we’ve been faced with the question as to whether we have the capacity to take on both. (This is a whole other story)

Through prayer and seeking advice we decided to say yes to both. That “yes” has brought about a testing of my faith. Adoption and the adoption process brings with it trials and suffering that only people who have gone through the process can really understand the uniqueness of. Yet, I am told in Hebrews 4:15 that I have a great high priest that can sympathize with my weakness- Jesus Christ. He knows.

As I have gone through this testing of my faith I have meditated on Hebrews 11 which has been an anchor in a stormy sea. I’ve gone back to these verses time and again, and through it I have seen six things that God has been teaching me.

  1. I have seen that what is more important to God than me having a heart that wants to adopt a child, is a heart that wants to trust in the promises of God. Adoption isn’t ultimate. God is.
  2. I have seen that more important than having things work out the way I think they should, is a heart that has in faith in a God who works all things together for my good. He even works out mistakes, regrets, and problems for my good.
  3. The sovereignty of God abounds in the inefficiency of the adoption process. Adoption is unbelievably inefficient, expensive, and slow. I have learned that my joy should not be tethered to circumstances working out the way I want them too. My joy is to be grounded in the fact God reigns supreme over adoption and nothing can thwart his plans.
  4. I have seen that my money is not mine but belongs to God. If we lose money because of problems or inefficiency, my heart ought to still rejoice in God’s plans and purposes. God’s bank account is never depleted.
  5. I have seen a growing awareness of my dependence on God which has caused me to pray more.
  6. I have seen more of the complete brokenness of this world, and the affects of sin on it are more of a reality to me. Red tape, paper work, and inefficient processes exist because this world is fallen. Corruption within adoption has created hoops to jump through which affect the people who rightly care about the orphan. Scripture tells me that in this world I will have trouble. It’s not weird. All the saints who have been obedient to God and have done great things for him have experienced significant, confusing opposition.

Hebrews 11 (and the first 2 verses of chapter 12) has given me the eyes to see these six things. Below, are some of the verses from that chapter that have given me this lens. What is invisible (God) is more powerful that what is visible (my situation). Whatever is ahead for us, may our faith be like that of the men and women in this chapter.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

”For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

“He (Moses) endured as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11: 27

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

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Dear Taylor

March, 18, 2018

Dear Taylor,

Tonight we were on our way home from church. Sunday nights are when we have our children’s discipleship program. You were in the backseat of the SUV singing along with the children’s catechism songs that were playing. I love hearing you sing.

“Do you have a spirit, as well as a body? Yes, I have a spirit that can never die.”

This lyric repeated itself several times and you sang along with every word. You then said, “My spirit will probably go to heaven when I die because I want to be with Jesus.” I turned the music down and told you that the Bible tells us we can know for sure if we are going to Heaven or not. We don’t have to say “probably”. We can know for certain.

I explained to you that if you have a heart that is sorry for sinning against God and is trusting in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins you can be with him forever in Heaven. You told me that you were trusting in Jesus and wanting to obey him. I asked if you had every actually prayed this and told God that this is what your heart wants. You said you had not yet.

I told you that a prayer doesn’t magically save you, but if your heart is sorry for sin and trusting in Jesus, it would be pleasing to God to tell him that. You said that you were going to do that “right now, but I want to say it silently.” I told you that I would love to hear your prayer out loud and it would make me happy to hear you tell these things to God. After a little coaxing, you agreed to say it out loud.

“God I want to be with you forever in Heaven. I want to be a part of your kingdom. Jesus I’m sorry for my sin. I want to be in your kingdom forever.”

I don’t remember the exact words you prayed, but it was similar to this. It was a beautiful 3 or 4 sentence prayer. The words coming out of your mouth weren’t your salvation. The words were only a reflection of what I hope is truly in your heart- that you are a sinner and Jesus is a wonderful Savior.

Cling to this all the days of your life. This isn’t mere sentiment. As you grow older your understanding of salvation will grow more fully. I pray that you will know more fully how awesome the gospel is. Jesus really lived. Your sin really separates you from God. And Jesus really saves by grace through faith.

I sing this song to you many times as you go to sleep. May you embrace it all your days.

