Family Forum

Psalm 78:6-7 ~ ...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God...

My prayer is that you will be helped, encouraged, and challenged by some of the things I post on this blog. I make no claims to be an expert in leading a family. I make no claims in being the model spiritual leader in the home, but I do love God's word, and I do love to remind myself daily of how gracious and merciful and steadfast in his love God is, I do want to make the cross of Jesus Christ central in my home, and I do want to be helpful to those whom God has entrusted me to care for. We are all on this journey together to tell the next generation the praises of God so that our children and our children's children will set their hope in God.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Reflection

This week during our family time we devoted our time expressing what things we are thankful for. I reminded the children (along with Julien our exchange student) that a thankful heart is indicative of one who understands, knows, and believes what Jesus Christ did for us when He died on the cross for our sins. I reminded them that it is God’s will for His children to be thankful (1 Thess 5:18).

So we took the time to reflect on what things we’ve been thankful for over the past few months. Last night it was exciting to listen to the kids express what things they were thankful for. In the past it’s often been things like “our home” or “family” or “a good church” and so forth. And we rejoice with them when they express thanksgiving for such things. We remind them that “every good gift” is from the Lord. Over the past several months our time, energy, resources and finances have been focused on bringing home our children from the Philippines. At times our faith is strong and at other times our faith is weak. Certain moments we clearly see the hand of God behind the process we are going through, and at other times God seems to be inactive. But as I listened to each one of my children express their thankfulness, I couldn’t keep my eyes from welling up with tears because their comments reminded me of how good God has been during this process. It reminded me that they are watching their mom and dad attempt to put their faith in action. It reminded me that as LaNae and I make every effort to act out our faith, it gives them that much more motivation to act out their faith. Each of our kids, in their own way, expressed how thankful they were to see how God is growing our faith as we watch Him work through this adoption process. Claire expressed thankfulness in the Lord’s provision financially. Cade expressed thankfulness in how God is growing his affections for his sisters even though they are in Philippines at the moment. Kailyn expressed thankfulness for how God must be pleased to watch His church respond to the needs of His people.

A lot of the things that we are waiting for during this adoption process are outside of “our control.” This only elevates our need to be dependent on Him throughout the whole process. It’s been hard for them at times to watch mommy and daddy wrestle with what God is doing, but it’s been a joy for them when they see the Lord answer in real specific ways. These times of trusting and waiting have been a valuable lesson for them (and us as well) to learn. They (we) have seen God work in so many different ways. They have seen faith acted out even though it seems foolish in the eyes of many.

As I think about what the Lord is taking us through during this time, I don’t always see the good in it. I often need to be reminded that God is always honored when we seek to step out in faith. And when I listen to my children express their complete faith and trust in the Lord, I’m reminded that their view of God is affected by my view of God. If I believe my God is small they will view God as small. When I view my God as one who is able to do above and beyond what I can think or imagine, they will view God the same way. It gives them a view of how big our God is. It gives them a perspective that our God is bigger than our pocket book. He’s bigger than our savings account. He’s bigger than our ability to plan. In fact often he disrupts our plans to show us and remind us just how big he is.

I have much to be thankful for, and I am thankful to the Lord that he used the faith of my children to show me where mine was lacking.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Walking by Faith, Part 6 - Faith and the Sovereignty of God

This week as I’ve been reading through the familiar story of Joseph in Genesis 37 and following, I was struck more strongly than ever before in my previous readings of this story regarding the sovereignty of God. I think my understanding of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty can be at times so intellectual that I forget what it looks like in every day life. I can quote passages such as Psalm 115:3 or Daniel 4:35 and a host of other verses that describe the sovereignty of God and yet it remains as an intellectual understanding. When it comes to “big” things that are obviously out of “my control,” I can attribute it to the sovereignty of God. Things that happen to me “passively” are easier to accept under the sovereign hand of God.

Recently, we’ve been trying to get all immigration paper work taken care of on our end so that we can begin the process of moving forward with the adoption of the twin girls from the Philippines. The fingerprinting department in the federal building is having a difficult time getting fingerprints from LaNae. We don’t know why. I don't have control over LaNae’s fingerprints. Therefore, I can give this issue over to the Lord and trust him. I just received a phone call from the auto service department and we have a large repair bill on our car. These things have to get done, and again I can give this over to the Lord and trust him, that this is all under his sovereign control.

