4,000 Decisions to a New You (give or take)

If there is one thing I know it is that New Year’s resolutions usually last a month or two at best. But, I have this new theory I’m going to try out this year. Instead of making some specific big goals, I’ve decided this year I’m going to make 4,000+ decisions.

I think, for me anyway, I sometimes get overwhelmed with the enormity of a goal or project. This leads me to end up not doing any of it. So this year, no big goals – except one. Make 4,000 decisions this year.

I think the key to moving forward and making progress is found in the small, seemingly mundane decisions that we make every day. My theory is that with just 10-12 small, better decisions made every day, I will see more progress than with a big goal looming on the horizon.

So, 10-12, a day. Average that and you get 11. 11 Decisions a day for 365 days is 4015 small decisions (if my trusty four-function calculator isn’t lying to me). I think this is something realistic I can do and you can do too. Truth be told I probably can make more than a dozen decisions for the better each day, but let’s not go crazy.

Read a book instead of social media feeds
Zero Sugar soda instead of the sugary soda.
Water instead of the Zero sugar soda.
Apple instead of the honey bun for a snack.
Go for a walk instead of sitting down.
Write an encouraging note instead of reading discouraging Twitter feeds.
Eat the salad, not the burger.
Play a board game with my kids, instead of the game on my phone.
Reading my Bible before or instead of the mornings news.
Call a family member to visit instead of watching the life of some other family on TV.
Help with a household chore instead of watching others or procrastinating doing it.
Instead of coffee,….never mind, I’m venturing into crazy-land there.

See, 11 easy steps that will make a difference in my health, relationships, family, and my own spiritual walk. The key, I think, is making those small decisions over and over again. Before you know it, you’ve sped past 4,000 decisions and probably are the better for it.

This is my experiment for the year. I’ll let you know how it goes. Will you join me on the 4,000 decision journey?

Jesus’ True Disciples

I sometimes wonder if I am truly following Jesus?  Am I really a disciple of Jesus? Have I fooled myself by my behaviors or my cultural habits?

I’m pretty sure honest believers ask themselves the same questions from time to time. No? Just me? Even if you don’t ask yourself the question, it’s a good one to consider.

John records 3 gauges that Jesus gave to show us if we are truly following Him as a disciple.

  • Disciples Stay in the Scriptures 

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (Jn 8:31)

This one is easy to fake, especially if you’ve been around the Christian culture for a while. You can quote Scripture and you know the verses to apply in almost any given situation. But a true disciple lives in the Word. You crave it. If you had to choose between time in the Word or coffee in the morning….you’d go un-caffeinated that day. A true disciple feels weaker and unprepared for the day when the Word has been absent.

Secondly, in this area, true disciples seek to obey Christ’s words. You can’t say you want to truly follow Christ if you aren’t striving for and desiring obedience in every area of your life – even when it hurts, is uncomfortable, or includes sacrifice.  You aren’t abiding in the words of Christ if obedience and alignment with those words isn’t a high priority.

  • Disciples Love Others

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

What is your first reaction when you are around other people? Are you instinctually seeking their best and how you can bless them? That’s what you do when you love someone.  Are you willing to go out of your way to help and serve them or is your go to response to wonder what they can do for you?

Scripture tells us that we as believers are to care for others and love them. In his later letter, John says that love of others is proof of salvation and a lack of love proves that you are still dead in sin. We know what love is because we’ve experience love from Christ in his sacrifice for us. This serves as our model for loving others.

Loving others means going out of our way for others. It includes prayer, encouragement, help, time, effort, and relationship. So, am I really loving others? Or am I just trying to look out for myself. Disciples – they love others first.

  • Disciples Bear Fruit

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

Apple trees bear apples. Pear trees produce pears. Grape vines produce grapes. You get the picture.  Disciples produce disciples.

The fruit of a disciple’s life includes many things – faithfulness, obedience, commitment, holiness. However, these things in and of themselves aren’t the fullness of “fruit.” You see, disciples should produce…..disciples.

We must include all of the habits and behavior of a godly life, but, that life should result in reproduction of the faithful life into other people. The fruit of discipleship is more disciple. We should not just seek to live a sinless, obedient life ourselves, but should seek to see the godly life replicated in others.  A true disciple seeks to invest in the life of others to help them faithfully become disciples of Christ too.

Jesus has given us three simple measurements to see if we are really his disciple. Can more be said about following Jesus? Sure. But, being a disciple certainly can’t be less than these three things.

