The Bible has much to say about adoption. 1 John 3 tells us to “see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” Ephesians 1:5 says “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:15 says “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba Father.” WE HAVE BEEN ADOPTED AS SONS AND DAUGHTER INTO THE FAMILY OF GOD. How then as Christ Followers could we not be about the same kind of ministry? If God has adopted us because of what Jesus did, we have an opportunity to do the same for others. To adopt children into our families that they may also know Jesus, and hear the gospel must be the aim of the church and a part of every Christian’s life. I have heard many say one of the greatest tools we have to share the gospel is through adoption.
The Bible also has much to say about orphans, one such verse is James 1:27. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Christ Followers have a Biblical obligation to do something about the amount of orphans in the world today. Now let me blow your mind and break your heart at the same time. Based on a simple google search there are roughly 150 MILLION ORPHANS IN THE WORLD TODAY. That’s millions, as in ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION. Allow me to help you fathom this number.
- World Population = 7.125 Billion;
- US population = 318.9 million;
- Florida = 19.8 million;
- Jacksonville, FL = 842,000;
- Everbank Stadium capacity = 67,164;
- and finally, Fruit Cove, FL = 16,000
Over 150 million orphans are ridiculous! Jesus made it very clear that he loves children. In Mark 9:36-37 Jesus talks about not overlooking the lowly child, but in our world today orphans have become the most marginalized people group. This happens because the church ignores the problem. The Christian believes, “that’s not for me.” As Christ Followers we must respond by adopting. This means taking care of the orphans and bringing them into our homes to hear the gospel. Many countries see adoption as a way to make money. And more than that, these orphans have no voice. A report by CNN in 2014 concluded that international adoptions are in decline. So as the number of orphans grow daily in our world, the number of international adoptions are declining.
~Ways you can respond to 150 million orphans…
- Pray about how God wants you to be involved.
- Come along side those feeling the call to adopt. Support and encourage them, help them financially, babysit, take meals, pray, etc..
- Be a foster parent or house parent; volunteer your time and energy at Florida Baptist Children’s homes.
- Get involved with a CHRISTIAN adoption agency, be a part of fund raisers, etc…
- Bring awareness to your church, Sunday school class, small group, etc..
I know that, as we consider a controversial text Sunday, the one word that will “stick” most of us is the word “submission.” There are those who may think, “ I can’t believe he even talked about that. I thought we were past that concept in marriage. I thought we were all equals!” To that person I would add, “and we are equals” before God. Equal in how He loves us. There is no second-class citizen in marriage. There are no inferior people before God. “In Christ there is neither male nor female…”
When a police officer stops you for speeding (!) the fact that he has the position to stop you, the uniform to announce his position, a gun to reinforce his position, does not mean he is better than you. Just different. Right now, you had better submit to him and show him your license and registration please. A military officer who outranks you in position does not outrank you as a human being, any more than a doctor is a better human being or is more intrinsically valuable than a nurse or a patient. There is a difference in role, in function, in position. But not inherently in person-hood.
So how is a wife to Biblically and obediently submit to her husband in marriage?
1) Not by agreeing with everything her husband says. As a fearlessly submissive Christian wife you do not check your brain at the altar or the door. You bring your own unique thoughts, gifts, and ideas to a marriage.
2) Not by failing to attempt to change your husband. The whole purpose of 1 Peter 3 is to help a wife toward conversion of her husband. Helping him come closer to God is part of who you are to be to him. Coercing him to do it is not His will.
3) Not by putting the husbands will before the wife. He is your “lord” according to the text in 1 Peter 3 but not your LORD. Your obedience to Christ comes before your obedience to your husband. A Christian husband will not resist or resent that reality.
4) Not by receiving her spiritual or personal strength from your husband. That can come from Christ alone.
5) Not by being submissive in fear. Submission is an inclination toward; a disposition toward the husband. Submission is ALWAYS spoken of in the passive tense… you CHOOSE to submit.
Submission is not just a word that the wife must wrestle with. We all are to be submissive to the Father, to each other, and to our husband or wife. It is through that submission that our truest witness is borne, and the fullness of our marital relationship can be enjoyed. And it is ultimately and uniquely in self-submission that we can honor our Creator and King.
