An Adoption Story

Russell Moore writes:

Ten years ago today, my wife and I walked out of a Russian orphanage with two little one year-old boys. Suddenly, for the first time, I was a father and she was a mother. Suddenly, little Maxim was “Benjamin Jacob Moore” and little Sergei was “Timothy Russell Moore.” Everything changed, for all of us, for life.

As I’ve written in the book, God used this experience to upend my whole life. He taught me much about his Fatherhood, much about the gospel, much about community, and much about the mission of the church. But people sometimes ask me, “In the years since, what have you learned about becoming a family through adoption?”

The main thing is that convictions forged there in the July heat of the former Soviet Union have only crystallized more. As the father of five now, some by that adoption and some by the more typical way, I’m as convinced as ever that adoption, into a family or into the Family of God, is “real.” There is no such thing in God’s economy as an “adopted child,” only a child who was adopted into the family. “Adopted” defines how you came into the household, but it doesn’t define you as some other sort of family member. In the Book of Romans, Paul defines all Christians, both Jew and Gentile, as having received a common “spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15; 9:4).

I have also learned a lot about the difficulty of adoption. We were blessed when we received our two sons, but we didn’t know how hard it would be. We’d never had children before, so we simply adjusted to the new normal. Because the boys had never had solid food, one of them was traumatized by the texture of food, would pack it into his cheeks, and gag. Teaching him to eat was the most stressful thing I’ve ever lived through, as I would sit by his chair and coax, “Chew! Chew!” At one point, I turned to Maria and said, “Wait! I, for the first time, really get the whole ‘milk to meat’ concept of the New Testament.” But then our son vomited all that food up, and my exegetical insight was gone.

My grandmother used to always say about the Depression, what I’ve heard almost everyone from that era say, “We were poor but we didn’t know we were poor.” I can relate. Adjusting to life in a new home that first year was difficult, but we didn’t really know it. They were our sons and we just loved and disciplined and laughed our way through it. When our next child was born to us, as an infant, we looked at one another about six months in and said, “This is so incredibly easy!”

I think things would have been very different, if we’d panicked over every pile of hoarded food we found in the house or every fit thrown. If we’d tried to relate all of that back to some kind of possible adoption horror story, or tried to assign a syndrome to all of it, we probably never would have gelled together as we did, as a family. But we did, and we are.

That joyful hardship is exactly like its gospel equivalent in the Spirit of adopting grace. Sometimes we, as a church, don’t recognize how alien a new family seems. People in our midst come to know Christ; they learn to cry out “Abba,” but there’s still a long, hard adjustment to make. Sometimes they wonder if they’re welcome because they don’t know how to find Haggai in their Bibles, or because they don’t have any Vacation Bible School memories, or because they still crave cocaine. If the church is the household of God, we don’t see these struggling, anxious new believers as our guests or our ministry projects. They’re our brothers and sisters. It’s no burden to walk alongside them, steadying the cross on their backs. It’s just what you do, when you’re family.

Ten years later, these boys are growing up and I’m proud of them. We’re going to celebrate “Moore Day” today, and I’m going to retell the story of that transition from orphanage to dinner table. And I’m going to remember that I made the same transition, and tell myself an Old, Old Story too. But, most of all, I’m just going to thank God, as I remember these two little emaciated orphans in that institution far away, and look and see them sitting, together, as a family.

They are my beloved sons, and with them I am well-pleased.

If are interested in a tremendous book, check out Adopted for Life.

Verses to Uplift and Encourage

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV)

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9, ESV)

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22, ESV)

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29, ESV)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, ESV)

The Great Love and Mercy of God

God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy . . . (Psalm 62:11–12, NKJV)

 We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19, NKJV)

We stand amazed at the power of God. We worship him for his great strength. The sound of the roar of crashing ocean waves or standing at the base of a vast mountain range gives us a very real sense of just how small we are and just how big he is. Therefore we direct our worship to him because we recognize a greatness which surpasses all others.

But there is something winsome about his divine love and mercy. The disciple John said that we possess the ability to love, not because God is powerful, but because he poured out his love upon us.

 Something more is necessary to invite us to a dependence on God than his bare power and ability to help us. There must be also a firm persuasion of the promptitude and readiness of his will to do what he is able; and this we have in the other attribute of his mercy…. “Unto thee, “unto thee alone, and unto none else. The most tender mercy amongst the creatures is none at all, being compared with the divine mercy. . . Mercy is a peculiar jewel of his crown.

