I was asked the question of whether it was better to adopt locally or internationally.  One argument used for international (particularly in famine ravaged areas) was that those kids are far more at risk of death.  I cannot disagree with that thought.  However, I do not think it is a matter of which is better but which are you capable of doing.

Often people say, “Well if I had the money, then I would adopt.”  And the truth is that there are a lot of us that don’t have $25K to $50K available for the typical cost of an international adoption.  And even many local adoptions have significant expenses related to them.

However, if you adopt a child who is in foster care, then the state actually pays you.  Until the kid is 18, their medical expenses are covered and you receive a per Diem that offsets the additional expenses you will incur by adding to your family.  You will also receive additional tax breaks, and educational supplements are available to help with college tuition.

So the excuse of, “I don’t have the money to adopt,” is taken away by adopting a kid out of foster care. For those who have a lot more jingle in their pocket or who find a unique an inexpensive opportunity, they have a green light to go for the international adoption.  The point of my original post was that the church in the U.S.A. has no excuse for all the kids who are currently up for adoption in the U.S.A. but who are not being adopted.

We should be about doing all we can every where we can because our neighbor is anyone we have the power to help!


Romans 2:17-3:8 – Part 2

Romans 2:24. “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” (The previous post provides the needed foundation for this one, please read it first.)

The results of people claiming to know God and yet living apart from God are devastating. As the Apostle Paul states here the name of God is then blasphemed.  Looking through the Old Testament we can easily see how the Gentiles would often be persuaded that God’s own people did not follow Yahweh.  So why should they in turn have faith in Him?

I believe there is a powerful lesson here for the church. I have had many experiences where people will tell me that they like Jesus just fine but cannot stand the church.  Many people who say this are using their dislike for the church as a smokescreen.  In reality many have not and do not want to come to grips with the teachings of Jesus and the reality of their own spiritual failings.  But for others, “the church” has become a huge stumbling block that has kept them from Jesus.

Since the word church means so many different things to so many different people let me break this down into a few categories to make it easier to talk about:

Big Picture:

  • the Universal Church: all true believers in Jesus all over the world, the bride of Christ*
  • the false church: people who think or claim they are part of the Universal church but are not

Local Picture:

  • Beautiful: churches that are made up primarily of true believers who are following Jesus and being a light to the people around them.
  • False: churches that are made up primarily of unbelievers (false teaching and sinful living abound)
  • Worldly: churches with mostly believers in Jesus but who have their hearts set on things of the world

These last two categories of local churches hinder people from coming to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.  We must take care both on a communal and personal level that we live in a way that causes people to “praise our Father in heaven.”  Jesus gave us this standard for conduct and purpose, and we must consistently evaluate our lives in relation to this.

It is interesting to note that the Apostle Paul uses the singular Greek word for “you” in Romans 2:17-24.  So the individual Jew was instructed not to just look at the whole community but to examine his own life. For our application, it is not enough to say, “Oh the church does this or that, isn’t that bad!?.”  No, each person who claims to be a follower of Jesus must on a regular basis look inwardly and evaluate whether he/she is giving light to others to see Jesus or hindering others from seeing the Light.

*  Many people have problems with the church because they do not realize a couple of things:

  1. If you are a true believer you are part of the church, you cannot say that you don’t want to be a part of it because you already are.  The question is whether you will be a good participant by being actively involved and committed in a local church or be willfully disobedient to God and try to do a lone ranger thing, or do the church hopper thing, or do the, “I’ll participate when I feel like it thing”.
  2. For someone to say that they love Jesus but can’t stand the church is like someone saying to me that he wants to be my best friend but then says all sorts of terrible things about my wife.  After picking him up off the floor, I would gently explain that it does not work like that, since my wife and I are now one flesh, to trash my wife is to trash me .  Be careful what you say about the true bride of Christ, she has a very protective Man.  Now as part of the true bride of Christ I do believe it is perfectly fine to do the following:
  • to distinguish ourselves from the false church who says she is the Bride of Christ when she is not.  Primarily this distinguishing should happen by conduct and when necessary by word.
  • to correct ourselves by calling ourselves out when we are doing things we should not, or when we have a terrible attitude.  When symbolically our make up is whack, or when we are wearing an ugly dress, we need to repent and get back on track.  We want to bring honor to the Bridegroom Jesus.  He plays a huge role in the beautification of His church, and for this we should be very thankful (Ephesians 5:25-27).

