Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adoption: We’re All Candidates

Maclane's family "support group"

This weekend we’re holding a special celebration to officially welcome our grandson, Maclane, into the family. He’s been with us for months, but his adoption was finalized last week.

What a delightful, happy little baby he is – and how blessed we are to have him in our extended family. God has wonderful surprises for us as we move through life, and he’s one of them.

Before Maclane’s arrival, I never thought much about adoption. In the ‘80s my wife and I were foster parents to two foster babies while arrangements were being completed for adoptive families. But the idea never hit home, so to speak, before Maclane. Even Bible passages about adoption didn’t seem particularly meaningful. That’s changed, however.

Dad, Mom and Maclane
Romans 8:23 states, “…(we) groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:5 adds, “…we might receive the full rights (adoption) of sons.” And Ephesians 1:4-5 declares, “For he (God) chose us in him before the creation of the world… predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

There’s deep theology in those verses, but what stands out to me is although Maclane was not born biologically into our family, he was specifically chosen by his mom and dad, Sarah and Alan, to become their son. Maclane had no voice in the matter – but as you can see from the photo, he’s good with their decision.

His DNA is different, but he has full rights of a son – and always will. His biological parents could not keep him, but Maclane has a loving home where he’ll receive the nurture any child needs.

In John 15:16, Jesus told His followers, “You did not choose me, but I chose you….” Maclane didn’t select his parents, but they’ve accepted him, offering a life he couldn’t have imagined.

Those of us that are children of God also share the privilege of being chosen, handpicked by the Lord to become “heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

The singing group, Third Day, has a video, “Children of God.” In it, adoptive children slowly appear on screen wearing t-shirts that read, “ADOPTED.” By the end of the video, everyone – even their parents – wears the same shirt. Because if you’re a member of God’s eternal family, you’re adopted.

We might not fully “get” what that means right now, but the Bible assures that’s as good as it gets.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Tragedy of Fame

Yesterday we learned 27-year-old English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse had died, apparently of a drug overdose. Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan. I couldn’t tell you one song she sang or wrote. I can’t keep up with the often-crazy pop culture.

I’d heard about her history with substance abuse, another celebrity held captive to that curse. But were it not for those occasional reports, I’d have thought Winehouse was a tourist stopover in California’s Napa Valley.

Her death, it seems, wasn’t a total shock. Her family and friends had lamented her life’s downward spiral, feeling helpless to intervene. Now she underscores the high price – and tragedy – of fame.

The long list keeps getting longer: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, among many in the hard rock world; Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Hank Williams, Michael Jackson. You probably remember others.

Sadly, some current “stars” seem headed toward the same fate if they don’t turn their lives around. I hope they do.

But my goal isn’t to mourn those who brought about their own untimely demise. Rather, it’s to remind us all that wealth and celebrity are overrated. Just as Yogi Berra purportedly said, “The future isn’t what it used to be,” it could also be said fame and fortune are not as fun and fulfilling as we might think.

Thousands of years ago, King Solomon wrote, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired, I refused my heart no pleasure…everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

Then at the book’s close he wrote, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We would be wise to heed his advice.

It’s better to be in God’s “Who’s Who” and the world’s “Who’s He?” than in the world’s “Who’s Who” and be unknown to God.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Startling Cases in Contrast

Recently South Korea – aka the Republic of Korea – was awarded the XXIII Olympics Winter Games in 2018. For many of us, that’s no big deal. But have you any idea how miraculous that achievement is?

The South Koreans prevailed over proposals from Germany and France, no small feat for a land that in the 1950s wallowed in abject poverty, as poor as any Third World nation today. In years when “made in Japan” was a joke, “made in South Korea” was unthinkable.

When North and South Korea were divided by the 38th Parallel, the atheistic, Communist neighbor to the north actually had an advantage in natural resources. For South Korea, which became sanctuary for about seven million Christian refugees from North Korea, farming was its sole industry. Natural resources were scarce, as were formal education and modern technology. There was no semblance of entrepreneurship.

What changed for the now prospering land of nearly 49 million people, ranked among the world’s top 15 economic powers?

Among many factors, one crucial decision stands out: the resolve to pray. In the ‘50s, then-President Syngman Rhee enlisted Christian leaders to pray fervently for South Korea. Many thousands of citizens rose in pre-dawn hours to call out to God, seeking His mercy and blessing.