– William Wisheart quoted in Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Vol III, p. 62


Jesus Loving the Outcast

In the first 17 verses of Matthew chapter 18, Jesus performs a series of three miracles.

1. The Leper (v. 1-4)

Someone inflicted with leprosy was considered unclean. The Old Testament made clear that they were supposed to be separated from the rest of the community so that they would not spread the disease around. A leper was considered an outcast right along with prostitutes and tax-collectors.

Jesus not only healed him, but he did so with touch (v. 3)! He could have spoken the healing words (like the Centurion below) but Jesus healed him with his hands. The importance of a loving touch cannot be understated. This man didn’t just need to be rid of his sickness, he needed the love of Jesus. Know anyone like that?

2. The Centurion (v. 5-13)

We all know how the Jewish people felt about the Romans running their lives. Who can blame them really. If the US was taken over, occupied by an enemy force and we were forced to pay taxes to them, we mostly likely wouldn’t smile and hi-five their military personal when we see them at the 7/11.

Jesus not only spoke to the guy, but was willing make travel arrangements so the man’s servant could be healed (v. 7). However that wasn’t necessary. The Centurion had the faith to believe Jesus could heal the man without even seeing him. That’s real faith.

3. Peter’s Mother-in-law (v. 14-17)

In those days, women were not at the top of the social pecking order. It’s not that God ever said women were less important, in face, over and over again scripture esteems the value of both sexes as created in the image of God. But the culture had taken biblically defined roles (see Ephesians 5:22-28) and contorted them into something God never intended. Therefore, women were often treated as second-class citizens and given few opportunities  in life.

But Jesus didn’t look at it that way. It wasn’t men only who deserved his healing touch.  Jesus entered Peter’s house and saw his fever-ridden mother-in-law and immediately restored her health. (As a side note, we don’t actually have any record of Peter asking for an “in-law healing.” Jesus acted so fast, Peter didn’t have any time to protest!**).

The fact is that nothing,

not race,

not social status,

not background,

not medical conditions,

not your past . . . nothing can keep Jesus from doing something amazing.

In this passage, Jesus showed that he had authority over sickness and disease. Jesus’ authority over such things points to something even more important. He has the authority to forgive sins. As significant and wonderful as physical healing is, spiritual healing is the true need of every man and woman who has ever lived (Psalm 41:4, Luke 5:31-32). Physical healing is temporary — we will all still die one day. But spiritual healing lasts forever.

How do we get that healing? True cleansing and renewal comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5). He died upon the cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins and enjoy genuine spiritual life in union with Him.

While upon this earth, Jesus truly performed some incredible miracles, but there is no greater miracle than that of conversion.

**Ok, that was a bad mother-in-law joke. In all truthfulness, I  have  a very good one therefore such jokes do not apply to her!

A Monday Morning Prayer

A Prayer about God’s Goodness and Nearness in the Storm

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. Isaiah 43:1-5 ESV

Heavenly Father, the Scriptures are a balm for the broken, ballast for the bewildered, and bread for the hungry. This is especially good news this week in light of the devastating loss of life, livelihood and property, by the tornadoes and floods. Stunned, shocked, sad… these are a few of the emotions we feel.

Your Word is both timeless and timely—a treasury to be mined and a voice to be trusted. You know what to say just when we need to hear from you. No god is as near as you are and no god is as good as you are, in every storm and stressful season. These words from Isaiah don’t simply give us promises to cling to, but a God to know well. We come to you now as you run to us in your Word.

Father, you’ve created us and you’re redeeming us, all for your glory. You’ve summoned us by name, calling us to life in the gospel. You’ve given us a new name, and its “Mine.” There’s no sweeter name by which we could hope to be called. We praise you for the security of being in your family and embrace.

We also praise you for your honesty. You’ve never promised we won’t experience floods and tornadoes, and fires and flames. But you do promise you’ll be with us at all times. To know you are near and to know you are good is all we really need. We’ll go anywhere and endure anything, as long as we’re certain you’ll never abandon, shame or reject us. In the gospel, you give us this certainty.