But what about the day to day things? Yesterday I came home and our garage door wasn’t working properly. The kids came out to meet me in the garage after I opened it with the garage door opener. It opened OK, but when I closed it I heard a bang that sound like someone threw a fast pitched baseball against our garage. The kids told me that “mommy ran into the garage,” and that’s why it wasn’t working right. As I think back over my response now, and in my heart there was anger and bitterness, “Why couldn’t she just look over her shoulder to see if the door was completely open?” I thought to myself. At that moment, why did I not stop and give thanks to the Lord for this opportunity to trust in his sovereign hand? Because, I still love to be “in control.” Deep down inside I feel like I can control every situation and if we just do the right things everything will turn out “right” and we won’t have any problems.

The story of Joseph supports the theological truth that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him and are called according to His purpose. This includes those things we view as “small” things and the “big” things. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty must move from an intellectual understanding towards a practical reality for every believer in the Lord. I’m thankful – now - for the events that unfolded yesterday with the garage because it showed me the issue of “control” that still needs to be purged out of my heart. It taught me that a life of faith believes in the sovereignty of God both in the “small” and “big” things of life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Walking by Faith, Part 5 – From Genesis 32-33

Walking by faith and self-sufficiency are contradicting terms. When God calls us to walk by faith it is not an immediate or natural act that takes place in the believer. Most often He has to chisel away at these things we take comfort in. When Jacob was faced with the reality of meeting Esau, he was faced with the reality of meeting Esau he was overcome by fear; and rightly so. He had deceived him and stolen the blessing from him. So it would have been “right” (worldly speaking) for Esau to take vengeance on Jacob. This is what Jacob feared, but this is also what demonstrated to him that he needed to recall the faithfulness of God. He had received report that Esau was 400 men strong. This would not go over well for Jacob if he found himself in a military war with Esau. His pleading with the LORD is a good example of what we are to do in the midst of fear. How often this act becomes our final act; what we often do first is gather information. We try to weigh out all the pros and cons. This is all good and some would call it wisdom – and it is. Sometimes, however, we try to make sure all of our “ducks are in a row.” That’s what Jacob was doing. But finally he knew there was nothing he could do. At this point God was still pealing back his self-sufficiency; helping him see how much he needs the Lord in all his decisions.

This is an important for us to remember. We can make every effort to put just the right pieces together. We can attempt to make it look like we have everything lined up, but in the end, God wants us to be solely dependent upon Him. In times of great fear believers should recall the promises of God, because in order to become a man or woman of faith, God must first purge from our hearts the propensity to be self-sufficient.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Walking by Faith, Part 4

In Genesis chapter 31, it was clear that Jacob had learned what he needed to learn in the 20 years of oppression under Laban. God used those years to convince him that his God is faithful to His promises. For the nation of Israel, they would have seen the faithfulness of God despite their 400 years of bondage to Egyptian rule. It would be tempting to forget all about the patriarchs and what God promised through them, as they undergo difficulties upon entering the Promised Land. God’s blessings were an indication that He was with them. In the same way God’s blessings is an indication that He is with us and will never leave us nor forsake us. For the believer, those blessings primarily are “every spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms” mentioned in Ephesians chapter one.

Spiritual blessings are longer lasting than material blessing. Therefore every believer must realize that their spiritual blessings far outweigh any material blessings they might gain. Should we then all the more be faithfully obedient to the call of God in our lives? Should we then not all the more trust in God’s provision and protection? When Jesus said “follow me” he was saying follow my way of life “go outside the camp and bear the reproach I will bear.” Because there is blessing their far beyond you can imagine.

God’s message to Jacob was to “leave Laban, but be ready because their will be tension with Laban and then you will experience tension with Esau, but I am with you and will protect you.”

It’s easy to forget that as believers, regardless of our material status, that we are blessed far beyond we can imagine. We get excited about bread crumbs when there is an entire bakery that awaits us in heaven. It’s sad isn’t it? But this is where our hearts must desperately change. We must pray for the Lord to cause our hearts to grow more content with who we are and what we have in Christ. We must pray that the Lord would guard our hearts from being satisfied with material possessions and that we would continue moving “outside the camp” – bearing the reproach of Christ. We must pray that we do not become too comfortable with American Christianity.