What is your perspective of church?  Does your view line up with the New Testament teaching on the subject or has your understanding been made cloudy by a lack of studying the subject and poor models?

Since the beginning of the church, the church has been endured persecution.  The words of Jesus rang true then and ring true now, “If they persecuted me, so will they persecute you.”  Throughout the world followers of Jesus suffer for their faith.  They are forbidden jobs, lose their homes, are forced to live in poverty, are beaten, thrown in prison, and yes even murdered for their steadfast belief in Jesus.

Stephen was the first follower of Jesus to be murdered for his faith.  Acts 6:8-8:8, tell the powerful historical account.  Here is a quick summary.  Those from the synagogue of the freedmen (you are not “free” to disagree with them), could not find anything to accuse Stephen with so they paid false witnesses to lie against him.  In chapter 7, Stephen gives a very strong and powerful message.  Instead of repenting the people become enraged and charge at him, drag him out of the city, and stone him to death. Stephen’s last recorded words were, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”  We see in Stephen the same love and forgiveness Jesus displayed on the cross.

A young man named Saul was present and consented to the stoning of Stephen.  He then made it his life mission to destroy the church.  He created havoc by having men and women thrown into prison.  Through his remarkable conversion, we know him better as the Apostle Paul, the one who wrote a large portion of the New Testament.

A benefit of the persecution is that the spread of the church was hastened.  The believers fled to other cities, and they were not silent. They boldly spoke the Good News about Jesus and how eternal life is found by believing in Him. 

Today we hear and read about the awful persecution of believers in Jesus that take place in China, India, Saudi Arabia and many other places.  I encourage you to visit http://www.persecution.com to read some of the accounts there.  You will read about how after the Olympics the Chinese government has not reformed at all but is focused on persecuting Christians by beating them and putting them in prison and labor camps. You will read about the thousands displaced in India.  And you will read about a young lady in Saudi Arabia her father, who worked for the “Comission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”, cut out her tongue and burned her to death when he found out about her newfound faith in Jesus.  Do we recognize the reality and what is at stake for our brethren around the world?

So how should this affect those of us who are not persecuted in these ways?

1.  Pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

2.  Pray that those who are doing the persecuting would see their sinfulness and believe in Jesus.

3.  Be courageous to share our faith with the people around us.  (Last time a checked the police weren’t knocking my door down.)

4.  Be focused on the things that really matter.

  • Worshipping God with like-minded/hearted people.
  • Helping my brothers and sister in Christ according to their needs.
  • Sharing the Good News about Jesus even though the risk is great.
  • Growing in faith, love, and hope.  

When the church is persecuted the important issues rise to the top and the petty things go away.  It would be a good exercise for those of us who are not currently being persecuted to compare our priorities with those who are being persecuted.  It will help us to be reminded of the most important things in life and put our focus and energy there.

One of the key elements to a healthy church is love.  In I Thessalonians we see the Apostle Paul, Silas, and Timothy encourage the believers by stating, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you” (I Thess 3:12).  Notice that this love has two primary targets.  The first is for those who are in the church family, and the second is for those who are outside of it.

For now, let’s focus on the first group- those within the church.  I’ve come to realize that many of us have a struggle with asking for help.  Many of us think that we can handle whatever our burden is or that we SHOULD be able to handle it; and therefore do not want to “inconvenience” someone else.  Normally this unwillingness to admit we need help has its root in pride.  Are we so arrogant to think that when we first believed in Jesus would be the only time we should have to admit to a need we couldn’t handle on our own? We should understand that sharing our needs is part of being in God’s family – and that there are times both to help and to be helped.  

The need could spiritual, physical, or emotional in nature.  It can also be simple or complex in its solution. So how should we go about asking for help?

1.  Go to Jesus.  “Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you”  (I Peter 5:7)

2.  Go to the elders in your church for prayer and council (James 5:13-16).  The elders normally know the right person and resources to assist you.

(If it is a smaller item, step 2 might not be necessary.  You may already know the right person to ask for help.)

On the other side of the equation we can also take note of those who need help and talk to them about it. May God help us to be loving to one another – for His glory and our benefit.