Am I a disciple of Christ? Some days I think I do this better than others.  But today,  I will strive to abide in the Word, Love others, and bear fruit. Will you?

My Mistake

“Jesus replied, ‘Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scripture,
and you don’t know the power of God.'”
Matthew 22:29

When Jesus replied with these words he was responding to Sadducees who were trying to trip him up and catch him in order to accuse him. The Sadducees didn’t even believe in a resurrection of the dead, yet they were questioning Jesus about the resurrection, and Jesus just cuts to the chase and tells them – “you’re wrong.”

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Header Image Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

Even though we don’t like it and almost never want to hear it, there are times we need to hear we are wrong. Hearing that I’m wrong stings and a lot of times we’ll do whatever we can to avoid hearing it. But that doesn’t change the truth that we need to hear it.

Jesus tells us why we end up doing the wrong things and thinking the wrong ways is because we have misunderstood Scripture and we don’t truly understand God. When we are trying to justify our behaviors or our own desires, we’ll look for ways to rationalize what Scripture says and twist it to fit our own narrative. We are all professionals at rationalizing our own behavior. We don’t even have to learn how to do this, we just do it.

What’s the solution? What’s the vaccine that will inoculate us from bending God’s word to align with our understanding and instead help us line up our thinking to the truths of Scripture?

  1. Know God’s Word
    This is more than just acknowledging the Bible as an important thing. This means we KNOW it. We memorize it and apply it to our lives. Psalm 119:11 – I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (NLT) – becomes our anthem, not just a quoted phrase. We hide the word in our hearts because it is what will keep us from sinning and going a wrong way. We must seek His understanding of Scripture, His intent, and His meaning behind the words – not what we’d like them to mean.

    We must examine our own purposes in applying Scripture and ensure that we aren’t asking with ulterior motives or just to reinforce our own desires. Does this mean we won’t always like the application in our life? Yep. Often. But that doesn’t change in the least bit our need to synchronize our lives with the true meaning of Scripture. We must do this even when, and maybe especially when, it irritates us and goes against our own desires, urges, experiences, and behaviors. We must always interpret our lives by a right understanding of Scripture, and not do the easier reverse of that by using our experiences or thoughts to interpret Scripture.
  2. Know God’s Power
    The ability to trust God’s Word when we don’t like what it says comes from truly knowing the God who is revealed in that Scripture. When we know that God is the sovereign ruler of all creation and all things are under his control, we can begin to trust what he says, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)”Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” When we don’t understand or initially agree, we tend to go back to our own understanding and trusting ourselves.

    Truly knowing the all-powerful, all-knowing God helps us obey when we don’t understand. We know he has the power to turn every situation for our good and his glory. He gives the strength to obey when every fiber of our being wants to do our own thing. He gives the peace we need when we choose what is right even though its hard and the world doesn’t understand why we make the God-honoring choice. HIs power comforts us in our weaknesses and our feelings of loss when we don’t do what the world does, but choose his way instead.

My mistakes? I make plenty of them. The reason I make most of them is that I’m wrong. I’m responding without applying the knowledge of God’s Word and His power. God’s word I’ve not hidden in my heart, therefore I sin against him. I trust in myself first, and I depend on my own understanding. These two “mistakes” are deadly and will lead us astray every time. Hear Jesus’ words where it applies today – you are wrong. The sooner we correct the error, know Scripture, and know God’s power, we can begin to live the life he has for us and avoid these mistakes.

All messed up?

Ever feel like you’ve messed it all up?

Perhaps it’s not that you feel that way, but you’ve really messed up – done what was wrong – what you knew you shouldn’t have done.

Maybe you’re like me and this describes you more than you’d like. When I get to that point, I tend to questions whether or not God wants to use me or even can use me.

Thankfully, Scripture gives us hope, even when we’ve messed up.

Genesis 16.

God has promised Abram that he will make a great people out of him, but he has no kids. So, Abram and his wife, Sarai, take matters into their own hands. They decide Abram should build this nation with his wife’s servant, Hagar. So, Abram has a son with his wife’s servant, and I imagine at the end of chapter 16, he’s thinking, “ok, God, I helped you out. Here’s how you can do what you promised. I’ve figured it out.”

Then chapter 17.

God comes to Abram and reminds him:
1. I am God. (therefore you are not.)
2. You need to walk in relationship with me.
3. You need to avoid sin.
4. I’ll keep my promises and accomplish my purposes.

