Foster Care – Big Problem, Small Solutions

I thought I would do something a little different and share a quick video on Foster Care.

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Reading John with glasses on

The Gospel of John is my favorite book of all time. I may have said this before but it is worth repeating. One of the reasons is because John tells us how to read his book. Mind you he does not tell you until the end of the book but he tells you nontheless.

In John 20:31 John writes “But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” Now this may be a simple statement and maybe I am making a bigger deal out of it then I should but…

Let’s think about this and break it down into two parts. First, John says that everything he wrote he wrote so that you would believe Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God. So when we are reading something difficult like “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” we can read it through the lens John provides and know that this is there so that we can beleive Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God. We can also look at a verse like John 8:56 where Jesus says that Abraham rejoiced to see His (Jesus’) day. We can read that and see again that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God.

For the second part John says that he wants people to have life in His (Jesus’) name. Now this one can mean either life as in eternal life meaning being saved or life as in living the resurrection life of Jesus (think Gal 2:20). There is some really good discussion that you can have with that but for now I would say it does not matter too much for an intro to reading the book.

The important thing is that you read it with the lens that John wants to you to have life in Jesus name. For example, we can look at John 8:32 and read that Jesus says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. In it’s most basic form it just means that Jesus wants us to be free in His name. We meet Jesus find out we are apart from God, find out God loves us, and find freedom (life) in Jesus. Another example, would be the story of the woman caught in adultry. We can read that and see that Jesus is not only the Messiah, because He can forgive sin, but that He has life in His name, because the woman is not stoned.

The book of John goes so deep but in truth it all starts with reading it the right way and through the right lens. My suggestion for you this week is to go back and re-read the Gospel of John but while you read it keep these three questions below in your mind.

What is John trying to point out here:

  1. Jesus as Messiah?
  2. Life in Jesus name?
  3. A mix of both (this one happens the most)?

Enjoy!

Just a thought,

Mike

Kingdom of Heaven

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I have been thinking about the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven lately. I know it surprised me too. Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven some 33 times so I think it is kind of important. One commentary defines the kingdom of heaven as “the rule which God exercises through the person, work, and teachings of Jesus.”[1] I think that is a pretty good definition but to go a little further Edward Schillebeekx (no I did not make that up) says the kingdom of heaven is “a process, a course of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as king or Lord, an action, therefore, by which God manifests his being-God in the world of men.”[2] I think that one is pretty good too. But I would simplify it a little and say the Kingdom of Heaven is God ruling now.

Have you ever heard the expression that some people are too heavenly minded for their own earthly good? I have and to be honest that is how we should live. The problem is that what is meant by that is some people are only looking forward to the after-death part of heaven and not the here and now part. I am not talking about heaven on earth as in everything is perfect but God ruling here and now in us. Jesus coming to earth, living, dying, and being raised again was an invasion. I mean think about it, Jesus came to earth to bring the kingdom of heaven here. He came to bring people out of sin and death and back into God’s kingdom.

We live in this weird now but not yet place of belonging to Heaven but still residing on earth. The kingdom of heaven lives in us and we carry around the kingdom of heaven everywhere we go. The Gospel message is that we can live in that reality of heaven now. Yes, one day when we die we will move there so to speak but we have it now. Right now, at work, at home, even in the car you have the kingdom of heaven because as a Christian you have submitted yourself to Gods rule.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, we live in the reality of this. This is why Peter writes to people and calls them sojourners or pilgrims. We should live heavenly minded but we should understand that it is a destination and position we currently hold.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

[1] HCSB Study Bible

[2]  Schillebeeckx, Edward, Jesus: An Experiment in Christology. London: Fount Paperbacks. pp. 140–141.

Foster Care and Love

I don’t usually get personal but today I will. On Friday, our two foster boys left and I felt a sadness I did not know I could feel. It is a hard thing doing foster care because going into it you know they will leave, and you know you will be broken hearted. You know this but you still do it. I think one of the things that makes it that much harder is that they take all their stuff with them. You have little things that get left behind but when you are used to having a house full of toys and fire trucks a block here and a car there does not really cut it.

