Tag Archives: orphan care

Adoption is War part four

15 Mar

One lie that we are tempted to believe is, “I don’t have what it takes to do what God’s calling me to do.”    

If you are an honest and humble person you will find that adopting and working with children who are in crisis situations can often seem overwhelming.

Sometimes when we are feeling the weight of that pressure we feel like God hasn’t given us the resources we need to actually respond to the pressure in a way that honors him. And that is a terrible place for us to be, because if we doubt that God has given us the resources to fight a battle, we feel like we have an excuse to give up on the battle altogether. We can say, “Hey, God, what do you expect me to do? I am in this war and you didn’t even provide what I needed to fight it. So what can I do but sin?”

Except that Paul says in Ephesians chapter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

Every is a very comprehensive word, right? Paul is saying there is not a single spiritual blessing out there that you as a church do not have. So you are not just sort of supplied for this battle by God. Every single blessing that God could provide for us to fight this battle he has given us.

Now sometimes it doesn’t look like that to the world. They look at the blessings and the resources we have and they sort of mock what we have as not much. When David went out to fight Goliath, Saul just didn’t believe that trusting in the promises of God and these little weapons that David had, that they would be able to defeat that great giant Goliath. And so what did Saul do? He said, “No, this isn’t quite enough, David. You need to wear my weapons, my armor and use my weapons.” And David put that stuff on he is like, no, Saul, I don’t think this is going to work at all. I would rather just use the resources God has provided.  And sometimes in our own lives we are Saul. We are actually looking at our own lives in the battle we are facing and we are saying, “God, I think I need armor and I think I need resources that you haven’t provided.”

And what we need to do put on the helmet of salvation is we need to go back and we need to say, “No, I have been saved.” Let’s look at the salvation that God has provided. He has provided every spiritual blessing for me in Christ. I can, I do have the resources I need to live for Christ. And what are some of those resources, guys? We have the Word of God. God has spoken. We have the Church of God. God has, too, he has united us to people who will help us. We don’t only have the Word of God and the Church of God, we have the Spirit of God. God is with us. God abides in us and the Spirit of God is actively engaged in our lives opening our eyes to the Word of God, helping us put off sin. And so what we need to do if we are going to put on the helmet of salvation is in faith trust God. That is, salvation is as good as he says it is, that we do have the resources we need to fight the battle that we have been called to fight.

It’s important you believe you are as rich spiritually as the BIble says you are.  Too many of us are acting like we are beggars.  What happens when a person thinks he is a beggar is he thinks that he doesn’t have a responsibility to give, to serve, to work, I am a beggar and because a lot of Christians sort of think of themselves as beggars, the calls to serve others in need, it feels like hey how can you ask me to do that, don’t you see how little I have here, but they need to start seeing themselves the way Paul does, as people with every spiritual blessing, we are people with incredible resources.

 

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part two

13 Feb

It is one day closer to our first ever Together for Adoption conference here in Pretoria, South Africa.  We are hoping God will use this conference to increase our joy in our adoption and spark a theologically driven adoption movement here in South Africa.  I began yesterday working through several reasons we are convinced that it is vitally important we as believers reach out to orphans with the love of God.  The first reason had to do with the character of God.  Here are reasons two and three:

——————————————————————————-

Second, a lack of concern for the orphan and widow is given in the scripture as a mark of wickedness.

In Isaiah one, Isaiah cries out against the wickedness of the people. Israel. God actually tells them he hates their religious activity. He says in verse 16, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, remove the evil of your deeds from my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice.”

God comes to his people in Isaiah one and he says stop praying until you get something right. Would you be done? I can’t stand all this worship! This religious activity, you need to go back and you need to repent. I’ll tell you what that repentance is going to look like, Isaiah says. Here it is. “Reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” That’s how I’ll know your repentance is genuine.

An old Puritan, Nathaniel Samuelson, who was used by God to establish a network of clinics, hospitals and missions that in fact became the model for William Booth to establish the Salvation Army once said, “Sodom was crushed in divine judgment. Why, asked me? Was it due to an abomination upon abominations such as those perpetuated against the guests of Lot? That’s not the reason the scripture gives. Was it due to wickedness in commerce, craft, in governance and sloth and manufacture? That’s not the reason the scripture gives. In Ezekiel 16:49 scripture says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom, she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.”