Father, we know ourselves to be precious and honored in your sight, and greatly loved, only because you gave Jesus in exchange for us. Though Jesus was rich, yet for our sakes, he became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). We praise you for the one and only truly indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9:13) And since you didn’t spare your own Son, we can trust you graciously to give us everything else we need (Rom. 8:32), for every season and storm ahead.

We don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone. You are with us and you are for us. Continue to write bigger and better stories of redemption than we, ourselves, would ever choose to pen. We pray, in Jesus’ bold and beautiful name.

Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers, p. 218

Even a Little Splinter

Childlike confidence makes us pray as none else can. It causes a man to pray for great things that he would never have asked for if he had not learned this confidence. It also causes him to pray for little things that many people are afraid to ask for, because they have not yet felt toward God the confidence of children.

I have often felt that it requires more confidence in God to pray to Him about a little thing than about great things. We imagine that our great things are somehow worthy of God’s attention; though in truth they are little enough to Him. And then we think that our little things must be so insignificant that it is an insult to bring them before Him. We need to realize that what is very important to a child may be very small to his parent, and yet the parent measures the thing not from his own point of view but from the child’s.

You head your little boy the other day crying bitterly. The cause of the pain was a splinter in his finger. While you did not call in three surgeons to extract it, the splinter was a great thing to that little sufferer. Standing there with eyes all wet through tears of anguish, it never occurred to that boy that his pain was too small a thing for you to care about. What were mothers and fathers made for but to look after the small concerns of little children?

And God our Father is a good father who pities us as fathers pity their children. He counts the stars and calls them all by name, yet He heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds.

Charles Spurgeon, The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, p. 104

Why Christians Don’t Need to be Afraid

We will not die apart from God’s gracious decree for his children.

James 4:14-15

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Matthew 10:29-30

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Deuteronomy 32:39

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (See Job 1:21;1 Samuel 2:62 Kings 5:7)

Curses and divination do not hold sway against God’s people.

Numbers 23:23

“There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel.”

The plans of terrorists and hostile nations do not succeed apart from our gracious God.

Psalm 33:10

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”

Isaiah 8:9-10

“Take counsel together [you peoples], but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (See 2 Samuel 7:14Nehemiah 4:15)

Man cannot harm us beyond God’s gracious will for us.

Psalm 118:6

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 56:11

“In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

God promises to protect his own from all that is not finally good for them.

Psalm 91:14

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

God promises to give us all we need to obey, enjoy, and honor him forever.

Matthew 6:31

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God is never taken off guard.

Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

God will be with us, help us, and uphold us in trouble.

Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:13

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'”

Terrors will come, some of us will die, but not a hair of our heads will perish.

Luke 21:10-1118

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘. . . there will be terrors (!) and great signs from heaven. . . . and some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.'”

Nothing befalls God’s own but in its appointed hour.

John 7:30

“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (See John 8:2010:18)

When God Almighty is your helper, none can harm you beyond what he decrees.

Hebrews 13:6

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”

Romans 8:31

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

God’s faithfulness is based on the firm value of his name, not the fickle measure of our obedience.

1 Samuel 12:20-22

“And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.'”

The Lord, our protector, is great and awesome.

Nehemiah 4:14

“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”

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Jesus and Kids

but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14, ESV)

There’s no way around it. God loves kids. To be sure, God loves people of all shapes and sizes and from every age and tax bracket. But he holds a special place  in his heart for children. Why? I believe it is because of their vulnerability and their humble faith. All through scripture God is concerned with protecting the vulnerable and all through the Gospels Jesus honors children because they simply believe.

Sometimes we like to exploit their simple faith so we tell them stories of an obese bearded man in a red velvet suite who climes down disproportionately small chimneys and leaves presents for every child in the world in the span of a few hours one night each year.

But Jesus honored that faith. He pointed at them, looked at the disciples and said, “Let them be your example. Have faith like these little ones.”

How humbling.

Here are a few more verses from the Gospel of Matthew that tell us a little more about Jesus and children.

Not Even a Little

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, ESV)

Get ahold of this verse for just a minute. 

If you belong to God, he no longer condemns you. No guilt. Nothing hanging over your head. No sins to be drudged up. Nothing.

 Just bask in the glory of that truth for a while. 

God has accepted you (Romans 15:7). If you have placed your faith and hope in Jesus Christ he welcomes you day after day like a long lost child. There is no need to be afraid. You are forgiven. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…not even a little.

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