I can say that now more than before I understand God’s love for me. To do Foster Care right you need to open yourself up completely. Don’t get me wrong I think I did more wrong than right but I think I opened up fully. Back to the point though, you need to completely love these kids because while you know they are leaving they need security and love. They need to know that their past does not define them and that their hurt can be healed. They need to be washed in love every day and that requires you to be only concerned with their well-being. That is hard.

It is hard because you know their love for you is not as deep as it is for their bio parents. Regardless of their former home life and how messed up it might be that was home and that was normal. You and your love are abnormal. The point is you need to be all in regardless of whether or not they are. You need to love them as if they were yours not because the feelings or actions may be reciprocated but because that is what love does.

We loved those boys fully. I made mistakes but I loved fully. Now I hurt fully. I hurt when I think about them, I hurt when I see a toy or their little Nashville refrigerator magnets, and I hurt fully when I know I will not see them after work. But I also smile. I smile because I know they are happy, healthy, and they know they were loved. I smile because I got hugs I would have never gotten, I smile because I got to hear I love you, and I smile because the little one used the potty. I smile because I was able to love.

We have to love people and we have to be willing to be hurt. We cannot say no because it is hard but I will because it is worth it. Whether it is a hard child, a hard adult, or whatever we must love because loving people is worth it.

I think about how God loves us and how the Bible says “while we still sinners Christ died for us.” God gave fully because that is what loves does. Even now there are those who refuse Him and want nothing to do with Him. Yet He still loves them and He is still calling them.

There is a whole world out there waiting to see what the church will do. They are waiting to see if we will walk like Christ. They are waiting to see if we will come to them and love. They are waiting. Are we willing to walk in and out of love?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Eph 2:4-5

Just a thought,

Mike

A Miracle with a Message

In Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man in a very unusual way. Jesus spits on the man’s eyes and the vision is partially restored. Then Jesus puts the His hands on the man’s eyes and his vision is totally restored. I know the first couple of times I read this passage I was beyond confused because I could not figure out why Jesus did not restore the man’s vision all at once. After all, He is Jesus He could easily do this.

I have heard all sorts of explanations for this ranging from the man did not have enough faith at first to Jesus had already said “Woe to you Bethsaida” because they did not repent. The former has to do with our faith being the power and the latter has to do with Jesus withholding blessing an individual because of corporate failure. Both in my humble opinion fall short because neither treats Scripture properly and both place the emphases on the individual passage and not in context.

If we read the whole of Mark 8 we can see that before this Jesus rebukes the disciples because they did not understand His words about the yeast of the Pharisees and then later Jesus rebukes Peter because he tried to Jesus (never a good idea). Yet right in the middle is this miracle. It is a miracle with a message. The message is clearly given before the miracle in 8:21 where Jesus says, “How is it you do not understand?” In short, the message is that you can walk with God and miss the point.

The point is not to go to church, tithe, dress better, do better, get stuff, or correct people. No, the point is to love God with all your heart soul and mind and love others as yourself. That is the point of walking with God. First, we walk with God and learn to be like Him, loving what He loves and giving ourselves wholly to Him and then because of that we love others and concern ourselves with their well-being.

That is why Jesus did not heal the man right off the bat. It was not because He could not or did not want to. He was going to heal the man we can tell because He did. The point was to demonstrate to the disciples that they are seeing part of the image but not the whole thing. They had some vision but not the whole picture. They were not trusting Jesus for who He is but instead still had their focus on the bread which is really to say on their immediate needs. Jesus wants us to be concerned with more than our immediate need He wants us to give Him our full attention and devotion. He wants us to walk with Him and trust in Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

Will We Listen

If you read through the Bible you find that when God speaks things happen. Starting in Genesis we read that God spoke and the world was created. We read that God would flood the earth and He did. We read that God would confuse the language and He did. We read that God said Abraham and Sarah would have a child and they did. We read that the children of Israel would live in Egypt in slavery for 400 years and they did. We read that the older (Jacob and Esau) would serve the younger and he did. All of this and not only is this just the first book but this does not even cover it all.

