had been brought into the house of the LORD

"In You the Fatherless Find Compassion" {Hos14:3}

* Vertical Adoption
- John1:12, Eph1:5-6, Rom9:4, Gal4:4-5, Rom8:14-15, Rom8:23
- Adoption: An act of God whereby He makes us members of His family (Grudem)
- God could've justified us sans adoption
- Adoption part of eternal plan, just like forgiveness of sin

* Horizontal adoption
- Deut10:18, Ps10:14-18, Ps68:5, Ps82:3-4, Isa1:17, Hos14:3, Mark9:37
- Orphan ministry encompasses many types of service -- adoption, foster care, surrogate parenting, etc.
- 50-100 million orphans in world today
* Applications
- Consider & embrace the wonder of our adoption into God's family through Jesus
- Consider supporting others committed to orphan ministry
- Consider orphan ministry as an overflow of inheritance you have in Christ
- Prayerfully study orphan ministry & how God may want you to participate
* Potential sites of interest
- Cry of the Orphan
- Christian Alliance for Orphans
- Shaohannah's Hope
- Project 127
- Tacoma YFC Foster Care


the power of God for salvation

Sang an amazing new song during our Christmas Eve service Wed evening called "Jesus Saves". Haven't been able to get it out of my head, and it was an immediate iTunes download. It is not a version or adaptation of the hymn of the same name. It is wholly different. Love that it captures the trinity of holy days: the birth ("Hear the host of angels sing, 'Glory to the Newborn King.'"), death ("'It is done!' will shout the cross, Christ has paid redemption's cost!"), and resurrection ("While the empty tomb's declaring, 'Jesus saves.'"). Love the soaring proclamation of the gospel message.

Jesus saves. Amen to that.


glorifying God with a loud voice

My son, like me, can't carry a tune; we are essentially tone deaf. But rather than inhibit his ability to worship the Lord through song, this fact serves only to create the opportunity for him to be a witness to others. For the past two years, during Christmas Eve services at church -- where we don't have childcare for kids his age -- my son sits with us in the sanctuary. And per Christmas Eve tradition, we sing carols, familiar enough that even my son knows the words. This year, in addition to singing familiar songs, my son can read, so every song instantly becomes knowable.

My son sings at the top of his lungs, off-key for every song. Rows in front of us and in back of us can pick out his little voice amidst the congregational singing. You know who else can hear my son's singing? The Lord God Almighty, and I'm certain no other voice pleased Him as much as my son's voice.

We always receive compliments after the service is over at how wonderful his singing was. And these are not meant to be patronizing words of praise that are deceitful. No, off-key or otherwise, it is wonderful singing because it's from a heart of worship sung for the Lord and not for any other. No perfect pitch, but a perfectly-intentioned heart, and that's all that matters to the Lord. Those of us in my son's pew row actually sang even louder than normal since my son was so vocal. And for me, I sang louder, not to cover up his singing, but because in a reversal of example, I so very much wanted to be like my son, all in worship, all unconscious of external opinion, all singing as loudly as I could for the Lord.


the Messiah was to be born

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.'" -- Luke2:10-11


so they removed the stone

Question: How do you write a story of faith and make the faith part of it disappear?
Answer: Why don't you ask Rick Reilly.

Reilly is a Hallmark card wrapped in sports uniforms. He is a human interest story salesman with a sports focus. He seeks to reveal the inspirational, the sensational, and the human side of sports and athletes. But because he writes for the monolith that is ABC Disney subsidiary ESPN, he has to tailor his message to a broad audience. Translation: no religion in his pieces. GetReligion.org calls this the ghost in the story.

This was no ordinary high school that split its fanbase to cheer for the opposing team. This was no ordinary high school that formed a poster for the opposing team to run through. This was no ordinary team that prayed after the game. This was a clearly Christian school trying to showcase the love of God to a group of students not used to getting any love. They were providing the free gift of hope, yes, but that hope is bound completely in Christ Jesus. To report this story without the reasoning behind the inspiration is to mis-report the story completely.

Nice job, Reilly. Nice job pretending to say something, and actually saying nothing. You, sir, have a career in politics if you want it.


will separate them from one another

I've said kind things about Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and its Sr Pastor Marc Driscoll before. But I have to take a sec to be critical of a recent blog post from Driscoll about this past weekend. WA state was hit by a winter snow storm. The threat for ice and snow and sleet and high winds was clear, and state emergency officials encouraged everyone to stay off the roads and stay indoors. Businesses and the airport and many roads were shut down. Churches had to make the tough call on whether or not to cancel their services. Mars Hill chose not to. And Driscoll decides to take those concerned for their safety to task.

* First, he criticizes those who serve at the church and divides them between those with a calling to those who simply do a job -- and he bases it all on their attendance on one day. Never mind that he ignores public official encouragement to stay home, but it is ignorant to use any single day as the one that determines the diligent from the not. If a volunteer had devoted the rest of his year and served his heart out but missed the one Sunday, he is somehow a jobber rather than a faithful servant? Ridiculous.

People that stick their neck out the farthest are the risk-takers, not the most faithful. I imagine that from a probability standpoint, for example, the young adults are far more likely to venture out in bad weather out of sheer youthful energy and boldness. I suppose our elderly saints who have supported the church for years but whose infirmities and frailties must keep them home during a blizzard, those guys are faithless, right? Awful reasoning.

* Secondly, Driscoll dares to read people's heart based on their choice to stay home. I pondered my heart on staying home, sure, and ended up doing a house church lesson with the whole family. And it was an amazing experience. But apparently that isn't good enough. Apparently I have to be at the church facility to actually see God. Apparently God only lives in a holy temple rather than in our hearts and with us always. Driscoll's insistence on attendance is no different than fundamentalist preachers' insistence on dressing the right way or not dancing or not drinking or not smoking or not cursing as symbols of faith. That is pure and unadulterated pharisaic zeal, not reflections on some deeper faith.

* Lastly, he bases a person's love for their church on whether or not they can drive in snow and ice. Never mind the elder who teaches Sunday school, makes tough decisions, prays regularly for his flock, shepherds people on his leisure time, and gives generously of his resources. If he doesn't have snow chains, he hates his flock. He's not one of the "hardcore of the hardcore".

We'll find out at the throne, Driscoll, not on your blog.


you were bought with a price

Some friends recommended the song below. It's called "Hymn 101" by an artist named Joe Pug. The word "hymn" in the title might lead one to believe it's a religious song; if it is, it isn't inherently Christian, but more personal religion than anything (although there are some lines in there about a manger, God's awful grace, and treasure in a chest). In any case, it does what most songs of the solo guitar variety do -- grind away at the sharp parts of your heart with a melancholy melody and lyrics. My favorite set of phrases goes:
oh they say i come with less
than i should rightfully possess
i say the more i buy the more i'm bought
and the more i'm bought the less i cost


and their conscience being weak

Sometimes I can't tell if I have too little faith. All week the forecasters were predicting a devastating winter storm in our area. I began to get tense by mid-week. By Thursday I was sending emails to our Senior Pastor asking him about the possibility of service cancellation on Sunday. I sent a few more emails Friday. I sent a few more Saturday morning. I scoured websites for proof of the severity of the storm, as well as examples of other churches nixing their services due to inclement weather. I crossed the line between providing useful information to make a decision and outright nagging. I argued that the safety of our flock was my primary concern. My flock, or just my family?

Contrast that to friends in OR who got a foot of snow and will walk to service tomorrow morning when I'm comfortably snug in my home. Or contrast that to the story I once heard of a foreign believer in a muslim country who endured a beating every Sunday when she left for church but to her it was worth it. Maybe I just don't want to worship and fellowship with other believers as much as I should desire that.

Or maybe I understand that the Lord isn't confined to a building on a Sunday morning, and I have a responsibility as a leader to not endanger the elderly and the children and the other believers who must cross icy, snowy roads for a handful of songs. I can really argue this both ways. But I'm not interested in my own judgment; I'm interested in His.


which He prepared beforehand

Ever asked yourself the question "What have I gotten myself into?"

Received confirmation yesterday evening that I'll get a shot at the most important day of the year. I only wanted it because I love it more than any other day, and I'm confident in saying I love the day more than anyone else does. Confirmation did not result in joy, however. It resulted in holy terror.

Public speaking haunts others; I enjoy it. Crafting spiritual lessons is daunting for others; I enjoy it. But combining the two is wholly different. And the terror is not messing up before brethren; it is potentially messing up before the only Judge who matters. I'll trust, however, that the message He has placed on my heart will be fine, just fine.


Sometimes my mind sees what it wants to see. Often I will have to schedule work calls early in the morning (6:00 am or sometimes earlier), thus getting me up even earlier to prep for these calls. So after setting my alarm and mentally telling myself I need to get up early, my body every so often takes that mental command and runs with it. And what happens is that I will wake up at 1:00 in the morning feeling completely alert, and then jump out of bed ready to start my day.

The odd part to me is not that I wake up far earlier than my alarm. The odd part is that before I jump out of bed, I stare at my alarm clock for a long time, my brain trying to decipher the numbers it sees. And every time, my mind sees my clock as being near my actual wake-up time. It is not until 30 or so minutes later that I find out it's a completely different time than what I thought I had seen.

