Two (or three) moms to thank

As I sit here in a hospital room looking at my precious 7-year-old daughter I am incredibly thankful for both her birth mother and her mommy.

You see, if her birth mother had not chosen to give birth, to complete the pregnancy, and had not chosen to seek out a way to provide her with a life for the future, I would not be sitting here today.  Some days I wish I could look her in the eyes and say thank you.

Thank you for giving me one of the greatest joys of my life.  Thank you for allowing me the honor of being called Daddy by this tiny treasure. Thank you for choosing life when you didn’t have to.  My heart is broken by what I read in the news today and how this a choice at all.  My heart is broken that it is not only allowed, but celebrated as a victory by so many today.  But I am choosing to say thank you to Lottie’s birth mother – thank you for choosing the difficult path.

But, I also say thank you to her mommy.  My wife, who has been gifted in too many ways to count, is Lottie’s mommy.  Gloria, from the get go, has been a force to be reckoned with.  She fought with passion, pursuing Lottie before we even knew her face.  She fought even harder once we had her in sight.  And She fights still as she manages and provides unbelievable care for youngest of three (at least for now).  So, on this day, as you have cared for Lottie uniquely in this hospital room I want to say thank you yet again.

Thank you for treasuring life enough to bring two children into this world.  Thank you for loving them with a motherly love that can only be given through the grace of God.  Thank you for pursuing Lottie and passionately advocating for her best care.  Thank you for being the nurturing, grace-filled, mercy-giving, mommy that you are.  Lottie is healthier because you are her mommy.

And…Thank you Gloria for pursuing another child yet again.  I am already thankful to another mother somewhere in India who has chosen to not abort, but instead has chosen life for the boy that will be our son.

Observing the gospel through Adoption

This morning I had the unique gift of watching a family be legally united.  One man became a father, and one woman became a mother, to a son and daughter. With the signature of a judge and with a room full of witnesses these two children joined this family.  There were joyful tears of celebration and cheers of delight from everyone.

You see, this couple, now parents, went to great lengths to demonstrate their love for these children. They have been caring for them and providing for them and will now raise them as their own.  These children will be given a new name and will forever be a part of this family.

What a priceless example of the gospel.  In the same way our Heavenly Father demonstrated His vast love for His children. He went to great lengths for us. He provides for us and cares for us and makes us His own.  And when we acknowledge Him as Lord we become a part of His forever family.

And yes, there will are tears of celebration and cheers of delight when a sinner repents and joins the family of God!

Billy Graham’s legacy

Even though I never met Billy Graham personally, I was privileged to attend one of his crusades in the early 90’s at the Georgia Dome. As with many of you, I have been profoundly impacted by his ministry and his leadership.  While his passing was certainly sad for us here on earth it was not so for him.  Here is what he had to say about his own death years ago, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Billy Graham provided a great legacy for ministry and leadership.  Here are 5 characteristics that he had that are a consistent challenge to me.

  1. He was a committed husband. – Billy and Ruth were married for over 60 years and stayed faithful to one another.  Even nearing the end of his ministry he purposely slowed his work so that he could be of greater support to her.
  2. He was a loving father. – I once heard Anne Graham Lotz respond to a question about how often her father was gone.  She stated that while he traveled quite often, whenever he was home they had his full attention.  That attention provided great comfort for them as children to know they were important to him.
  3. He was a man of integrity. – Graham was known for his strong stance against ever having accusations made against him in regards to women.  This is why he was never alone with a woman that wasn’t his wife.  That rule even applied to elevator rides.
  4. He was preacher with passion. – If you watch his sermons, from any era, you will find one who senses and displays a significant urgency  in his call to response.  I am thankful for this example that he set.
  5. He was a believer with conviction. – Graham once made this statement, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.” That belief is what drove him to preach to over 215 million people in 185 countries over 60 years.

The Gospel and Singleness

Here are few thoughts on being single.

  • Singleness is good. (1 Corinthians 7:8)
    • It demonstrates self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:9)
    • It displays dependence on Christ.
  • Singleness is a gift. (1 Corinthians 7:7)
    • It provides opportunity for intense focus.                            (1 Corinthians 7:35)
    • It offers less stress. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)
      • Fewer family responsibilities – (1 Corinthians 7:29b)
      • Fewer emotional connections – (1 Corinthians 7:30)
      • Fewer earthly possessions – (1 Corinthians 7:30b)
      • Fewer worldly attachments (1 Corinthians 7:31)
    • Singleness is a portrait of the gospel.
      • It shows the Christian’s ultimate identity in Christ.
      • It shows the Christian’s eternal identification with the Church.

“In the past, singleness was avoided by most.  In the present, singleness is advantageous for many.  In the future, singleness will be applied to all.  (Matthew 22:30 – For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.)” – David Platt

  • If you are single…
    • Don’t…waste your singleness.
    • Do…find contentment in the sovereignty of God.
    • Do… find joy in the grace of God.
    • If you are married…
      • Don’t…demean singleness as anything less than a gift from God.
      • Don’t…diminish the challenges of singleness.
      • Do…embrace your single brothers and sisters into your household.