“Wives in the same way submit yourselves to your husbands…” (1 Peter 3:1)
Love reaches out. The story of the Gospel is the greatest love story ever told; the greatest reaching love that we could imagine was God reaching through history and redeeming us today. It is a love that still reaches even today. It is a love we could never deserve and could never repay. And it’s a love that we are to share with everyone we meet, and especially with those who are nearest us. One person put it this way:
If I knew it was the last time I’d see you fall asleep
I’d tuck you in more tightly and pray your soul to keep.
If I knew it was the last time I’d see you out the door,
I’d hug and kiss you one more time and call you back for more.
If I knew it was the last time I’d get to share your day.
I know that I’d make certain it didn’t slip away.
We assume we’ll have tomorrow to correct an oversight.
That we’ll always have another chance to make everything all right.
That there will always be another day to say that I love you.
There will always be another chance to ask, “What can I do?”
But just in case I might be wrong and today is all I get
I want to say that I love you so that you will not forget.
Tomorrow is not promised that we’ll see another night.
Today could be my last chance to love and hold you tight.
Instead of waiting for tomorrow, show your love somehow.
For if tomorrow never comes you’ll wish you’d done it now.
That you didn’t take the extra time for a smile, a hug, or a kiss
Instead you were busy, too busy for the one that you now miss.
Hold your loved one close today and whisper in their ear
Tell them that you love them and why you hold them dear
Say “I’m sorry, please forgive me, you’re the best, it’s ok”
So if tomorrow never comes you’ll not regret today.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Find someone who needs to know you love them… and tell them so. And if you think nobody loves you, read this love note:
“For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in HIM would not perish, but have everlasting love.”
FOR REFLECTION: Who in your world today needs to know that God loves them? Would you be the one to tell them?
Matters of the Heart – Part 4
by Pam Maynard
Music has always been a huge part of our lives. When we first started dating, we were in a band together called Decision. Many of you know, Tim played drums and I played the keyboards. We traveled during my whole college experience with four other guys playing at churches, college campus events and concerts.
Being children of the 70’s, Tim and I decided to have an outdoor wedding. In true hippie form I wore flowers in my hair and we had guitar music for our ceremony. The song that we had played and sung was written by an artist known as Honeytree. The song was called Treasures. In this song, it talks about two people who commit their lives to each other and to the Lord. Even today, I can weep hearing the words of that sweet song.
The first year of our marriage we didn’t own a television so we listened to lots of contemporary Christian music. The song that we adopted as “our song” was entitled Right from the Start. This song describes the love of a couple from the beginning until the end with commitment that lasts a lifetime.
Little did we know then what trials and troubles would come into our lives. Together we’ve experienced the loss of Tim’s father, both of us have endured the diagnosis and treatments of cancer and we’ve had our share of pain. Yet our love has continued to grow. Today more than ever I realize what a treasure he has been to me.
Last summer while driving back to Kentucky/Ohio we found a new love song that we now call “our song”. Believe it or not it is an old Led Zeppelin song called Thank you. The lyrics are:
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me.
My love is strong, together we shall go until we die.
And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles,
Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one.
Isn’t this the promise of our God? Psalm 46:1-2, 10,11 ” God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Be still and know that I am God. The Lord Almighty is with us. ” He promises never to leave, nor forsake and be ever present through all of life’s trials. (see Hebrews 13:5)
I also have a favorite song I like to call my heartsong to God. It is the song, In Christ Alone:
In Christ alone, my hope is found- He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all – Here in the love of Christ I Stand!
Today I challenge you to find time not only to tell the ones in your life of your love but find extra time today to tell God of your love and desire to be committed to Him for all of your life. And don’t forget to say “Thank You.”
So after we leave our primary “nest;” our parent’s home and the process of “cleaving” to our spouse has begun, what’s next? Jesus fills this out for us in Mark 10:9,
“What God has put together, let no man separate.”
Now we weave a life together. We leave, we cleave, and we weave a relationship in all its wonderful complexities and intricacies. In the Old Testament there is a beautiful affirmation of the marriage relationship in Ecclesiastes which says, “Two are better than one. A three-cord strand is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Rope makers learned early on a principle that we need to apply to relationships. It is commonly believed that an ideal relationship is one in which the couple wrap themselves up in and around the other person. And when those two people wrap themselves around each other, they will never come apart.
