Archive for August, 2012

Anticipation

Unlike the legendary loved-and-lost song, “Anticipation,” Cheryl and I elatedly anticipated kids and grandkids. Parents are proud; grandparents can be obnoxious. By the way, have you seen our latest pictures? Our girls bore superb kids. Cute. Perfect. All four of them. Did I mention they were cute?

More sanely, my grandkids are superbly loved, safe, and growing up surrounded with constant exposure to God and His salvation offer. But many kids aren’t. In the gap, courageous ones intentionally seek to adopt needy children for the sake of the kingdom of God. Bravo!

Our oldest and her husband are seeking to adopt. And how dauntless they are! Twice now-just last week again-they have engaged in the process with a specific child presented to them only to have the process stopped abruptly. It is wrenching for them- and their kids who have given themselves fully to the idea of a new sibling (or two).

In a real spiritual sense, I think adoption ought to be dear to all who seek to follow Jesus well and to finish strong. You see, we’ve been adopted, too.

One of the robust words to describe salvation in Christ is adoption. Though used only a few times, it is a moving picture of distressed adults and children needing a secure home, never to be cast aside. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son…that we might receive the adoption as sons.” “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!” “…we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”   

I’ve hinted at the richness of adoption on earth and in heaven: loved, safe, secure. Also consider: adopted children are intentionally chosen- never a surprise or intrusion. They are accepted just as they are in spite of known or potential liabilities. Although they may have a problem past, they gain an abundant daily life, and they have a future worth anticipating with joy.

Galatians 4:7 wonderfully brings home this rich perspective: “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” In my past, before Christ, I was enslaved to self and sin; now, purchased by Christ and set free, I get to be an honored child; soon, I will receive an indescribable inheritance in the very presence of God.

I shared these thoughts last Sunday at church before communion. It stirred some, who told me of their earthly adoption and their adopted kids. While I can only identify with them to a degree, we do share our adoption by God. Together, we are “eagerly waiting for our [consummating] adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Wow-followers of Christ soon as one family with inseparable ties to the Father, Son, and each other. And resurrection bodies!

 Anticipation!

Phase Forever

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23 ESV

Last weekend I participated in my second triathlon—as a spectator. Each of my sons-in-law enjoy punishing their bodies with pain and sweat, and Cheryl and I enjoy driving to Georgia, and then getting up at 4:30 AM to support them. Surely I jest.

As they swam, biked, and jogged incredible distances at shin-splinting speeds, I searched for a good cup of coffee. Note: The sun doesn’t rise until the adrenaline-addicted athletes have already started racing. These health-conscious events don’t acknowledge my primal need for a jolt of a different kind. While we devotedly shivered in the cold (first race) and rain (last race), they each reached their goal of finishing—and in a good time. I am proud of you Chad and Samuel.

In a considerably less rigorous goal completed, I crossed a finish line last week. I completed heart rehabilitation following a heart stent last April. I will miss our early morning group where we make fun of each other, dream about forbidden chicken liver dinners, and, of course, tease our Nurse Sargent Janice.

When I met with my doctor after the stent, he outlined the process of heart rehabilitation. I love it when my doctor grabs his pen and writes on anything he can find. As he talked, he sketched forward-moving arrows and lines about the several phases of heart rehabilitation, ending with phase four. I call it Phase Forever. Now, beyond crisis, repair, and basic training, it is up to me to continue the new course. Three phases down, I get to embrace the life-giving and sustaining fourth phase of following Jesus well physically with the temple He’s given me. Going into high gear, the goal is to finish strong.

The spiritual parallels are even more compelling. My heart, rescued from sin and self, was reborn and set on a completely new course, with new capacities for change, growth, and spiritual health. How? I think about: seeking the pleasure of God in all things, continual truth infusion, service and witness, and regular strength training through worship, service, and Christian fellowship. Proverbs points the way: keeping—guarding—my heart vigilantly because that is where real life comes from.

Both pursuits—physical and spiritual—require hard work and joy. No surprise, since my doctor and rehab nurse were both encouraging and realistic. But most of all, there is Jesus, “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.”

Will you join me in Phase Forever?

A Special Pleasure From God

Nothing created by God is insignificant and, if I will allow, His wonders can cause me to adore Him in delightful moments of worship.

We are dog-sitting this week. “Chase” is a beautiful collie-like mix. She has endearing qualities beyond beauty: a dangerous wagging tail when we get home (required); she doesn’t chew the furniture (very required); and she doesn’t bark unceasingly (very, very required). She’s full of hope for a w-a-l-k (we have to spell it…) or a handout. Sadly, we’re on a short leash to not give her table scraps.

She’s teachable, too. I almost have her trained to sit and wait at the door before taking her for a w-a-l-k. The secret? I’ve just applied some of the techniques I used to keep my girls from slamming the door—minus the leash. Call for advice.

God has some amazing ways to shape us more like Christ. Nice as Chase is, God is working on my patience development program with her. Potty training our children was easier than getting Chase to w-a-l-k and, on cue, to…well, you know.

Years ago I did a study about animals in light of the joy of our family dog, Jericho. Some like cows and oxen, for example, serve creation’s purposes as we appropriately use them and have dominion over them (Food!). Animals remind us of powerful truths. For instance, sheep (salvation) and goats (judgment). Jesus elevates animals in importance. Through them, He points us to God and illustrates God’s care for His own (“Look at the birds of the air…”). And, we dare not forget that Jesus Himself is the “Lion of Judah” and “Lamb of God.”

And yes, they are biblical companions. Remember the household dog in Mark 7:27-28? There a dog is seen under the table (Chase hangs out there, too), and becomes a positive part of a story about a mother’s faith and her daughter’s healing.
.
Of course, animals aren’t the point, and in the big picture they aren’t nearly as valuable as God’s highest creation—you—me! I think we sometimes inappropriately substitute companionship with them for nearness to God. Don’t be mad, ok?

Here’s what strikes me the most: In light of their creation importance, animals can be motivators to worship the one Lamb of God! Like the Psalmist we praise Him: “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who have pleasure in them” (Psalm 111:2). My pleasure in Chase and Jericho before her, creation works of God, joins me with the Psalmist in worship of the One who made and declared them “good” (Genesis 1:21).

In seeking to follow Jesus well and to finish strong, I am pursuing a growing pleasure in moments of worship in view of the creation works of God. Help me not forget You, Father, even on challenging w-a-l-ks.

Face to Face

“All around me Your creation
Brings me to my knees in adoration
Beauty here can not compare to
What I’ll see when I first see You”
-Life Is Good by Stellar Kart



%d bloggers like this: