Archive for January, 2016

Happy Birthday Haley

“We… receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:5

It’s happened again. We have a new child.

All the family was supposed to be at our house for Christmas. God had a different idea. He sent our oldest daughter, Joy, and her family to Florida to adopt Haley. This is our second adopted grandchild and I’ve about decided adoption is my favorite doctrine from the Bible.

In this adoption God has reminded us He has a sense of humor. Her name is Haley Jane, she is six years old, and she is in first grade. Our youngest daughter, Robin, has a firstborn daughter…named Haley Jane, who is six years old, and who is in first grade. Yes, we are soliciting ideas on how to distinguish the girls apart when their families get together.

I’ve been thrust—again—into Scripture to consider the glorious doctrine of adoption. Though only mentioned in five New Testament passages, it is incredibly rich in implications. The main meal is salvation in Christ. Here are a few scrumptious adoption hors d’oeuvres (appetizers).

Galatians 4 notes several wonderful thoughts in context. Initially, adoption requires the perfect timing of God, “But when the fullness had come, God sent forth his Son…” (v.4). Ephesians 1:4-5 digs deeper to say, “…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Long before her earthly sequence of events Haley was on God’s mind for adoption. The innumerable, seemingly chaotic events in time did not surprise the Father. In fact, He orchestrated them toward December 21st when her new family took custody of her. May I urge you to a quiet place and time to pray through these astounding Scriptural realities about Haley and your salvation?

Second, our adoption and Haley’s was costly. Galatians 4:5 describes it as redemption. To redeem someone is to purchase them out of the marketplace of slavery. I have seen horrible pictures of slaves, shackled and naked, being auctioned to the highest bidder. Yes, it took significant amounts of emotional, spiritual, and legal struggle and commitment—and many actual dollars—before the joy of receiving Haley. Imagine what our rebellion and sin cost the Father when He released His only Son to die for us.

Third, the idea of sonship and inheritance in adoption passages intrigues me (ex. Galatians 4:7). Here we see Haley has all the rights and privileges of a biologically born child, including an inheritance equal to everyone in the family. And so it is for all in Christ!

Last, this caught my ear when we visited last weekend: Haley was already addressing her new parents affectionately and respectfully. No longer “Joy” and “Chad,” they were “Mom” and “Dad.” Galatians 4:6 notes we get to address the Father as “Abba, Father.” This term of endearment toward God was unimaginable in Paul’s day and no less so for Haley December 21st. Sweet.

Oh…it’s Haley’s birthday today. Happy Birthday Haley and welcome to your new family. Love, Popi

Scrooge The Distracted Traveler

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ ” Matthew 25:23

Living each day with a view to our future’s fullest joy is spiritually healthy and wise. Ebenezer Scrooge tasted it before it was too late and his discovery can be ours, too.

Three “spirits” visited Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic Christmas tale, “A Christmas Carol.” In one version I watched this season with Cheryl (the Queen of classic Christmas movie watchers), the spirit/ghost of his past brought regret as Scrooge looked back to see the decisions that ambushed joy. The spirit/ghost of his present life revealed the emptiness of distracted daily living without simple delights and important relationships. Scrooge, you remember, replaced joy with the unfulfilling tedious pursuit of wealth and security. This is already too convicting, isn’t it?

The grim reaper, spirit/ghost of the future was frightening; showing him what eternity would be like without a change of heart. When Scrooge came to his senses about the future he was moved to heartily confess and commit to reversing course—to “repent” as the movie told—and take on the way of a radical, new, present joy. Scrooge learned the value of a future look—and his view changed everything. Randy Alcorn said, “I keep pondering how heaven will overflow with happiness because God himself overflows with happiness. It is not a fairy tale that we will live happily ever after. Our Creator and Redeemer’s happiness guarantees a happy ending to the story that will never end.”