This is how our brain works all the time when it comes to matters of faith. Our brains see what we want them to see. The believer who wants to commit that sin finds some rationalization that it's okay. The believer who votes for that pro-choice candidate sees the other qualities and ignores the murder. The believer who wants children despite the Lord's clear denial chases every medical option available at great cost. The believer who stuffs faith into an hour and a half on Sunday morning sees that regular attendance as faithful rather than the bare minimum.

The Apostle Paul goes blind on the Damascus Road, and it's only later when the scales fall away from his eyes and he sees truth. This process needs to occur on a more regular basis in our walks of faith, methinks.


there is no limit to the

I once made the insane and arrogant comment that whenever I walked into a room, I believed I was the smartest one in it. So I like being reminded how much I don't know. Alright, I don't actually like being reminded, but whatever. In any case, at the elder meeting last night, we briefly discussed what our policy should be regarding anointing others with oil. I'd never in all my years as a believer ever given an ounce of thought to the practice and what I should believe about it. A quick google search revealed various viewpoints (you can read one HERE or HERE or HERE).

It's good to know that there is no end to what I can learn. Even someone as prideful as me feels better knowing how infinite a topic faith is, that there is no limit to how much more He can teach me if I'm willing to listen.


for unto you is born this day

"God's Greatest Gift" (Christmas Praise Concert)
* Prelude

* Hark the Herald Angels Sing
* Angels We Have Heard on High
* Joy to the World
* Magnificent/Could It Be?
* O Holy Night
* Child of Glory

* The First Noel
* Emmanuel
* Sing Noel

* He Made a Way in a Manger
* Here I Am to Worship
* Angels from the Realms of Glory


have gained the victory for

The clip below has been making the rounds (sadly, I recognize probably 80% of the scenes):

There's a reason so many movies include big speeches in the climactic scene: it works on audiences. We like the buildup, the tension. We like being moved toward victory when all hope seems lost. We like digging down deep and digging in our heels and then pulling out triumphantly. We like knowing that all is not over, and there is a light at the end of the day.

Friend, if you like it in Hollywood, surely you'll relish it even more in reality. The Christmas story, the Gospel message, is that saving grace when all looks destined for defeat. The Bible says all have sinned and because of that we have earned death. But just when the devil was about to grasp you forever, as darkness built up and all was lost, God sent His only Son into a manger and destined Him to death on a cross on a hill. And three days later, in a tomb lit by the lights of heaven, Jesus Christ crushed Satan under His heel, snatched life from the grave and rose triumphant. And He did all of that, endured that cross, all for you.

There is an end scene that will move you to tears. And it will be on Judgment Day at the end of your life before a white throne. And those tears can be tears of sorrow and despair as you are shuffled off toward fire. Or it could be tears of great joy at having had your war won for you by the Son of God. That choice is for you to make, for you to decide whether or not to accept Jesus into your life right now. Don't let the credits roll without taking this chance at eternity.


has had a different spirit and

Check out the video below first:

I'll be honest, I'm not sure how to take his message. On one hand, I am with him all the way as he bashes the lukewarm. There are many unbelievers who convince themselves they are believers based on some half-hearted prayer for salvation many years prior. And there are many believers who will be harshly judged at the throne. They think it's okay to straddle two worlds -- a foot in eternity, and a foot squarely rooted in the world. They think being a Christian starts and ends with church on Sunday, while the rest of their life is exempt. Jesus does call you to forsake the world and forsake your old ways and obey Him to the point of calvary. All true.

On the other hand, Washer condemns folks who haven't done the 180, and puts them squarely with unbelievers. He doesn't acknowledge that there is such a thing as a bad Christian. In his world, either you're sold out, or you're unsaved. He actually wants to complicate the gospel message. It's almost like he's saying belief is not enough -- that you have to do all these things and forsake the world in all these ways and be 100% religious (likely in particular ways that he would define as proper), or else you were never really saved. He ignores the fact that believers can fall away as the Bible says they do. He ignores the fact that it is impossible for us to be perfect, and that many will straddle the world -- not because they don't love Christ, but because they are weak.

Is the message that simple belief is too easy a way to garner eternity? Yeah, Mr. Washer. That is in fact the gospel message.


are witnesses of these things

You need to go ahead and read THIS STORY. Some google detective work informs me that the pastor mentioned in the article is the Associate Pastor of the Korean United Methodist Church in San Diego, so these are all believers. In a nation as vindictive, litigious, selfish, and greedy as ours -- especially during a bad economy -- the natural response would have been a lawsuit and rage. This man instead asks for prayer for the pilot at fault -- actually calls him a treasure -- and then thanks God that He had given him the blessing of being married to his wife for as long as he had been. No rage, no request for vengeance.