Then God tells Abram that his name is now Abraham. He gives him a new identity – one wrapped up in what God is doing through him. God will make a multitude of people from his lineage. God says Sarai, who we’ll now call Sarah, will have your son that will be the people of my covenant.

Abraham then says, “But God, I’ve already taken care of that part. I’ve got a son. Sarah’s too old. Here, God, use my efforts and my idea of how to do things.”

God replies, “no.”

Now in Scripture, God continues to tell Abraham how we would do what he planned, but I image immediately after God said “no” to Abraham that he felt a little sheepish – thinking in that moment – “I’ve messed up.” He might have wondered if he had messed everything up so much that it was unrecoverable. Maybe he thought, “there’s no way God will use me now.”

Thankfully we serve a God who is “ready to forgive, gracious, and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Neh. 9:17 ESV). God didn’t reject Abraham. Instead he still used him even though he tried to do things his own way.

Take heart, friend, God won’t reject us either. Even if we mess up or try to do things our own way. God won’t reject us because he is a gracious and merciful God. (Neh. 9:28, 31)

So when you are distraught because you’ve done it your way, you’ve taken a road that leads away from God, remember the God’s words to Abraham.

1. I am God. (therefore you are not.)
2. You need to walk in relationship with me.
3. You need to avoid sin.
4. I’ll keep my promises and accomplish my purposes.

Now, what do we do?

1. Recognize God is in ultimate control.
2. Seek a true relationship with Him.
3. Turn from sin and live obediently
4. Trust God’s timing and provision for his will to be done.

When we do this, God will accomplish his plan in our life because he is gracious and merciful. His patience with us extends beyond our stubbornness. We’ll never mess things up so badly that he won’t use us if we’ll but return to him.

Breathe Again…As Though for the First Time

I don’t typically comment publicly about social issues or specific current events. When I do, I  try to reserve my comments to private or at least in-person conversations and to be sure I have all pertinent information and can have a balanced, accurate perspective. Over the last week, the racism issue in our nation has been heavy on my heart and mind. The scenes from Minneapolis are appalling and it is undeniably wrong what happened to George Floyd. At this point, I can’t say nothing. So here are a few, hopefully coherent, thoughts.

I know of no one who is condoning what happened. I don’t pretend to know the true motives of the police in that incident, but it is hard to imagine that the race of Mr. Floyd did not play into it at least a little. I have family in law enforcement and I’m thankful for them. So, I called my brother and asked if a knee on the neck was ever taught to him in his training as proper method of restraint. Thankfully, he responded with a resounding no and that this was bad policing. In some ways if that had been taught, it would be easier to fix. Fix the training – fix the problem. However, as I figured, it is a much deeper issue.

The thing that broke my heart the most in this was the seeming indifference of those who committed to protect and serve their community. There should be effort to protect and care for every person – even if they are rightly detained. The indifference displayed in the attitude and responses of the officers involved in the George Floyd video revealed a deeper issue of hatred and lack of concern for the sanctity of human life.  I see this as one of the bigger issues. We must regain an appreciation and love for every person – no matter the color of their skin. Hearing George Floyd say “I can’t breathe” is heartbreaking, but for many they echo this sentiment from their own experiences.

Racism isn’t a uniquely American issue. I’ve traveled to enough places to know it is a dominant experience in the world for many. Our sin nature leads humans to hate and to regard as lesser people those who are not like us.  Some may say – that’s the issue we need to deal with- it’s just a sin issue. True, racism is, at its heart, a sin issue. However, sometimes sin manifests itself in a specific sin. In this case racism – which has been a plague on our nation and world for far too long.

I can’t solve the racism issue around the world. Truthfully, I can’t even change it all in our nation. But I can make a difference where I am. I can speak up when I see it around me and I will do my part to change the hearts of those around me. The only true cure is the gospel – the truth of Jesus Christ that he came to forgive sins and make us new creations. Christ in us should change our hearts and our thinking.

But now is not the time to just quote Scripture or justicestand on platitudes. So here are a couple of realizations I’ve concluded the last few days and what I think we each can do to help.