It’s one of the main sins we find the prophets coming after the Israelites over and over again for. They are constantly rebuking them for idolatry and injustice. Injustice really reveals a kind of idolatry. As one author has written, the God of Israel “identified himself with the widow, the orphan and the stranger.  Thus, when the people of Israel turned their back on Yahweh, they also turned their backs on the poor.  Idolatry and social injustice are two sides of the same coin.”  You know the people had given themselves over to idolatry. Not that they stopped coming to the temple to sacrifice, they were busy about that, you know they had given themselves over to idolatry by their lack of concern for the needy.

On the other hand, third, concern for the needy is a mark of holiness.

Remember how Job’s friends attacked his character? One of the ways he proved his godliness was by his concern for the orphan. He says in Job 29:4, “I delivered the poor who cried for help and the orphan who had no helper.”

He goes on to say in chapter 31, “If I have kept the poor from their desire, or if I have caused the widow to fail, or if have eaten my morsel alone and have not shared it, if I have lifted my hand up against the orphan because I saw I had support in the gate, let my shoulder fall from the socket and my arm be broken off at the elbow.” In other words he says, “I deserve God’s judgment if you can look at my life and see that I didn’t care for the orphan, for the widow, for the vulnerable.”

It’s not just there. Psalm 37:21, “The righteous person is generous and gives.” Psalm 112:5 and nine, “The righteous has distributed freely. He has given to the poor. His righteousness endures forever.” Righteousness in the scripture is not just a negative thing, turning from sin. Righteousness in the scripture is also a positive thing, turning your life to the things that God is intent about. 

Even here in James 1:27, it is like we are seeing two sides to what it means to be righteous. There’s visiting the vulnerable and there’s keeping oneself unstained by the world. It’s not either visit the vulnerable or keep oneself unstained by the world.  It’s both.

If you knew someone who was caring for orphans and working with the poor during the day but spending his evenings getting drunk and going to clubs; I am guessing (hoping) you would quickly recognize there is a serious problem.

But I wonder if you knew someone who would never enter a club or get drunk or anything like that, but spent his life basically ignoring the needs of the vulnerable around him, who was not willing to sacrifice for the good of the needy if you would see the disconnect quite as quickly.

James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God our Father is this:

To visit widows and orphans in their distress

and

to keep oneself unstained from the world.

It’s and, not or.  Our attitude towards the vulnerable reflects our attitude towards God. This is a good test of the reality of our religion because of what we know to be true about the character of God, because of the fact that a lack of concern for the needy is a mark of wickedness and because a concern for the needy is a characteristic of the righteous. 

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part one

12 Feb

We are excited to be able to host a Together for Adoption Conference here in South Africa on March 1 and 2nd.  It is a great deal of work putting on a conference and is requiring a great deal of faith as well, trusting that God will make His name look great through our feeble efforts.  Over the next several posts, I thought I might share some reasons why we believe the way we respond to the orphan crisis in our midst is such an important topic for us to consider. 

—–

If you wanted to test the reality of a person’s religious activity, I wonder what kind of question you would ask?

This is important for us to consider.  It is important for us to think about whether or not our religious activity is real is because we know both biblically and historically that there is a lot of supposed worship that is not. There is a great deal of religious activity that is both foolish and pointless.

Fortunately, we don’t have to come up with tests on our own.  The writers of Scripture were concerned about this very issue and in fact give us a number of different ways to evaluate whether or not religious activity is sincere. 

I don’t know which particular passage of Scripture your mind runs to when you think of ways the authors of scripture give us to evaluate the reality of a person’s religion. But I want to highlight one of the tests that has struck me as very significant. It’s a test that I think that has often been overlooked.

It’s found in James chapter one, verse twenty seven.

He writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”

James is writing to a group of people who are, as you know, fairly active spiritually. They for one thing are reading this letter. He describes them as hearers of the word. They enjoy listening to God’s word. He tells us that they thought of themselves as fairly religious. Some in fact, had a desire to be teachers. They even seemed to think of themselves as fairly wise and understanding. But in spite of all of that it seems pretty clear as you read throughout James that he has some concern that their religious activity, their religion, at least for some of them, it’s not the real thing.

He says in verse 16 of chapter 1, “Do not be deceived my brothers.” He says in verse 22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.” He speaks of someone deceiving his own heart in verse 26. In chapter two verses 14‑16 he speaks of a dead faith, a faith that does not in fact save. In chapter three, in verses 13 and 14 he speaks of a wisdom that comes from the Devil, demonic wisdom. He speaks of boasting and being false to the truth, thinking that you’re wise when in fact you’re not, which is why one of the main things James does in this letter is give us tests.