Revelation 21 has captured my heart lately. Join me there and imagine our future home. It is: wonderfully new (v.1, 5), unimaginably beautiful (v.2, 9-24), overwhelmed by the actual presence of Father and Son (v.3, 6), and personally enriched by our inheritance as God’s heirs (v.7). Randy Alcorn, again, has said, “I have found myself daily frontloading into the present the promises of eternal joy, and letting that color my view of daily events. It’s been a truly Christ-centered and happy-making experience.” There is no grim reaper now or later for those God has prepared a home!

I actually viewed two performances of “A Christmas Carol” in December. The other one was a community theater musical production in Perry, Georgia. It included my son-in-law, two oldest grandchildren, and a cousin. Fabulous! It strikes me that many of the actors and the audience had no idea of the implications of the storyline(s) for eternity or earth-life right now. It is, frankly, more clear and stirring to me now than ever before. Jonathan Edwards observed we can be like a distracted traveler, staying in a hotel on the way to a destination but never moving on to the place we are headed.

Should you have losses and crosses as 2016 begins, I invite you, with me, to look ahead and become a reborn Scrooge—and “enter into the joy of your Master”—now.

Dakota Howard

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Someone has said, “God never wastes our sorrows.”

Just outside our town, on a winding Highway 30, Dakota Howard tragically died when the road collapsed. He was only twenty-two. Many others across America have recently died because of flooding rains. But this Dakota is from our community. Around here, the grief is real and deep.

I didn’t know Dakota personally, but I attended his funeral. I marveled at the community support, and I can’t forget the bewildered faces of hundreds of stunned mourners—many silent and others fumbling for words. The funeral was at his church and several pastors gave good testimonies of Dakota’s faith in Christ. Yet there are still questions.

Elizabeth Groves suggests: “We worship a big God…We are in his hands, and nothing happens to us by chance. That’s good news. But in grief, if that is all we remember about God, it might actually make the pain worse…” 2 Corinthians 1(above) can point us in a helpful direction. They are not easy words, but they can move our emotions forward with God’s perspective and comfort.

First, the subject in our grief is God, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” To “bless God in all our afflictions” is to offer honor and recognition—to give a good word (“benediction”) about and to our Creator-Savior-comforting God. The Psalms help us pray this way.

In 2 Corinthians 1, the Spirit of God chooses God’s mercy and care/comfort. We wonder: How is there mercy and care by God in tragedy and grief? In part, God has been there—here—and understands. Isaiah 63:9, my favorite verse of last year, says about God, “In all their affliction he was afflicted.” And, Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. Also consider: the Psalmist reminds us “God is good and does good.” Finally, though tragedies are mysterious, our grief as followers of Christ is not without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We know, for instance, the Holy Spirit has been sent as “another comforter” (literally, He has come alongside us). We have God! It may not come quickly, but the way of hope and comfort begins with a right focus on God.

Second, God never wastes our sorrows. There is purposeful new direction in tragedy and God’s comfort, “So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Now, family and friends of Dakota can minister to others who need comfort from God—because, like God and with God, they have been there.

Grief compels us to God and others in need, and therein comes comfort.

Rhea Herald-News, January 4, 2016

Five Visible Planets

Praise the Name of the Lord…

Praise him, sun and moon,

   praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens,

   and you waters above the heavens!

                                      Psalm 148:1, 3-4

Morning Moon is a waning crescent moon this morning, smiling hello before dawn. Always welcome (even in today’s twenty-something cold), its companions Venus and Saturn pointed to the horizon and paved the way for today’s blinding sunrise. It strikes me how brilliant these reflectors are and the joy they bring as night gives way to dawn’s early light.

I am so attracted to the animated creation language of the Psalms. I know, they are poetical exuberance over the reflection of God’s glory in “nature”/creation. But Oh, how we live for every glimpse!

Did you know January-February brings a unique opportunity to see all five of the visible planets simultaneously for the first time in ten years? Surely, the angels in heaven are clearing their calendars and making strong coffee every morning to not miss a flicker.

Keep Psalm 148 handy and check out EarthSky.com and…plan your praises.



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