Our prayer must be, “Lord, what else can I give up. I know I hold on to my possessions so tightly, but there is so much more to let go. Help me to obey your call to follow you.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

Walking by Faith, Part 3

In Genesis 26:1-11, we learn that when God kept Isaac from leaving the land promised to Abraham, God reiterated the promise with him but then had to protect Rebekah from Abimelech when Isaac lied about her. Isaac received the great promises and the instruction for obedience, just as Abraham. However, because of fear he used deception towards the men of Gerar, thus making a mockery of his faith.

The maneuver done in this story by Isaac is quite shocking considering he just saw an appearance of the Lord. He received revelation that God was with him and that the promise to Abraham would be passed on to him because of Abraham’s obedience. But soon after the reiteration of the promise his faith began to wane. He looked at his situation in Gerar and then he was moved with fear. Why…because Abimelech was stronger and more powerful than he. He took the road of deception as his way of fleeing this fearful situation. He followed the example of Abraham. In fact, he made a mockery of the promises just reminded to him by God.

As I think about this story I can recall the many ways I make or have made a mockery of God’s promises. Every time I fail to follow what His word says, I make a mockery of Him because I’m saying that what his word says has no purpose in my life. By not following the commands of scripture, I am saying I don’t believe obedience to God will please Him and bring unforeseen blessing in my life. Faith boldly faces danger, but fear makes a mockery of faith. When I falter in my faith, I’m reminded that God will carry out His promises not because of my obedience or lack of it, but because of one man’s obedience (Jesus, cf. Romans 5:19). This should motivate me all the more to walk by faith and not by fear. Paul’s words in Phil 4:6 should be my response should when I’m afraid.

Let us walk in obedience because of the one who walked fully obedient. Let us not forget that in not sparing His Son – He will not spare any good thing from us that will only bolster our faith all the more.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Walking by Faith, Part 2

Genesis 22:11 says, “But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ 12) He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 13) And Abraham lifted up his eyes looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14) So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’…”

Do I hold on to the child or do I hold on to the character of God? Do I obey God or do I obey my own desires? These were the questions Abraham was faced with. To what extent would he obey what the Lord was calling him to do? The passage is about a test, but not the kind of test that we frequently find in Scripture that introduces some type of adversity so that the believer is then called to respond in faith. This story calls the people of Israel to follow God at a whole new level. Egypt was comfortable. Even though they were in bondage under the Egyptians, at least they knew they would have food, shelter, and clothing. The Lord called them to leave the comforts of Egypt and go into a land that is unfamiliar and hostile to God. From a human perspective, it was a foolish thing for them to leave Egypt, travel through the wilderness, and go to unfamiliar land. But to what extent would the people of God obey? The story of Abraham would remind them not of Abraham’s faith, but more so of the Lord’s hand to provide. This would be an encouragement for the people of Israel to see their “father” exercise such faith. They were being called upon as a nation to exercise the same kind of faith as they wait to enter the Promised Land. Yes, throughout the story of Abraham, they watched a man who at times walked by faith and at other times walked by fear. When he trusted that God would provided he walked by faith, but when he was overcome by his fear he began to walk by sight (i.e. Genesis 16 and 20). The story of Genesis 22 is the climax of Abraham’s story (which began in Genesis 12, when God called him out of the comforts of Ur) when he finally resolved completely in his heart and mind that the LORD is a God who provides. Regardless of what situation he finds himself in, regardless of what God is calling him to do he believed that the LORD would provide. The reason for this is explained to us by the author of Hebrews, “By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back…’” (Hebrews 11:9ff)

God calls his people, back then and even to this day, to obey him in ways that may seem foolish or baffling to you and to the rest of the world. We are called to make choices that to the world would seem inexplicable but to those walking closely with God seem right. God calls us to obey things that seem foolish to the world, but in the end He receives the glory in our steps of obedience. God is the giver of all good things. “Do I hold on to the child or hold on to the character of God? Do I obey God or do I obey my own desires?” God has to peal back each finger over the things of this world we hold onto so tightly. If anyone is inclined to be a true worshipper of the Lord, it will involve the willingness to sacrifice whatever is dearest and most treasured even if such sacrifice should be considered a gift from God (Luke 14:26-27).