“You say you have faith?”

It is as if James comes to us and says, “Let’s look at that faith more closely to see if your faith is in fact genuine.”

And here in verses 26 and 27 of chapter one, he’s giving a series of these tests to help us evaluate the reality of our religious activity.

Is it the real thing?

He speaks about the way we rule over our tongue. That’s one of the tests.

He speaks about our relationship to the world. That’s another test.

And he speaks about our response to the hurting around us. Our response to the hurting around us is one of the ways James test the reality of our religion. And this test is important to James.

We know it is important because of the way James frames this statement. 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before or, you might say, in the sight of God, is this. Pure meaning clean in the Old Testament sense of the word. Undefiled meaning something similar to holy.  It is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. Visit meaning something much more than simply showing up and saying hello. The word, one Greek dictionary defines it like this, “It is to take care of, to seek out someone, to tend. This term is frequently used for nursing the sick.” That’s why the New International Version translates it to look after.  One author writes, “It never implies merely to visit in the usual sense, but instead it is always to be concerned about with a sense of responsibility for others.” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the father is this, to visit orphans and widows. We know what they are, orphans and widows. But the fact is, they may represent a class, and they often do throughout scripture, a class of the most vulnerable in society, those who are in a position where they have a very difficult time taking care of themselves.

We might summarize what James is saying like this, “Religious activity that God himself looks at as pleasing is taking care of hurting orphans and widows and the vulnerable when they are in trouble, showing radical sacrificial mercy to those who need it most.”

This is a big thing to say, isn’t it? I mean step back. This is God speaking on religion.

This is God the Father, the one we come to worship, and He is giving a test, a way to evaluate the reality of our religion, and He looks at the way we respond to the hurting around us!

And it got me searching around in my Bible, to figure out why James put so much weight on this. Why James can say it like this. Why does James put so much weight on the way we reach out to widows, to orphans, and other vulnerable people in our world? Why does he put such an emphasis on mercy? Why is this a test of the reality of our religion?

What I want to do is give you a number of reasons, James’ definition, of pure and undefiled religion begins with the way we relate to orphans and widows and the needy.

This is not the only test in James, but I want you to think about why it’s an important test because we tend to minimize it. I want to help you think about the Biblical evidence that this is a serious issue to God. Mercy is a serious issue, mercy to the vulnerable. I want you to go away examining your life as to whether or not you truly are a person whose life is characterized by mercy to the hurting, because of what the Bible says.  

I’ll start with the simple and obvious, why this is such an important test of the reality of our religious activity. The first reason has to do with the character of God. The first reason we know this is a good test, we find in James, and an important one of the reality of our religion. It’s because of what we know to be true about God. That’s where we start.

If we’re religious, we’re saying that we are concerned about God. That we’re concerned about what He’s concerned about. When we look to the Scripture, we see that we serve a God who is concerned about mercy, and specifically about orphans and widows, you know this. In Psalm 10:14, God actually describes himself as a helper of the orphan.

This is one of the titles He gives to himself. In Psalm 68:5, He describes himself as a father to the fatherless. Again in Psalm 146:9, he says, “The Lord watches over the refugee. He upholds the widow and the fatherless.” In Isaiah 25:4 Isaiah says, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress.”

I begin with the character of God, stressing that the reason this is important has to do with the character of God because I’ve found as we talk about these kinds of things, sometimes people think of care for orphans, and then more broadly compassion, as just like a personality trait. You’re just, like, into this. Some people are, some people aren’t. While it’s true that someone may be more gifted, obviously, when it comes to showing mercy, and personality may affect that we show mercy, this is not so much about personality.

Please hear that. It is about having a God‑centered way of looking at the world. We need to be interested in what God is interested in. God is definitely interested in mercy. When I look to the scriptures I find that God is very interested in the good of orphans, the good of widows, the good of vulnerable people.

Whether or not I’m interested in it, that’s not the end of the story, is it? What matters to me is that at the end of my life, I’m interested in what God is interested in. If I’m not interested in what God’s interested in, the problem’s not with God, the problem’s with me, and I need to repent.

This is a good test of the reality of our religion because those of us who say that God is the center of our world need to prove that to be true, not just with words but by actually caring about what God cares about and one of the things the Scripture’s clear about is that God cares about orphans, widows, and the vulnerable.