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Archive for the ‘Bible / Theology’ Category

“I can hardly breathe,” I told my wife. And I meant it.

We were in an old elevator headed to the third floor of a battered women’s shelter in downtown Taipei just seconds before meeting our two new daughters. They were 5 ½ and 3 ½ and were just as nervous as we were.

The social workers blandly announced to the girls, “here’s your mama, and here’s your papa.” They handed us a bag of clothes that did not fit and sent us on our way.

No fan fare, no celebration, no instructions. It was one of the greatest days of our life. It was also the culmination of years of conviction, hard work, bureaucracy, patience (impatience!), and prayer. The most common question we heard through the whole process was, “Don’t you already have kids?”

What they meant was, “why would you adopt when you can obviously have kids biologically?” We had three biological children but it never crossed our mind that we should not add to our family through the gift of adoption. Here are the factors that were the driving force behind our decision to adopt.

We are committed to life. For our entire marriage we have supported many pro life causes. But we always felt that if we were going to encourage unwed girls to give birth to their babies, then Christians should be in line to be ready to adopt those who would be given up. It was our way of “putting our money where our mouth was.”

We are committed to the helpless and disadvantaged. James (1:27) makes it clear that one of the evidences of our faith is how we respond to the “affliction” of widows and orphans. Taking care of these two groups is time consuming, messy, and sacrificial. But it is a central part of the Christian life. We wanted to make sure that our family was heavily invested in this important admonition.

We are committed to biblical manhood. Men are called to lead, provide, and protect (Gen. 1-2, Eph. 5, I Kings 2:1-9, 1 Pet. 3, Col. 3). This is a fundamental teaching of the Bible and it does not merely pertain to the four walls of one’s home. Men should be looking for those who need protection and provision. There are fatherless children all over the world. Every year I meet women who are burdened for adoption but their husbands won’t budge. It’s usually something about retirement, college costs, or they are finally able to afford that boat they always wanted. In our home, the men lead and sacrificially give of themselves for the good of others.

We are committed to Gospel-centeredness. The doctrine of adoption is at the heart of the Gospel. We are born outside of Christ, but it is through Christ that we receive “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15) Physical adoption is a daily living picture of this spiritual reality. It is a constant reminder to our family and others of the grace and mercy of God and His love for the lost and care for the fatherless.

We are committed to the nations. Not everyone is called to international adoption but the result is a reminder of God’s love for every “nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev. 14:6). Every week the Lord adds people to his church and tells you and I to love them. They may not look like us, smell like us, have the same socio-economic background as us, or talk like us. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel. Twice we have brought into our home children from another country and told our other kids, “they don’t talk like you or look like you, but here’s another one, love them.” It has been one of the biggest blessings in the whole process for us and has dramatically shaped our view of the whole world.

Maybe the next big decision in your life will involve a vacation house or a boat or a car that you don’t need. Maybe it will involve trying to sock away even more money for that early retirement you have been hoping for. It might even involve contributing to a monument or building with your name on it. Or just maybe it will involve an old elevator in another country with your mind in a whirl, your heart racing, adrenaline rushing, and your lungs struggling inexplicably for their next breath. And in making that decision, it might not even cross your mind that you already have kids.
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Randy Stinson is the Dean of the School of Church Ministries and the Vice President for Academic Innovation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He also serves as the Senior Fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (www.cbmw.org).

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Recently our pastor, Matt Chandler, said, “Job was a guy who lost everything and learned that God is enough. Solomon was a guy who had everything and learned it was not enough.” Christ is enough. This is true on a personal level, and in ministry as well.

Some in the orphan ministry movement have gravitated towards a humanitarian perspective. Seeing all people as made in the image of God and meriting our love is, of course, very Christian (Matt. 25). At a luncheon meeting at one of China’s largest children’s hospitals, an elderly vice president began to speak. He explained that, “this hospital was founded by American missionaries in the 19th century.” I was again struck by the legacy of Christian humanitarian care, which had survived despite over 60 years of communism.

But as marvelous as this is, it is not enough. It is not enough for the Christian to serve out of humanitarian motives. After all, good deeds can be done in the name of Jesus without us knowing Him. (Matt. 7:21-23). And at the end of the day, the needs of orphans are the same as the needs of us all—needs that are both physical and spiritual. At the end of the day, food, clothing, and care is not enough. We need the Gospel.

That is I what I love most about Together for Adoption. Their 2011 event is coming up October 21-22, in Phoenix. This event offers insight that will equip attendees for many opportunities within orphan ministry. But, most importantly, it is the desire of Dan Cruver, Jason Kovacs, The Abba Fund and the rest of their speakers to make this event Gospel-centric. Many of us do not worship sincerely in our hearts because we do not fully see the spectacular reality of the Gospel. If you attend T4A this month you will get great teaching that will unveil anew the amazing Grace of God’s plan to make us family through His Son. It’s an amazing event and resource. If you’re able, I wholeheartedly encourage you to attend!

Blessings,

Paul

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A guest post by Jason Bollinger:

From before the time we were married, my wife and I talked openly and honestly about adoption. Due to fertility issues that seemed to be developing, we were forced to have conversations that had some significant weight to them. Those conversations ended with us believing that God had rooted parenthood firmly in our hearts, and we trusted that He would make us parents through adoption if not biologically by way of a miracle.

Four years into our marriage, the miracle happened, and we were blessed with a biological son. Life was good with him. So good, in fact, that we were never in a big hurry to press the issue of more children. We continued to talk about adoption from time to time. We had even sent some e-mails and gathered information, but we weren’t feeling that it was time to move forward.

A little further along the way, we started walking toward adoption. It was different this time. Walking through some adversity in our life showed us how content we were with our family threesome. Many of our friends’ families were expanding as ours had stalled, but we were strangely okay with that. What we were not okay with was that orphans around the world were laying their heads on their makeshift pillows at night with no hope and no mom and dad. The talk of adoption was no longer about adding to our family, it was about the Gospel. While we did like the thought of more children, our focus became centered on the rescue. There are kids in need of moms and dads. Let’s go get them.

Our theology of adoption was fairly weak at the time. As we walked through the process, it got better. Adoption is a theme throughout scripture. Our relationship with the Father, as follower of Christ, is best defined as a relationship of adoption. As you study Scripture, you see the Lord giving specific instructions about caring for the fatherless. From the old through the new, God’s heart is strong for the orphan. The more aware we became of this in Scripture, the more aware we became of the love that we’ve been given and the love we have to give. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and we have blessing beyond measure to offer.

In the summer of 2010, we spent three months in Ukraine in pursuit of an orphan. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but the Lord used the adversity to bring us very, very close to Him. Through that closeness, we modified our home study and dossier to allow us to have more options. Going home empty-handed was not an option. If the Lord had different expectations of what our adoption was supposed to look like, we were fine with that.

After three months of battling, praying, trusting, hoping, failing, weeping, learning and eventually winning, something became very clear. We had much more to give than we thought. We went after one child, the Lord gave us two. We wanted a younger child so that we could have as much nurture time as possible, God gave us two girls with a very real knowledge of what they lived through. We were going for a smooth transition, we’ve had a pretty rough one. However, we did want what God wanted, and that’s what we got.

We underestimated our capacity for pouring out what God had poured into us. Adoption has allowed us to experience a level of faith and intimacy with God that nothing else in our life has come close to. Biblically, the call to care for orphans is clear. The pursuit of orphans purifies the Christianity in our heart and catapults us into the frontlines of trusting God. We’ve found that the Lord continually has more love to give, and that means we do too. Orphan care is the perfect avenue to test this theory. It seems most people underestimate the potential they have to be vessels of the love of God. The truth is that it’s up to God to do what He wants to do through you. It’s likely though, that He’s got bigger plans in mind for you than you do – maybe even related to adoption, but definitely in the world of orphan care.

Don’t underestimate how God may use you to change an orphan’s life forever. You also have more love to give than you think.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Jason & Holly Bollinger pastor River Stone Community Church in San Marcos, Texas, and they blog on adoption & orphan care related issues at http://www.morelovetogive.com

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I just recently came on board with Hope for Orphans. To say that I have learned much would be an understatement.

My job is in publicity. I sit in an office chair with a headset, to hopefully save my head from cell phone waves and brain cancer. You’d think I’d be learning mostly about publicity. How to write a good press release. How to navigate church phone systems to get the right ministry leader on the line.

But what I’ve learned is different. I’m learning about the theology of adoption. I’m learning more about what it means to be a family.

I think of orphans a lot more than I did before. The voice of eleven-year-old me, memorizing Galatians 4:6 for church, flings itself back in my soul with new meaning: “Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.'”

Russell Moore pointed out in an article for Christianity Today that this cry for Abba isn’t written in just in a context of a child’s affectionate pet-word for “Father.” Rather, “Abba” is always used in the Bible in a context of screaming:

Jesus cries “Abba, Father” as He screams “with loud cries and tears” for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. 5:7; Mark 14:36, ESV…). Similarly, the doctrine of adoption shows us that we “groan” with the creation itself “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). It is the scream of the crucified.
The gospel of adoption challenges us, first of all, to recognize ourselves as spiritual orphans. The gospel compels us to see our fallen universe—and our own egocentric kingdoms therein—as not the way it’s supposed to be.

The theology of adoption underlines our desperation. A child screams “Daddy” because he is a guaranteed defender. No three year old can outrun the neighbor’s snapping dog. No infant can rummage through the fridge to find something to eat. As toddlers are helpless on their own, so I am before God. I have nothing. None of my own efforts can save my soul; none of my strength can dam the world’s pain. I have nothing but to cling to the knees of my Abba Father, asking with the impudence of childlike faith for Him to move in and work in my world.

The theology of adoption underlines God’s love. J.I. Packer noted in Knowing God, that adoption is a greater gift than justification. Yes, being adopted into God’s family is more a sign of His grace even than being legally declared righteous before God. Justification declares our souls as righteous by virtue of Christ’s death; adoption declares that we are now as close to God as family. Those who were far are now brought near (Eph. 2:13). Once, God was in His Heaven, far and away. Now He dwells with us. (Matt. 1:23; Rom. 8:9)

To bring this home, when a Chinese orphan is brushed off by adoption officials due to a cleft palate, the picture is that of us. When that child’s muscles atrophy because it can barely eat enough to survive, and when his nerves fight to develop in spite of almost never feeling the sensation of touch, that is us. When we were too broken to be noticed, and our voices were too weak to even scream, God tore the Heavens to come and save. (Isaiah 64:1) We have been given dwelling-place with the same God who tells us to call Him “Abba.”

Adoption isn’t just a picture of our relationship with God. Adoption is our relationship with God. Only when we are bowled over with the grace of that adoption can we see ourselves in the orphans of the world.

 

Hannah Farver is Co-Director of Publicity at Hope for Orphans, a blogger, and author. This was originally posted at www.hannahfarver.com.

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In James 1:27 the believer is instructed to visit widows and orphans in their distress.

As American Christians, I think many of us have not considered the implications of what distress really means for kids in foster care and many other orphans throughout the world.

Many North American believers have awakened to God’s love for fatherless children. In some circles, unfortunately, and sometimes dangerously, it is even becoming a badge of spirituality to adopt.

Still, God has given thousands of children the joy of a forever family. The growing adoption movement is a visible illustration of God’s plan to overcome sin and brokenness through His adoption of us, made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. As for the Christian families adopting these children, the blessings for both them and their children have been nothing short of a demonstration of the reality of God.

However, what many people have not always understood is the magnitude of pain, hurt, fear, need, affliction, or “distress” as it were, that many children bring with them. When we love these children with special needs or who are coming from dark places, that means that this distress becomes a part of us…our marriages and our families. Some, maybe most, who are adopting have no idea of how to prepare themselves, much less their children and spouses.

This includes not really grasping the level of sacrifice that God is sometimes calling families to in adoption. In Hebrews 11, we all remember the recounting of the victories and miracles that God performed through people of faith, but what we forget are those lives talked about in verses 35 through 38. These are equally lives of faith; believers who endured mockery, scourging, chains, stoning, death by the sword and affliction. They, like those who experienced victory, also gained approval through their faith for something better.

Sometimes adoption is full of victory, miracles and joys unimaginable. But sometimes it brings with it the sufferings, confusion, doubts and struggles that can only be faced through faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit. When families are called to such adoptions, they often need help. The Church should be a place where they can turn and get that help.

There is a crisis brewing and spreading almost as fast as God is mobilizing the Church to serve orphans. The crisis is coming about as a result of the rapid increase in believers who are adopting older, special needs and at-risk children, but are not fully equipped to do so. The crisis is manifesting itself in an increase in the number of families struggling to cope with some of the issues their new children bring to their homes, and in an increase of post-placement risk of disrupted adoptions as well.

Next year, some experts estimate that 60% of all children adopted from China to American families will be special needs kids. In Ukraine, like many other parts of the world, it appears that future adoptions will be skewed greatly to older kids and sibling groups, in addition to those with severe emotional and medical needs. In America, we understand more instinctively that children from foster care are often coming from hard places.

At Hope for Orphans, we believe that God’s solution for meeting this crisis (and the whole orphan crisis for that matter) is THE CHURCH. The Church was designed by God to be that safe community where members of the body serve one another when the wheels come off in life. The Church should be a place where families can be honestly prepared, maybe even helped through self-assessment in advance of entering the process to adopt older, special needs, or at-risk children.

This September 16th and 17th, we will be hosting the Hope for Orphans Institute at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. The purpose of this two-day conference is to equip orphan ministry leaders, pastors, counselors, social workers and others with biblically-based skills and tools to serve families called to adopt older, special needs and at-risk kids. We will have nationally-renowned experts providing insights to help families and leaders to meet this growing need. This event will be hosted and moderated by Ryan Dobson, who is himself an adult adoptee.

We believe that the Church is the key place that the needs of struggling adoptive families can be met in-depth and in sustainable ways. For social workers and professionals partnering with the Church in serving families in acute need, the principles from this conference will give new power to help make a difference. To learn more about this event and how God can use you to help others in your church and community, go to www.HFOInstitute.org.

 

Paul Pennington is the founder of Hope for Orphans. He and his wife, Robin, have six children. They live in Dallas, Texas.

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George Mueller was a German pastor who lived in 19th century Bristol, England. He preached for Spurgeon and it is said that he inspired Hudson Taylor. He was also called to Orphan Ministry.He said that there were three reasons why he asked God to help him to help orphans:

“The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare.”

Mueller would say that his life of faith was nothing but a work of God’s grace. The grace he was given for the faith needed to minister to orphans was a powerful demonstration to all that saw his work of the power and reality of God.

Of Mueller, John Piper writes: “He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834, there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that ‘fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.’”

In Matthew 24, Jesus is asked by the disciples, “What will be the sign of Your coming?” Jesus gives them a list of things that will point to the birth pangs. But His comment in verse 14 is particularly interesting in the times that we live. He says, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.”

Just the other day, my wife and I were talking about days not that long ago when there was no internet, there were no cell phones, certainly no Skype video chat, much less a personal computer. But, in just a matter a few years all of this technology, along with “social networking”, has brought profound changes that in fact can and are taking this Gospel of the kingdom around the world. Just this month in Egypt we saw the incredible results of how technology and social networking can bring down a 30-year ruler in just 18 days. In fact, in Isaiah 19:2 we read, “So I will incite Egyptians against Egyptians; And they will each fight against his brother and each against his neighbor, city against city and kingdom against kingdom.” Of course, this passage does not necessarily connect to the recent events in Egypt, but it does show us that the Lord’s plan is unfolding just as He said.

Which brings me back to Mueller. We know from Joel that in the last days the Lord will pour out His Spirit in such a way that the Gospel will reach the least and the unreached. Perhaps orphans represent a major portion of that fulfillment in our time as churches across America and now in the third world are putting action to theology in the love for orphans. As the love of Christ is brought to orphans around the world, Matthew 24 is being fulfilled. I recently heard from a friend that Christians in East Asia are taking their very modest resources and reaching out to orphans and widows, investing their lives to touch those whom are Precious to the Lamb.

If God is leading you to be a part of bringing the good news to foster children and the orphans of the world, ask Him to show you how you and your church can be used. Pray that He will provide not just for the means, but also the power through His spirit so that the faith of others can be strengthened, just like those believers of Mueller’s day.  At Hope for Orphans, we are here to help you any way that we can. We have brand new resources for various orphan ministry outreaches. We have new tools and events coming to help you fulfill the calling you have been given in your church. I hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter.

Blessings,

Paul

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…They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Acts 2:45

“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

From the beginning of the church, there has been a connection between the Good News and loving those in need. That connection usually means sacrifice. North American Christians as a bunch are not quite as keen for sacrifice as those in the early church, perhaps because there has been a drift in teaching away from Biblical truth and grace. The new direction has been towards more motivational and frankly “me-centered” teaching. However, as we approach the annual Cry of the Orphan Campaign and Orphan Sunday, we are seeing churches all over America who are launching lay-led, people-to-people orphan ministries, in which there is not only sacrifice but a laying out of lives for the fatherless. The impact, not only on orphans, but on churches, has been amazing.

At the beginning of Hope for Orphans, we worked with a small church in South Texas — a fledgling orphan ministry started by two adoptive moms who had a vision and conviction that loving the fatherless was not optional. This led in fairly short order to 29 kids coming for a summer hosting program. The Russian-speaking kids who came had an impact that reached much further than a handful of kids getting families. This church had a revival of sorts through the love of these orphans that introduced the entire congregation to a country most had probably never heard of. The Lord used orphan ministry to give this church a new passion for missions, evangelism, reconciliation and the Gospel that was truly supernatural. 29 kids became 41 and from there this church and its orphan ministry has helped mentor churches in many places to similar results. The compounded impact for children in foster care and around the world is wonderful. The transformation brought about by seeing the visible gospel by the whole congregation has been priceless.

The point is…One Church Can Make a Difference…a difference that impacts generations for God’s glory. Will you be an orphan ministry leader in your church? One way to give a vision to your church in these next few weeks is through the Cry of the Orphan Partners’ one-hour content-on-demand video special Answer the Cry. This free resource can be used in Sunday schools, small groups, youth groups and even in a special worship service to introduce your church to God’s heart for orphans. This and other resources will be available at www.cryoftheorphan.org. This special program will also be available on DVD in limited supplies at Family Christian Stores locations across the country.

We even have a promo video that you can show leadership in your church or maybe use to promote your own event. You may watch the preview now by clicking here.

Also, at Hope for Orphans, we have a new video that speaks to how God is using the church. You may see that video by clicking here.

So this Orphan Sunday week, consider a sacrifice of your time to give voice to those kids who have none. Consider how God wants to use your Church for loving orphans and waiting children.

Blessings
Paul

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