June 1, 2008 – Sunday

Today we had a wonderful time of worship.  Between the Lord’s Supper service, music, and preaching the time was from 10 AM to 1 PM.  As usual it was beautiful and sincere.  During the Lord’s supper service I had the privilege to share the Scriptures.  We talked about the past, present, and future in relation to remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection.  

The past – Jesus filled the Old Testament prophecies concerning His death and resurrection – see Isaiah 53. And we look back to what Jesus did on the cross as the substitute for our sin.  Our Savior the Righteous One who gave His life for sinful people like me and you.

The present – As the Apostle Paul instructs us, we examine our hearts and confess any sin – because sin hinders fellowship with God (I Corinthians 11:17-34).

The future – Our Savior is Risen, and He will return for us, and we will share the Cup with him in the New Kingdom (Matthew 26:26-30).  The certain hope of all true believers is this: Our future is with our King!

Pepe, Judy, and I went to lunch, and we had a good time and a profitable conversation about church life.



May 29, 2008 – Thursday

Here’s a picture of the majority of the missionary team I have been teaching this week.  We have been having a wonderful time…we have had good fellowship and good questions.  In the morning we spent about three hours in the Word, first answering some questions from the previous lesson on the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3, and then beginning a new study on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.  We made it through the first 32 verses of chapter 5.  

After our time in the morning we all went to lunch, and once again the food was delicious.  I did have some spicy (pica) items that made my mouth burn and my eyes tear up.  It was a good hurt.  

After lunch, we divided into several teams to visit some villages in the mountains.  The group I was with went to Zoncolco.  In the past, this has required a hike of close to 2 hours (at least for me).  Now a road is being built so our walk was relatively short.  Sadly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been at work in this area. If you are not familiar with their teachings they believe that Jesus was actually Michael the Archangel (not the Son of God), they deny the physical resurrection of Jesus, they believe only 144,000 will actually make it to heaven, they deny the existence of hell, and many other heresies.  They are very far away from the truth of what the Bible teaches.  

Lencho, Christian and I had the opportunity to speak to with two families, one who was being influenced by the JWs, and another family that is concerned for their neighbors and wanted to know how they should handle the situation.  Both opportunities were a blessing.  As normal both families offered us food, at the first house they gave me what I can only describe as a hot smoothie, and at the second house I had a cup of soup.  

After these visits we went to a meeting where they asked me to speak a short message, and then we sang a good number of songs together.  The people were very enthusiastic to sing.  Oh I forgot to mention that there is not electricity in this area, so we carried a generator along with the equipment to show a film and power point slides for the music.  

In the pictures you will see a bunch of children at the meeting.  We had a great time with my camera as they love to have their picture taken and then to see it on the viewer.  After the generator went out we hardly had any light in the house – just a couple of candles, and it was a great opportunity for me to play tickle monster with the kids.  You should have heard their laughter…and that of the adults!

It is the rainy season, but thankfully I didn’t fall on the hike back to the truck. 

May 28, 2008 – Wednesday

Today we had a very similar schedule to yesterday…teaching in the morning followed by lunch and them more teaching in the afternoon.  It has been a privilege to cover such a large amount of material in just two days.  The team has been very enthusiastic about the messages, and our time has been very fruitful.

The following is a list of passages and subjects we covered in the morning:

John 13:18-30 – The betrayal of Jesus
John 13:31-35 – God’s glory and the commandment to love one another (recurring themes)
John 13:36-38 – Jesus’ prophecy of Peter’s denial
John 14:1-24 – The fellowship we have with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
John 15:18-16:4 – How we can expect to be treated as followers of Jesus.

Lunch was absolutely delicious.  We took the whole team (about 20 of us) to a restaurant in Orizaba – just a few minutes down the road.  For 40 pesos ($4) we were served your choice of 1 of 3 soups, either rice or pasta, your choice of 1 of 3 main dishes, beans, and dessert.  The cream of carrot soup was wonderful, and I am determined to learn to make it when I get back home.  

In the afternoon, we studied the seven churches described in Revelation 2-3.

Unfortunately I left my camera at Pepe’s house.  I was intending to take some photos of the missionary team today, but hopefully I will remember tomorrow.  I did take a picture of my carrot soup with my cell phone, and I took a few pictures of some flowers in front of Pepe’s house this evening.  The creation both small and grand is glorious…a glimpse of the power of God.