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Thursday, September 22, 2016

"If My People" and the Rest of the Story

Everyone has heard this verse. It’s a promise to the nation of Israel way back in the Old Testament:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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 (2 Chronicles 7:14).

It’s a great verse of promise, one of those if-then statements we hear especially in the context of politics. If the nation would only honor God, then God will bless it. And, of course, that’s true.

But, sometimes we fail to read the context. Look what’s happening here, and why God made the promise in the first place. This is on the occasion of Solomon’s dedication of the new Temple. He had just held an awesome sacrifice and equally amazing service of dedication. This is what goes before that verse: And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people (2 Chronicles 7:12-13). If my people . . . .

Let’s skip a few verses and see the rest of the context: And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel. But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations (2 Chronicles 7:17-20).

God begins to point the finger: As for thee (Solomon) you need to do right and be obedient. You need to be personally responsible.

Yes, Solomon was the leader. He was the king. So, of course, it was his responsibility to set the example and lead.

It’s important to notice that every individual is responsible for taking the initiative and doing right. If the whole nation honors God, God will heal their land.

It begins with one.

It begins with you . . . and me.

Notice what pleases God. He told Solomon—in the last passage above—that Solomon was to observe His statutes and judgments. That means obedience. It means obeying His laws.

I think we’ve gotten away from that mentality in Christianity today. We don’t like to obey the rules. They seem too restrictive. We like our freedom. We don’t like purity. We don’t like holiness.

Think about our choices of entertainment—movies and TV. Back in my childhood, my parents didn’t let us watch Gunsmoke because it was violent. They wanted us to see only clean, fun TV shows. Later, when we were teens, I remember my mother turning a program off immediately after hearing one curse word. Good friends of ours—at the time with three teenage sons--had a rule that their boys could only see PG and G movies in someone else’s home unless they phoned home and asked about a specific PG-13 movie. The parents took the responsibility for them, and what Mom and Dad decided was what they did.

What are your entertainment choices? Are they holy? Are they pure? Do they depict wholesome values and have a healthy moral tone? Do they honor God?

What do you choose for your kids to see? What kinds of video games are they allowed to play? Are you promoting obedience to God?

Think about our attitudes towards government. I understand that in some countries, their governments are corrupt, and authorities aren’t what they should be. The Bible says, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good (Romans 13:1-4ยช). It’s even more impacting when we remember that this was written when the Roman government fell very short of fair and kind. Even so, Christians were instructed to respect the rule of law.

Think about the sanctity of marriage and how God views fornication. What’s our attitude toward marriage and lust outside of marriage?

There are many other areas, of course, and we’re not going into them all.

When we say, “If our country would just get back to God” and excuse ourselves for disobeying God’s laws and statutes, God won’t bless us—or our country. On the other hand, if all the Christians in the United States, for example, would start being obedient, pure-living people with the power of the Holy Spirit evident in their lives, we would no doubt have a changed country. God would bless America again.

If my people begins with you and me.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Adoption Survey Results

Twenty adoptive parents answered my survey about their adoption experience. First, we’ll see the survey results and their comments. (Some comments are edited for clarity and anonymity.) Enjoy!

1. How many children have you adopted?
  • One  35%
  • Two   35%
  • More than two  30%

2. How old were your children when you adopted them? (Check all that apply.)
  • Soon after birth  55%
  • Age one to three  35%
  • Age four to eight  25%
  • Age nine to twelve  10%
  • Teenage  10%