To this day, South Koreans visitors are amazed to learn of multitudes that awaken long before sunrise, convening in large sports arenas, churches and other locations, shouting and crying out to the Lord.

South Korea has its flaws. Prosperity has brought corruption; not a surprise. (“The love of money is a root of many kinds of evil” – 1 Timothy 6:10.) Other common drawbacks of materialism have followed. But the nation now has an estimated 50,000 Protestant congregations, including the largest church in the world with more than 1 million members.

Contrast what has happened in South Korea to North Korea, labeled by some “a repressive nightmare,” its economy in disarray. Compare South Korea also with the United States, where a vocal minority actively condemns mottos such as “In God We Trust” on currency and license tags, and “one nation under God” is assailed as violating separation of church and state.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God declares, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Later God warns of dire consequences, “if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you…” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20).

South Korea has reaped benefits of becoming humble and praying and seeking God. Our own nation, I fear, is well on its way to experiencing the downside of turning away and forsaking Him.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Power of a Closed Mouth

There’s a fellow I know who apparently gets up every morning determined to figure out how many different ways he can pick an argument and how many people he can aggravate. He’s the kind of guy who, if you observe that the sky is blue, will insist that it’s really pink.

Every once in a while I run into him, and he seems always ready to poke and prod to elicit a response. I’m not the only one he targets, but he seems to have a fondness for me – maybe because my natural tendency is toward bullheadedness. Since I’m inclined to air my own opinions, he and I have crossed words on more than one occasion.

Recently I arrived for a meeting and sure enough, this man made a comment he knew would get my attention. I tried to offer a light-hearted response rather than accept his invitation to spar verbally, but he would have none of it. He made another snide remark. This time, however, I decided to zip my lip and heed the words of Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

I walked away and went about my business. Even though he tossed another zinger my way a few minutes later, I resolved to remain silent rather than fall into the temptation to give him a piece of my mind that I could ill afford to lose.

Elsewhere, the book of wisdom declares, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). I don’t always succeed in following that advice, I’ll admit. But as I grow older and more mellow, I think I’m making steady progress. Hopefully that will continue.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And Justice . . . for All?

When the verdict was announced at the end of the Casey Anthony trial last week, the response was visceral.

Hearing the jury acquit the 25-year-old mother in the death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, hit some observers like a punch to the stomach. Many in the courtroom and thousands watching the trial on TV reacted with anger. Some members of the jury later admitted anguish at not being able to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

I didn’t watch the daily proceedings. It had the makings of a Hollywood script, reality TV at its best – and worst: Attractive young woman accused of killing her own daughter. Beauty and the beast, all in one?

Some of the public’s emotion concerned a young life senselessly snuffed out. But a greater, underlying issue also was at work: Our belief in justice, that the person responsible should be punished. In fact, our Pledge of Allegiance closes by affirming our nation’s commitment to “justice for all.”

Why is that? Most of us don’t know the Anthony family, and never met poor Caylee. So it’s not “personal.” And if evolutionists are correct, asserting we’re nothing more than byproducts of cosmic chaos and random chance, why be upset if we believe justice hasn’t been served?

Does it really matter whether a person becomes a biochemist searching to cure a disease, or a drug dealer destroying lives? Or whether someone mends wounded hearts as a cardiothoracic surgeon, or becomes an ax murderer? Stupid questions, right?

It does matter – because we’re not the end result of meaningless chaos, but created in the image of the God who not only is love, but also is just, demanding justice. Throughout the Scriptures, we read of God’s justice and hatred of sin, balanced by His mercy and grace.

In the first book of the Bible, God says of Abraham, “I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19).

In Job 37:23, Job’s friend Elihu declares of God, “…in his justice and righteousness he does not oppress.” Later in the Old Testament we are told, “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).        

And we read the ultimate statement of God’s unwavering determination to execute justice in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust….”

We all have shattered God’s laws in thought, word or deed, and deserve justice: His eternal wrath. Yet, because of His love, Jesus Christ has already satisfied this mandate for justice by dying on the cross for us. Because of that, we are offered forgiveness and God’s unconditional love. And we can to protest when we believe justice is not served.