Abraham is considered one of the many witnesses of Hebrews 11 that we are surrounded by. This is why the author of Hebrews then exhorts his readers to, “…lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely (sin that keeps us from living by faith), and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter 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” (Heb 12:1-2). The cross looked like failure. It looked like foolishness and absurdity on the part of God to crush His own Son. But in actuality it displayed the fullness of God’s wisdom and power. It displayed the fullness of God’s glory. This is why Jesus was able to endure the cross with joy.

LaNae and I have felt over the last year to act upon what we believe the Lord is calling us to do, namely, international adoption. This is crazy in and of itself because of the cost of international adoption. Our faith was put to the test when we found out about twin 2 year old deaf girls from the Philippines in need of a home. First of all, to adopt one child is extremely expensive, let alone two. And we just do not have the cash flow to fund such a venture with our own resources. Secondly, the amount of work involved in adopting deaf children would seem overwhelming. This would require the whole family to learn sign language. This would require teaching the girls sign lanague once they are part of our family. Third, our kids right now are at a good age. They are manageable and are pretty capable of doing things on their own. We would have to start the whole process of parenting 2 year olds again. Sounds bizarre...yes, it does. But as we evaluated our family life, God has equipped us as a family to take on this challenge. What an opportunity to bring two children into our home who would not have the opportunity to hear the gospel audibly, yet hear it through sign language. What an opportunity to walk by faith. What an opportunity to see God glorified in our steps of obedience. It became clear to us that this was the road the Lord had for us; that our pursuit of adoption was bigger than our desire to make our family balanced (2 girls and 2 boys), it was about God's plan to expand His Kingdom. It seems “inexplicable”, but as I’ve learned from Genesis 22, “God calls his people to obey him in ways that seem inexplicable.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walking by Faith, Part I

Beginning in September we began our unified study here at Faith Bible Church (Spokane, WA) through the book of Genesis. This is the third time we are going through the book of Genesis as a church. One of the themes that has captivated me this time around through this book is the topic of “walking by faith”. I don’t completely understand what it means to walk by faith, but the more I study God’s work in and through the life of Abraham, I see snippets of what it means to live a life of faith.

In Genesis 21:1-7, Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah, thus, fulfilling the promise made to them in Genesis 17 and 18. Ishamael, at this time, was a young boy who was able to articulate “mocking” words towards Isaac. By this time Abraham and Sarah are well advanced in years, but God remained faithful to His promise to bring forth Isaac despite their age. When Sarah saw God’s faithfulness displayed she responded with joyful laughter over the kindness of God to provide a child for her. Moses lines this story up next to the story of Ishmael. Ishmael would be a constant reminder for Abraham and Sarah when they responded to their aging situation with fear (Genesis 16). Ishmael would not be the child of the promise. These two stories would be significant for the people of Israel who were preparing to enter the Promised Land after being in bondage for over 400 years. Its purpose was not to instill national pride (“we are the people of God”), but rather it should have provoked a heart of holiness, humility, gratitude, and obedience; a greater desire to remove anything from our life that would pose a threat to any future blessing. Living by fear keeps us from trusting in the promises of God. When we walk by fear we end up walking according to the deeds of the flesh (anger, rage malice, impurity, lust, greed and evil desires – Colossians 3). But when we set our minds on things above we begin to walk by faith because our hope looks beyond what is seen to that which is unseen.

I'm Back....

Many of you have either approached me personally or sent e-mail why I haven’t posted a blog entry for over 2 months now. One reason has to do with the busy ministry months of July and August. I questioned whether it was right for me to use my time posting blogs. I have 24 hours in a day (minus 5-8 for sleep) and because it takes quite a bit of thought for me to write, I didn’t think it was the best use of my time. A second reason has to do with whether or not this is an effective way to challenge, encourage, exhort, confront, etc… others in their walk with the Lord. A third reason has to do with the many blogs already out in the blogosphere related to spiritual things, the Bible, family life, parenting, theology, the gospel, etc… I didn’t think another one was needed. In fact I have a difficult time already finding time to read blogs that are challenging and thought provoking. But after the encouragement I received from many of you to keep blogging, I’ve resolved that this is a wise use of my time, and if what I post is helpful for one or two people, then its purpose is accomplished. So for the one or two of you that read this blog, stay posted for future entries.