White privilege is real – maybe not as much because of skin tone, but because of being in the majority in the culture. I know for some this thought is a trigger and honestly I’ve questioned it in the past. I read today a definition that really helped it “click” for me. It said, “white privilege doesn’t mean that your life isn’t difficult, it means that your skin color isn’t one of the things contributing to the difficulty.” I know what it’s like to be somewhere and to not physically blend in. I’ve felt it in other countries where everyone looked at me because my skin tone was different. It was uncomfortable to say the least. But, I’ve never been followed or had someone question me or suspect I was up to no good because of the color of my skin and I’ve not experienced it continually in my own country.

Recently, my son turned 16 and started driving. That’s a scary moment for any parent, but I never felt the need to sit him down and have a specific conversation about how to respond if he was pulled over. I never warned him to be extra careful in that situation because his movements or motives might be seen as suspicious. I understand this conversation is a reality in many minority families around our nation.  The need for this type of conversation needs to stop.

Also, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is one of those terms that is a lightning rod for many. It is often responded to with “ALL lives matter.” True all lives matter. But I heard a pastor say this and it hit home with me. To paraphrase him, the reason the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is important is that for so long, for so many, black lives didn’t matter.  We must be better than that and we must show that the lives of black people do matter and will fight to show that they do.

We who have any amount of privilege or ability need to make sure we are doing everything we can to bring others along too, and to fight for the personhood, dignity, and sanctity of those who are less-privileged and less-able. That’s what we who are Christians should do. Jesus sacrificed his own “privilege” for the good of others, for us. (Phil. 2)

What do we do? How do I as an individual make a difference. Two thoughts:

First, we follow Scripture. I think we do like James instructs us and we become “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  All of us need to listen and not try to always have an answer or reply. Sometimes we just need to hear and try to understand. Then we need to be slow to speak and get angry. This is difficult in a culture that feeds on extremes in the news media and on social media. But we need to remember than James also tells us that man’s anger doesn’t produce godly righteousness. Instead of becoming angry, “receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.” Turn to what Scripture says. Which leads me to the next action step.

Second, love your neighbor as yourself. We need to get to know our neighbor who doesn’t look like us. I’ve been reminded of a story my grandfather told me about growing up in segregated, rural, eastern Arkansas. Possibly as racially divided a place as ever existed. There was a boy named Joe who lived down the creek from them and would come to their place and they’d play together. He and Joe were friends. But Joe was black and had to go to a different school. He told me that he didn’t understand then why Joe couldn’t go to his white school. Why did my grandfather feel this way about Joe? Because he and Joe were friends.

Part of the problem I think is that we just need to be better neighbors and friends. Stop and talk to the family that lives on your street that is a different color than you are. Get to know them, invite them over for a cook-out. Ask them how their day was at work or how their family is doing. Get to know them as people, not just by their color. Maybe I’m naïve, but I really think if all of us will make a better effort at this simple act, house by house, heart by heart, we can make a difference.

One of my biggest fears right now is that the rioting and looting will distract from the message. Early last week I sensed that the heart of America was ready for a change. It is time for senseless racism to end. My prayer is and I have confidence that justice will be served for George Floyd and any of the others who have been wrongly killed. Each of us needs do our part to stand up against injustice wherever we see it, fight for the rights and good of others, love one another, and assume the best of others first. We need to do this now so that the people of our nation can breathe again…and some as though for the first time.

3 Questions to Ask Before Things Go Back to “Normal”

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused much change in everyone’s daily life. It has upended our schedules and re-oriented our focus. As our nation considers opening again, this is a good time for us to do some personal inventory.

It could be that God has given us this pause in life to help us evaluate and reflect how we fill our time. Psalm 90:12 encourages us to number our days, to consider how long our life is and how short it really is. In doing so, the Psalmist says we will gain a heart of wisdom.  We will gain wisdom and understanding to what is truly important in our lives and what isn’t nearly as vital as we may have thought previously.

Here are 3 questions that will help you evaluate your own life and gain some wisdom:

1. What things did I miss?

There are some things that we have really missed during this time of distancing. For me gathering with my church family and small group and gatherings with my extended family are the things I’ve missed most. What do you miss most? When distancing guidelines are relaxed, commit to not taking these things for granted in the future.  Commit to them and value them more.

2. What things did I NOT miss? 

busy peopleFor our family, our schedule came to a screeching halt. All meetings, activities, and outings were canceled. But, we did not miss the busyness of our lives. We now go several days without referencing our calendar, whereas before we’d need to check multiple times daily. The slower pace of life has been refreshing and enjoyable. The truth is, none of us must add back everything that was in our schedules previously. Some of us need to learn the phrase, “no, I’m sorry I can’t.” While there are some things that necessarily must resume, all the sports, activities, and busyness don’t have to come back.