What to think about mass shootings?

In the wake of yet another tragedy my heart breaks to think of the pain and suffering that so many are experiencing right now.  There is unequivocal pain in the loss of an innocent child to a violent act of hostile brutality.  With this sort of pain it is multiplied, not only because of the amount of fatalities, but also because of the spiraling effect on those left behind.  For the families related, the students, faculty, and the community at large there is a new state of fear, a new type of worry, and a new level of doubt.

As believers, what are we to think? What are we to do?  What should we NOT do?

  1. We trust in God (Psalm 20:7).  God is worthy of our trust despite the weakness of our flesh.  This is not the time (nor is there ever) to stop believing that God is in control.  We believe that even through persecution, tribulations, and trials that God is worthy to be trusted (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
  2. We grieve for others (Matthew 5:4). God comforts us when we mourn.  We can be and should be saddened by acts of evil.  These vicious acts are not just problematic; they are sin and as such are evil in the sight of God.  We should grieve for those who lost loved ones and we should grieve that there is sin like this at all.
  3. We pray with others (James 5:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Ephesians 6:18).  During these types of tragedies, and so many more, we are to lay down all of our cares and concerns before the Lord because He cares for us and is concerned for us (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. We should not fear (Joshua 1:9). Fear is not from the Lord.  Remember, we trust Him for His perfect plan, so let us live out that trust without fear.

May we as believers remember that despite acts of extreme evil, God is still on the throne.  Despite man taking the life of others, we can have eternal life with the Father.  Despite sin causing such violence, Christ offers redemption through His blood on the cross.

6 Grace Alone Quotes

“We do believe that righteous works get us to God, it’s just Christ’s righteousness not our own.” – Kevin DeYoung

“The problem with merit is that it doesn’t exist.  All that really exists is the sheer grace and mercy of God.” – Albert Mohler

“We are not saved by a setting aside of justice but by the fulfillment of justice.” – Kevin DeYoung

“Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness?  I answer: Nothing at all.  For the nature of this righteousness is, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing whatsoever of the law of or works.” – Martin Luther

“God saves us by grace, grows us by grace, and brings us into eternity by grace.” – Brandon Smith

“As soon as the grace of Christ begins to prevail in any one, the reign of sin and death ceases.” – John Calvin

Unexplained Tragedies

Some days there are horrific, unexplainable tragedies.  Some days you might watch the news and simply cry for the terror happening around the world and even close to home.  Some days you look within your own home and you are saddened because of incomprehensible sorrow because of loss or heartache.  Some days you self-evaluate and are heartbroken by your own sin or lack of self-discipline.

 

However, every day can be a reminder of the faithfulness of God.  Every day we can ponder the Scripture as one of the members of FBC Sutherland Springs recently has in the LA Times, stating, “God works all things for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”  Every day we can sing the song that the members of FBC Sutherland Springs sang just last week, “God is good, all the time, through the darkest night his light will shine.… If you’re walking through the valley, and there are shadows all around, do not fear, he will guide you, he will keep you safe and sound.”  Every day we can know that God is always right, good, and just.  Every day we can know that every good gift comes from God and we can rest in His plan to provide our every need in Christ Jesus.  Every day we can have confidence in the righteousness of Christ to cover our sin.  Because…Every day Jesus Christ is Lord.

500

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant reformation I thought I would compile some of my favorite Martin Luther quotes. Here they are in no particular order…

“I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not recant anything…”

“Scripture is the norm of norms that cannot be normed.”

“The Bible is not a naked authority.”

“What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”

“It is a glory which every preacher may claim, to be able to say with full confidence of heart: ‘This trust have I toward God in Christ, that what I teach and preach is truly the Word of God.”

“Let nobody suppose that he has tasted the Holy Scriptures sufficiently unless he has ruled over the churches with the prophets for a hundred years.”

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing…The Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all.”

“Scripture alone is the true lord and master of all writing and doctrine on earth.  If that is not granted, what is Scripture good for?  The more we reject it, the moe we become satisfied with men’s books and human teachers.”

“Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness?  I answer: Nothing at all.  For the nature of this righteousness is, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing whatsoever of the law of or works.”

“Here I must take counsel of the Gospel, I must hearken to the Gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do…but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me…that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death.  The Gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it.  And this is the truth of the Gospel.  It is also the principal article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

“if anyone would feel the greatness of sin he would not be able to go no living another moment; so great is the power of sin.”

“If you have a true faith that Christ is your Savior, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love.”

“Faith…is a living, restless thing.  It cannot be inoperative.  We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.”

“Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him.”

“If you want to make atonement to [God] apart from Christ the mediator, making your works…the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall as Lucifer did…and in horrible despair lose God and everything.”

“Faith is no faith without an object.”

“Christ if full of grace, life, and salvation.  The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation.  Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take it upon himself the things which are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his…Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means?  Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace?  Here this rich and a divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness.  Her sins cannot not destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him.  And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘if I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.”

“Faith must be taught correctly, namely, that by it you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever.”

“The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians.  What is Luther?  The teaching is not mine.  Nor was I crucified for anyone…How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?”

“It is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross.”