This man joins SCC as models of faith. Tragedy strikes, and God is glorified. Now tell me again, luke, how maybe God doesn't exist because you aren't getting everything you want for Christmas.


"When the Infinite Became an Infant"
* Incarnation {John1:14} -- not man became God; God became man
* How did people know God was coming?
- Adam & Eve receive prophecy {Gen3:15} -- fulfilled in Gal4:4, Heb2:14, 1John3:8
- Isaiah prophecies virgin birth {Isa7:14} -- fulfilled in Matt1:18-23
- Micah prophecies birthplace {Mic5:2} -- fulfilled in Luke2:1-7
* Was Jesus fully man?
- Rom5:19, Heb2:17, Phil2:8, 1John3:5
- Same as man except sans sin (only way propitiationary sacrifice could work)
- Also see more from prior sermon
* Was Jesus fully God?
- John1:1-18, Col2:9, John10:29-30
- "the Word" from Hebrew meaning a "happening" or event
- "logos" from Greek meaning power of Creator of all; power that places order in universe; root of meaning
- Word/logos became flesh {John1:14}
* Possible responses
- Miss Him completely (v10)
- Reject Him (v11)
- Receive Him (v12)


that you may have strength to

Caught a glimpse of a program, and watched SCC play a tune. I pointed him out to the sweet things. I wanted again to call their attention to how amazing his testimony has been. I mentioned how there is no possible way for me to be as amazing as SCC has been were I to lose one of my daughters. The wondrous one told me I was making God too small. I responded that it wasn't the case; I just know how small my faith is.

In reality, the grace of God is able to prop up many through times of trial. Certainly, I would be no different. And certainly His grace is sufficient, and He is big enough to pull even the smallest of faith through the fire. But it is healthy to always see oneself as having much, much more to learn and go. Honest faith knows that no matter the progress made, no matter the level of obedience, you are still half a mustard seed, and that face to whom the mirror is held is still an infinite distance away, but hopefully getting closer.


in whom you delight, behold

Joy and relief expressed through denim...

The CEO of the company I work for was relieved of his duties last week. This was absolutely thrilling news for all employees. He ruled through authority, control, and fear. The clearest example of this was in the prohibition of jeans-wearing at corporate HQ. The head of marketing and a senior finance person both wore jeans to work one day and when the CEO saw them, he remarked rather icily, "Casual work day today, is it? I didn't know that." The implication was that it was bad in his eyes. A few weeks after that when the COO -- the #2 guy in the company -- wore jeans on a Friday, the CEO told the head of HR to tell the COO he wasn't allowed to do that any longer. Yeah, he was that kind of guy. In a meeting today, I was in a conference room with 17 other people, and there were 12 people wearing jeans.

Where am I going with all of this...

I think some people have an unhealthy view of God, where fear is what they associate with Him rather than the love He has for us. To these people, it is difficult for them to know where they stand in His eyes. They're on pins and needles, questioning their worth, their salvation, their faith. And while fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, 1John4:8 and 1Cor13 is clear that the defining characteristic of Him is love. My hope is that these people get to the point where their liberation from their improper perspective of a fearful and dark God allows them to express their joy palpably, freely, personally.


It is good, my daughter

I recently wrote about being thankful for the strength to be obedient, and for the blessings that often accompany obedience. Two years ago, I was happy with only two children, but driving to a church event, I heard the Lord clearly tell me to have another child. Later at home that night, I was startled (I shouldn't have been) to find out that He'd given my wife the same direction that day. A year ago today, the reward for that obedience was the miracle that is my third sweet thing. And I learned in the instant of a child's cry how incomplete my life had been seconds before.

She's got this sparkle in her smile that looks like it traveled through a light year of sweetness to express itself. She's got this need for intimacy in her that results in moments of warm embraces. She's got this squeak that sing songs as if questioning someone. And if that question is directed to me and wondering how much I love her, well the answer is beyond my ability to express in words.


and overflowing with gratitude

We've been singing an amazing song in church lately. It's worth your time to listen to it and to ponder the lyrics. Lots of songs praise God for something He has done ("Great is Thy Faithfulness"). Other songs discuss the attributes of God ("Holy, Holy, Holy"). Others discuss our reaction to God ("We Fall Down"). And all these are great things to sing about. But I've seen only a few songs that just simply state the Gospel message. And this song does that, and then steps back, having nothing left to do but say thanks. It's hauntingly clear and beautiful. [Note: Click HERE to listen to it, sixth song down.]

Your blood has washed away my sin. Jesus, thank You.