3. What new things do I enjoy?

What have you been able to do during this time that you have enjoyed? Have you had more time for prayer and Bible Study? Enjoy more evenings at home with dinner around the table? Have you had more time for conversation, reading, or hobbies? These are things that help us grow, mature, and relax. When schedules resume, make sure you prioritize time for these new or revived life-giving activities.

When things eventually open back up and the world tries to lure you back into its hectic pace. What will you do? Will you have wasted this hiatus and jump back in the rat-race, or will you have taken the time to, as the Psalmist says, “number your days?” You can have a heart of wisdom coming out of this quarantine that I believe will give you more peace, greater focus in life, and more time for the things that really matter.  Just remember these three simple things:

The things you miss – don’t take them for granted.

The things you don’t miss – don’t add them back.

The new things you enjoy – make time for them.

 What would be on your list?

Top 10 Take-aways from SBC 2019

This week marked my 3rd SBC annual meeting to attend. It’s not often that people look forward to attending a business meeting. However, I now look forward to this one each year. I strongly believe that churches that support the SBC should make the effort and investment to attend the annual meeting. If you are going to invest thousands or tens of thousands of dollars or more into an organization, you should want to know what is going on and be there to have a say in the decisions that are made.  So, here are the top-10 things in my mind as I head home from Birmingham.

sbc meeting10.  Business Meeting:  It is somewhat amazing that it is possible to have a meeting with over 8,000 people and have times when any messenger can stand up and make a comment or a motion. Now, there are rules that regulate the times of business, but the simple fact that any messenger can have a say speaks to the openness of the SBC. There always a little suspense, because you never know who is going to say what next.

9.  CP (Cooperative Program): Each time I attend an event like this I become a bigger proponent of the Cooperative Program of the SBC. This allows all entities to work together for the betterment of all in a non-competitive manner. There truly is a spirit of cooperation within the leadership and various parts of the SBC. I believe this is healthy for both our churches and the individual entities. 

8. Seminary Presidents: Every time I hear these men speak I am encouraged by and thankful for their leadership at our 6 SBC seminaries. Each of these schools is in good hands. Drs. Mohler (SBTS), Allen(MBTS), Kelley (NOBTS), Iorg (GS), Akin (SEBTS), Greenway (SWBTS), and Dew (NOBTS-elect) are inspiring and excited about leading their respective schools to train men and women to effectively lead our churches and take the gospel to the nations. Pray for these men and the great task assigned to our seminaries.

nobts7.  Dr. Dew at NOBTS. My alma mater has a new president. I’ve not met him personally, but hearing him speak at the Alumni dinner and during the convention report further convinced me that he is God’s man to lead NOBTS. I’m excited to see how God will use him to lead the school of providence and prayer. I’m convinced that NOBTS has great days ahead of her.

6. President Greear: In 20016, I voted for and had hoped that JD Greear would be elected president of the SBC. However, I now see God had plans to use him at a critical time in the life of our convention. I truly believe he is the right man to help our churches navigate the current difficult issues facing the SBC. Dr. Greear led our convention with grace, courage, and clarity. The convention was marked by times of prayer and a spirit of humility and lament that are needed today.  I look forward to how God will use him to lead our convention of churches this next year.

5.  ERLC:  The SBC is blessed to have the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and that it is led by Dr. Russell Moore. He speaks prophetically to our culture. The thing about prophets – a lot of people don’t like what they have to say. I’d be the first to say that I’ve not always agreed with everything he’s said or even maybe the way it was said. But, I am thankful that God has given Russell Moore to the SBC for this time. We need his voice of clarity speaking during these cloudy days of confusion.

Whosyouronelogo4. Who’s Your One:  NAMB is leading this evangelistic emphasis this coming year to help our churches refocus on the urgent task of evangelism.  Provided I heard the statistic correctly,  if only 10% of SBC church members accepted this challenge, the SBC would set a record for baptisms this coming year.  It is simply one person finding one person to pray for and seek a time to share the gospel with them. This speaks to the core of who we are as Southern Baptists.