3. Did you adopt locally or foreign?
  • Locally—from my city  45%
  • Locally—from my country  45%
  • Foreign  30%

4. Do you have biological children in addition to your adopted children?
  • Yes  60%
  • No  40%

5. What would you say were your biggest challenges? (Mark all that apply.)
  • Behavior (either the adopted child or biological siblings)  54%
  • My adopted child doesn’t look like my husband and me. People get confused.  8%
  • Physical issues (adopted child)  8%
  • My adopted child struggles to feel he/she belongs—emotional issues  31%
  • Language barrier between us and our adopted child  8%
  • Our family accepting our adopted child  8%
       “There was always the feeling of not knowing the biological mother—feeling that maybe the 'other side' would be greener.”
       “One adopted child had mental struggles.”
       “It became apparent that genetics is a strong factor in the personalities of the adopted children. Also, even at the youngest ages, these children suffer from trauma that has long-range effects.”
       “I am a single adoptive parent.”
       “We have the problem of people playing favorites. They spoil our adopted daughter, but not our adopted son. (They accept him but don't treat him the same way as our adopted daughter, probably because he is of an ethnicity that is looked down upon.)”
       “Our biggest issue was when, as young adults, our children sought out their biological mothers. We were supportive, but we weren't expecting the feelings that emerged from both us and one of our adopted children.”
       “It was difficult to relate to/understand their past and what they've been through.”

6. What are your biggest blessings because of adoption? (Mark all that apply.)
  • We regard adoption as a ministry. It is a picture of what God did for us. 89%
  • We get great satisfaction from the love and joy this child/these children bring(s) to us. 72%
  • We were childless before adopting, and now we have the opportunity to be parents. 56%
  • We wanted to share our love with orphans. 50%
  • We enjoy having a large family. 39%
       “I always yearned for children.”
       “Our adoption provided a home for a child in a bad situation.”
       “We were in love with this child, so we adopted him.”
       “It gave us a greater comprehension of what God did (and does) for us as His adopted children. It also enlarged the hearts of our biological children.”

7. How has adoption changed you? (Mark all that apply.)
  • It has made me a richer person emotionally and spiritually. 70%
  • Adoption has completed our family. 45%
  • Adoption has given me a love for needy children. 35%
  • Adoption has made me more bitter and impatient. 0%
  • Adoption has stretched me in many ways. 85%
       “We suffered abuse at the hands of our adopted child, and there was little help or understanding.”
       “Our adopted child has kept me young, since I was older when we adopted.”

8. How would you evaluate your adoption experience? (Mark all that apply.)
  • More than worth all the paperwork, money, and effort 100%
  • One of the most trying things I have ever done 25%
  • One of the biggest blessings of my life 85%
  • It was not the easy path, but we are glad we did it. 60%
  • I feel complete now, because adoption let me be a mother. 25%
  • I praise God for directing us to adopt. 90%

Thank you so much, adoptive parents, for completing my survey! I appreciate your responses, but more than that, I appreciate your ministry to these children.

Adoption is the term God uses for what happens when a person believes on Jesus Christ for salvation. It is a powerful symbol of what takes place. Let me share some Bible verses with you.
  • For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. . . . But ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:14, 15b).
  • To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Galatians 4:5-6).
  • Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:5-6).
  • And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18).
  • Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2).

My husband was preaching in Romans and did some research about adoption in the context of Roman law—which was the law at the time of the apostles. At that time, an adoptive child could have even more prestige and privilege than a biological child. The legal steps for adoption were:
  1. A complete legal rupture with the child’s previous family
  2. The child is moved officially into the adopting family.
  3. There were seven witnesses of the adoption transaction, so that there was never any doubt.
An adoptive son could become the legal heir to his father. He could also be treated as the "firstborn" and get a double portion of the inheritance, if the father so chose. In Roman times, an adopted child was seen as an equal to other sons, and in some cases superior.

God says that when He adopts us into his family, we inherit along with our Lord Jesus—through faith. It is marvelous! It’s amazing!

And, we have the right to go to God and call him “Papa” (or “Daddy”). We have an intimate relationship with our Father. We’re accepted and loved.

Adoption is an important doctrine and image in the Bible. What’s more, it makes earthly adoptions a picture of what God did for us when we trusted Christ for salvation. We were adopted into His family. 

I would imagine that, when God adopted us, it wasn’t always an easy road for Him—especially since He hates sin, and we are sinful. But, it didn’t change our state as adopted children, and it never changed His love for us. I am so thankful to be adopted and to have the privilege of calling God my Father!

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9b).