It happens time and time again in the Bible that God speaks and things happen. Now we can get all excited and jump up and down about when God speaks for what we want to happen and we can call on God to speak in our favor but that is not the only type of speaking God does. We know how to handle that kind of speaking because we want that kind of speaking but can we be as excited and obedient when God speaks in other ways?

Sometimes God speaks and says no. Sometimes God speaks and tells us what we do not want to hear. David wanted to build a temple and God said no. That was still God speaking and it still happened the way God wanted. God spoke to Moses and told him he would not enter the promised land and that is how it happened. Both men obeyed and thankfully the outcome was good. But there are examples of God speaking and saying no to something but people not listening. Honestly, about half the Old Testament is the prophets telling Israel no or recounting the stories of their failures. God was still speaking in those situations.

Other times God speaks and says not now. He delays promise fulfillments and says there will be a delay because He is God. These are still examples of God speaking and the outcome is still as God says.

The truth is that God speaks and things happen but He is not always saying yes. In Isaiah 55:11 God says through Isaiah that His word does not return void but accomplishes what He sent it to do. We have to be as willing to receive the no and not yet as we are the yes.

It is the same as when God speaks about what will happen or answers prayer, He gives direction and calls us to something. In the Gospels, we read that Jesus called the disciples and they followed. We read that Jesus called Saul who was a persecutor of the church and he followed. We read that Paul (formerly Saul) had a thorn in the flesh and when he prayed for it to be removed God said no. That was still God speaking and Paul chose to listen.

My question to you and to me is do we listen we God says no or not yet. Are we willing to listen even when the answer is not what we want? One of my favorite biblical examples of this is Jerimiah 42 and 43. In chapter 42 the people come to Jerimiah and say ask God what we should do and we will do it. In chapter 43 they reject what Jerimiah says. They said they wanted to hear from God but what they wanted was to hear what they wanted. It is a dangerous game asking for God to speak because He might not tell us what we want to hear. The question is this: Are we willing to listen and obey?

Pruned Like an Apple Tree

In John 11:6 Jesus hears that Lazarus was sick and about to die. Jesus’s response was to wait two more days. I briefly talk about this on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/BTuogAvh9KL/) so feel free take a quick detour and read that.

Today I want to quickly look at John 15:2 where Jesus says that every branch that bears He (the Father) prunes, that it may bear more fruit. I am not a gardener but I have been told that that is an accurate statement about how you get a plant to produce more. I think that is fine for plants but I am not sure I like it for me. To be honest the pruning process is hard and often long.

I have recently been thinking that the last few years have been a pruning process for me. I have grown tremendously and while I am thankful for that the process has been painful. There has been long days and nights, lonely days, thankless work, removal of selfish desires and plans, and so on. I am not perfect by any stretch but I am better off than I was before the process started.

This is not at all to say the whole time has been painful as there have been some bright spots but overall, I think it was a pruning process. I am still not sure I like it. Again, I am thankful for it but that does not mean I need to like it. The question I have is why does God prune us if we are bearing fruit?

Well in short, because He loves us and because He is a good Father. He prunes because we are producing and wants us to produce more. It is an odd thing but it works. Think of in terms of apples. If you are currently producing 5 apples then that is good. But God being a good gardener sees your potential and wants you to live up to that potential so He prunes you back a bit and next year your produce 10 apples. This harvest is even better so the process repeats. Next thing you know you are producing bushels up on bushels. Now all the trees in the garden are envious and want to be like you, yet they do not know the pain that was endured to produce so much but you do and you know it was worth it.

God is good like that. He wants the best for you and sometimes the best requires pain to get there. I am not sure this season of pruning is over. I would like it to be but if not, I still trust that God is good and that He has the best for me. The funny thing is that even if this season is over there will be another later on. I suppose that is good news even though I still don’t like it. Of course, the alternative is not be pruned and not produce fruit but we know how that goes

Just a thought,

Mike