Love,

Daddy

ALL I HAVE IS CHRIST

VERSE 1
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

VERSE 2
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

CHORUS
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

VERSE 3
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
O Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You


A Mighty Prayer

One of my favorite hymns is Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God. The strength and power of the lyrics make me want to love God more deeply and hold this life more loosely. I took the song tonight and turned it into a prayer to share with my church on Sunday morning.

O God, you indeed are a might fortress. You are an everlasting bulwark that has never failed and will never fail. You help us amidst the floods of battling sin, job loss, financial hardships, miscarriages, marriage discord, and a thousand other dark times in our lives.
There is no enemy like Satan. He is armed with cruel hate and no military might compares to his power. So we can’t confide in our own strength this morning, but thanks be to you O God that the right man is on our own own side. The man that you chose- Christ Jesus. It is he! The God who is Lord over earthly and heavenly armies. You King Jesus, will win the battle.
Now, though we are embattled against sin and Satan which threaten to undo us, we have no need for fear. Your will God, is to have your truth triumph through us. That is incredible. Through us! Even though our enemy is this dark, grim prince, we have no need to tremble or fear. His rage we can endure because his doom is sure. Your word in your time, heavenly Father will cause him to cease his work in this world.
That little word is greater than all earthly armies, kings, and nations. Your Spirit and the gifts we have through your Spirit are ours. In response to this may we joyfully let money and possessions and family and friends go. May we hold loosely our very lives. Because our bodies may be killed by cancer, car crashes, bullets, heart attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, or old age. Yet when our hearts beat their last breaths, your truth abides still. Your kingdom will never end, and this is our inheritance. We will see your glory.


Favorite Quotes from T4G:2016

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What a joy it was to travel to the 2016 Together For The Gospel conference with three other guys from my church. We spent three days soaking in the main sessions, talking about life and ministry, and getting way too many books. Below are some quotes from the sessions that jumped out at me.

Instead of trying to take notes on everything the speakers said, I simply tried to catch what jumped out at me as really important. These were my takeaways from the speakers I heard.

CJ Mahaney: Sustained in Suffering by the Saga of Job

“Those you love and serve will need their best theology in their darkest moments.”

“We must allow God to have his secrets in relation to our suffering. We must be comfortable with mystery.”

“Job encounters God, and his ‘Why’ question is overcome by the sight and glory of God.”

“The revelation of God is more than enough to heat the coals of the heart on the coldest, darkest nights of the soul.”

Mark Dever: Endurance Needed: Strength for a Slow Reformation and the Dangerous Allure of Speed

“Pastoring, like parenting, is urgent work but not quick work.”

“God has responsibilities we don’t have. Don’t strive with God for sovereignty. Pray and plan and trust for growth.”

Kevin DeYoung: Can We Be Glorified Without Being Sanctified? Good News, Good Works, and Christian Assurance

“The authentic Christian life is filled with weakness. Yes. Capitulation? No (Hebrews 12:14).”

“One of the hallmarks of sliding into liberalism is not caring about being precise with our words.”

Referencing a quote from Francis Turretin: “Works relate to justification, sanctification, and glorification differently.”

“The godlier you become, the less godly you feel. Assurance is a community project. That’s why you need church membership.”

John Piper: The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God

“If you see the crucified and risen Christ as the most precious thing in the world, you are a walking miracle.”

“Our working is not added to God’s working. Our working is God’s working.”

 

 


Interview Your Devotions

Last year (2015) I started a different approach to my Bible reading. I had been reading through the Bible in a year, which was beneficial in many ways. Getting an overview of the Bible in 365 days gave me a wide angle lens of the narrative of God’s Word but I wanted to switch lenses and go narrower and slower. I wanted to suck more of the juices out of what I was reading.

Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines advocated for bringing questions to my devotional time as a way to do that. It made sense I thought. My job hangs on the ability to ask good questions when I go to calls. If I don’t ask questions I don’t get the answers I need to allow me to make good decisions on what happened and to figure out what kind of crime/s happened. Good, persistent questions usually produce good results for the cop.