3. Unity in the SBC: There genuinely is a spirit of unity in the SBC. No, we don’t all agree on everything. We DO agree on the vital things.  If you only read certain blogs, mainstream news reports, Twitter, or other social media. You might think the SBC is in turmoil right now or that there is a big division among the churches. This simply is not true, so don’t listen to the naysayers. Most of those people weren’t here or have an agenda. I was at the meeting and there was great harmony and a celebrative atmosphere at the convention this year. I come away convinced that the SBC is still strong and has good days ahead of her.

2. History: The SBC messengers made some big historic moves this week. The convention overwhelmingly voted to amend the SBC Constitution to  change the definition of churches that are in in cooperation with the convention. First the convention voted that churches must act in a manner consistent with the convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse. Churches that do not act accordingly will no longer be considered cooperating chruches. Also, the convention, which as founded by slaveholders many years ago, voted this year to define a cooperating church as one that does not “affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.”Not only were constitutional changes approved, but the bylaws were amended to ensure that there are more efficient mechanisms to ensure churches abide by the cooperating principles.

2(a). Abuse: It wasn’t just words and resolutions this year. Several parts of the SBC worked together to put into action things to help churches prevent abuse and care for the abused. Free resources are available. (churchcares.com) There is not excuse now.

imb.jpg1. IMB: The International Mission Board sending celebration makes the annual journey to the annual meeting worth the trip. Before this part of the program started, my wife leaned over and said, “it’ll be difficult for this to be better than last year’s celebration.” Soon we’d see she was incorrect. It is always good to see and hear from the ones who are obeying God’s call to take the gospel to the nations. It’s moving to know that most are going to places that are difficult and dangerous – sacrificing the luxuries and comforts of home for the sake of the calling God has given to all believers. If you are a part of the SBC, do yourself a favor and make sure you attend one of these celebrations at least once in your life. This celebration is the best example of the reason the SBC exists. 

There were more great things to share, but I limited myself to 10. Now, I’m looking forward to Orlando in 2020.

2020Florida

Government Funded Adoption

In recent days there has been much conversation and many social media posts about abortion vs. adoption. A common social media theme I’ve seen multiple times in response to this is that adoption should be easier and cheaper than abortion, (for the record, I agree!)  then maybe more people would adopt or choose adoption. You’ve probably seen this picture or a similaradoptionone floating around the internet and social media claiming the government should fund adoptions instead of abortion. The truth is our government does fund adoptions (more on that in a minute.) and adoption is accessible for many people who think it isn’t. So, here are three of the common things that people claim keep them from adopting and why they aren’t a genuine excuse. 

It’s too expensive.  I can’t afford the $30,000 it costs to adopt.
True, adoption can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be and I speak from experience on this point. Two of my four children are adopted, and I think our out of pocket expenses for both of them combined was $24. So, why do some say it costs so much? The expensive adoptions are through private agencies or international adoptions. There are many costs associated with adopting. Background checks, home studies, training, legal fees, lawyer fees, case workers, and adoption specialists are just a few of the expenses. This doesn’t even include the travel expenses if adopting overseas.

Then, how did we do it for approximately $12 per adoption.  We adopted through the government funded program for adoption. Yes this means foster care and later adoption. Our government (at least in my state) covers nearly 100% of the expenses associated with adoption through the state agency except the cost of having a new birth certificate produced. In fact, through the process and in many cases continuing after adoption, the government will send a tax-free stipend to help with the living and medical expenses of children adopted through them. So, to say that our government doesn’t fund adoptions isn’t true, it just doesn’t fund private adoptions. Even then, however, it does provide some tax benefits for private adoptions. If you want to adopt, there are ways to do it on a budget.

Oh, and by the way, just because our adoptions weren’t expensive, doesn’t mean they weren’t costly. There are many difficult nights and long days. There were days we didn’t know if we’d get to adopt the little ones who had lived in our homes so long. There is great emotional toll. And truthfully, we spent money we wouldn’t have spent otherwise on these kids. So, just because we didn’t need to save or borrow large amounts of money, there were, and always will be, costs associated with adoption.

It’s too difficult. There are too many steps to qualify to adopt. 
Yes. It is a difficult and laborious process. There are seemingly endless stacks of forms that have to be completed. Yes, there are background checks and training and home inspections. Yes, they are invasive. Yes, parts of it seem ridiculous. Yes, you feel like you’ll never get through the process. But do we really want the government or private agencies placing children in homes without doing their due diligence to ensure that it is a safe and stable environment? If these things weren’t required, there would be outcry then too. So, these things are just consequences of the state of our world.  The process is hard, but it is doable and worth it.

It takes too long. You have to wait so long for a child that it isn’t worth the wait.
Ok, if you want a newborn, Caucasian child, you’ll have to wait…probably a long time. But right now in the United States there are over 100,000 kids waiting to be adopted. That means their parents’ rights have already been terminated and they are just waiting to be matched with a family. There are kids out there waiting on a family.  True, many of these are teens, sibling groups, or minorities. But that in no way diminishes their worth or need for a loving home and family. If more people were willing to consider opening their hearts and homes to these kids, imagine the difference that could be made in these lives.

Maybe you’ve thought about adopting and one of these excuses is what has kept you from doing it. Stop making excuses. There could be a kid out there who is waiting on you to do the difficult things and take a step of faith. It’s heartbreaking to me that in my city there are enough empty bedrooms every night to take care of the adoption needs of my entire state. Yet, so many people go home to an empty house with an non-invested, unengaged, and unconcerned life and lifestyle.

There are some who can’t adopt for legitimate reasons. For you, there are ways you can help and support other foster and adoptive families – it’s time to do it. For others, stop saying you can’t and at least be honest and just say you won’t. But, for some, it’s time to get up and start the process.

WTR: Time of Crucifixion / Simon & the Cross / Sign Language Scripture / Know You’re Dead /

Worth the Read is a regular post with links to articles (or other items) that I found interesting or encouraging in the last few days. If you are looking for something to read, these things aren’t a waste of time.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything that is said in these posts, but they challenged or stretched my thinking in some way. As far as the content goes, use the best – ignore the rest! 

clock 2 blueWhat Hour Was Jesus Crucified? Resolving an Apparent Bible Contradiction: Justin Taylor
What was the time of day? Sometimes the biblical descriptions of the times surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion may seem somewhat cryptic to the western mind. Justin Taylor’s article here helps clarify some of the understanding of time during the time Jesus was on Earth. Helpful quick read this Easter weekend.

simon2What’s the Significance of Simon Carrying Jesus’ Cross: John Piper
The Bible mentions some individuals with what seems to be a passing reference. Simon the Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross is one of these characters. John Piper considers some possible reasons that Simon was included in the Gospel accounts and some things that his inclusion may teach and indicate for us.

hands 23 Reasons the Deaf Need Scripture in Sign Language: Melanie Clinton
Everyone understands Scripture best when it’s presented in their heart language. For the Deaf in the USA this would be in ASL. However, this requires video recordings of Scripture. Any written version is in a second language for the Deaf. Check out this article the IMB shared to gain a fuller understanding of this need.

brain 2Scientist Says When We Die Our Brains Know We Are Dead:  Venus Upadhayaya
I’m sure there are many who are skeptical about some of the things written in this article. And I am no proponent of what some have called “heaven tourism” writings where some purport to have experience “heaven” in their own “near-death” experience. However, it is interesting to consider this article- specifically because I do believe there is life after this temporal world.

WTR: Forgiveness / Gap Year / You Don’t Love Jesus

Worth the Read is a regular post with links to articles (or other items) that I found interesting or encouraging in the last few days. If you are looking for something to read, these things aren’t a waste of time.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything that is said in these posts, but they challenged or stretched my thinking in some way. As far as the content goes, use the best – ignore the rest! 

prisonA Prison for our Souls:  Deepak Reju
Tabletalk magazine is a monthly devotional magazine that is published by Ligonier ministries and is one I use regularly in my personal devotional time. This writing was one that was timely for me and truly spoke to my heart. Forgiveness is an action that Christians often talk about, but is also one that is not always easy to put into practice. Read this article to help free yourself from the prison of bitterness.

lecture hallWhy Today’s Generation of High Schoolers Need a Gap Year: Rob Ribbe
I’ve often been a proponent of  a “gap year.” Most students entering college are just learning to be on their own and trying to figure out life. Many students entering college end up changing their majors before they graduate. This article is an interesting read about the intentional “gap year” that Wheaton has developed – focusing on solidifying a Christian foundation before college.

stained glass‘I Love Jesus But Not the Church’ Just Means You Don’t Love JesusGrayson Gilbert
You’ve heard it before that people love Jesus, just not the church. Gilbert tackles this common misconceived possibility head-on. While it sounds spiritual and justified, it just isn’t biblical. After all, “the reality is that the entire New Testament presupposes you are going to be part of an institutionalized, local church.”

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