I bough a Moleskin, wrote Whitney’s four questions on the inside cover and got to work in January 2015. I am now 14 months into this process and the experience has been satisfying. Really satisfying. Usually I will take one chapter a day and read through it. I’ll read some commentary and the study notes in my Bible and spend time meditating on certain parts of the chapter. Usually what happens is that after I read through the chapter the first time I see one or two truths, promises or commands. However, after I slow down, read the passages again, think on what I read and then begin to answer the questions, beauty and wonder begins to jump off the page. I’m able to see things and make connections that had not happened with a cursory reading.

Since last year I have modified Whitney’s questions slightly and added three more questions that seem to fill in some gaps that Whitney’s questions didn’t cover. Here they are:

  1. What does this text tell me about God?
  2. What does this text tell me about myself or humanity?
  3. Doest his text reveal something I should thank, praise or trust God for?
  4. Based on this text is there anything I need to repent of?
  5. How does this text lead me to Jesus?
  6. Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself?
  7. Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others?

This process is work. It takes work to think through it and write my observations down on paper. I need quietness and time to work through these questions, but almost always the results will reveal something I did not see from reading the text through the first time. This process draws out the sweetness, the depth, and the power of God’s Word in ways I hadn’t seen before.

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Seeing God in Everything

“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” —Charles G. Finney

The morning was one of grey skies, cloud cover and steady drizzle. I shuffled through lines, displayed my driver’s license, had someone stare at a ghost like image of my naked body through a full body scanner, and waited at the gate for my plane to fly out. The airport buzzed and hummed with the normalcy of travelers bustling from one place to the next with sights set on their next destination.

Everything was routine. The weather was mundane. There was nothing spectacular that was occurring. I sat in my in window seat and watched the raindrops scurry across the window as the plane gained speed and elevation. The distance between us and the thick, grey cloud cover lessoned, and then it all happened so quickly. Like a blink of the eye. Like a thief in the night. This tube that had two engines strapped to it punched through the clouds to display a crystal clear atmosphere that was set on fire by a ball of fire 93 million miles away from me.

In the course of five seconds the interior of our plane went from dark and cool to bright and warm, filled with the rays of the sun. My first thought was that the second coming of Jesus will be like this. My second thought was that Jesus will be even more bright and brilliant and glorious as this sun penetrating its light through my window.

Everything in this universe relates back to God because he is the Author of it all. Finney was right in helping us think on what our state of mind should be as we go through the day to day routine of life. We can see God not just on Sunday mornings, or in small group, or in a theological book that we may read. God is not just to be thought about on Christmas and Easter. For those who follow Jesus, they should see an ever increasing awareness of how everything relates back to God.

This indeed is pure grace and evidence of a thankful heart. Kindle that type of mindset.


How We Celebrate Halloween

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” I Thessalonians 5:5

I love Halloween because I love Jesus. What other day of the year do I have over 200 hundred people knocking on my door, wanting to see me (well, actually my candy). Never. Our family sees Halloween as a time in which we can let our light shine in our neighborhood by making our house stand apart from every other house. It is a time where we have the potential to build relationships that one day may lead to gospel growth. It is a time for engaging and not a time for retreat.

As a family that loves Jesus and wants others to love Jesus, here are 5 ways we can engage our neighborhood on Halloween.

  1. Let your house immediately stand out as different from other houses. While other houses have ghosts, police tape and fake heads hanging in tree limbs, we light up our tree in the front yard with white Christmas lights. I’m just waiting for that one person to ask why we have those lights on during Halloween. We also have a jack-o-lantern that has a cross on it glowing on our front step.
  2. Look for ways to draw adults to the front step for conversation. We do this by handing out coffee to the adults. They love it and it provides an opportunity to ask them where they are from and strike up a conversation.
  3. Be generous. We do this by handing out full size candy bars. Every year may not provide the budget for it, but look for ways to be extravagantly generous to people because of how Jesus has been generous to us. We want to reflect that to our neighbors.
  4. Be hospitable. I’m not a person that finds conversations easy with strangers, but for a couple hours on Halloween evening I try to make conversation with kids and adults and look for ways to make connections with people in my neighborhood.
  5. Nail 95 Theses to your front door.

Whatever it is, Christians should be the ones out in full force on Halloween and getting to know the people around them. Jesus did not shy away from darkness, rather he polluted it with the light. That is what we want to do as a family on Halloween and we hope that maybe these simple ways will lead to friendships that will allow for the gospel to take hold in other’s hearts.