But what we know about rope-making is this: You can wrap two strands of rope around each other forever but they will unravel. Every time. But if there is a center strand that the cords can be wrapped around there is a strength in that rope that WILL endure… that will NOT easily come apart.
Many of us think that marriage is simply the act of wrapping our lives around our mate and then we are shattered with disappointment when it all comes undone. The problem is, we forget that marriage is not a duet… it’s a trio. And the THIRD person in our marriage, Jesus Christ, is the ONE that we should be encircling first and then the bond that we have together is strengthened far beyond anything we could ever have accomplished.
Thus, “a three-cord strand is not easily broken.” We can easily wrap our lives and our relationships around the wrong things. A wrong expectation. A wrong desire. A wrong pursuit. And all around us we see marriages unraveling because of that.
Make absolutely certain that the CENTER of your life, the CENTER of your marriage is Jesus Christ. When you have done that, you will find a depth of love, commitment, and strength you never knew existed!
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
FOR REFLECTION: An important question for anyone to ponder, actually…”Am I wrapping my life around Jesus? Is He the center of who I am, of what I love, of how I understand myself? Have I invited Him to be Lord in my life, or am I still trying to be in control.” Why don’t you pray this prayer: “Lord, I am weary with trying to run my own life, to fix my own brokenness, to cover my own sin. I release all of this to You today… and from now on, as You teach me, I want to wrap my life around You.”
For a marriage to work, there is to be “cleaving.” To “cleave” means to ” hang on or to be stuck on something.” But “cleaving” cannot fully, lastingly happen until “leaving” has been accomplished. The order is important!
It would be easy to think that the “cleaving” is the fun part. After all, we’re talking about “sticking” ourselves to someone we love, right? Of “gluing” ourselves to another. Sometimes that is a beautiful, incredible and even miraculous thing.
Sometimes it looks like the lovebugs. You’ve seen them… little black seemingly “two headed” insects that appear in the fall, and ruin our car’s finish and our windshield’s clarity. But have you watched them closely? They are stuck to each other, rear to rear (“abdomen to abdomen” for you entomology sticklers). I’ve wondered as these things awkwardly fly and crash into objects to their death, if being “stuck” together really felt good to them? As they fly they seem to be flying away from each other.
I see some couples who are trying unsuccessfully to “cleave” to each other. And it isn’t working… it’s an awkward, painful, even self-destructive dance… and it’s so for one simple reason. Like the love bugs, they fly against each other instead of toward each other.
But when cleaving works it’s a wonderful thing to see. When two people learn to walk together, live together in harmony, share life together, fly the same direction… marriage soars! The experience of sharing life with another is beautiful when we remember that we are in this flight together.
Cleaving requires sacrifice. In fact, it requires dying to ourselves that we might truly find ourselves. Marriage, at its core, is discipleship. It is made to help us on the way to being more like Jesus… more giving, more sacrificial, more other-focused, more self-denying. But marriages that fail get this backward. We take instead of giving. We seek what we want instead of asking what the other wants. We become self absorbed, self centered. We do not deny ourselves… we exalt ourselves!
And being “stuck” to a person like that is unpleasant at best….an experience to be escaped if we can. But it was never God’s intention for marriage to be unpleasant or an unhappy experience. In fact, it is one of His greatest gifts to mankind. We distort it. We destroy it. We make it unpleasant.
But when Adam and Eve stood in the Garden together, perfectly united as one, God said
“It is good.” And it can be good… again.
“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be united (cleave) to his wife and they two shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
FOR REFLECTION: Remember today that how you “cleave” to your mate is how the world sees Jesus “cleaving” to His Bride, the church. Pray that your marriage will reflect that union.
I will be honest with you. It has never been a struggle for me to love my wife. It seems I always have been in love with her. Being married now almost 39 years, that means 2/3 of our adult life has been spent with each other. Biblical marriage is a journey of leaving, cleaving, and weaving a life together. WE have long ago left father and mother and began the lifetime process of “cleaving” to each other.
“Leaving” father and mother is not easy. I took Pam away from her family into my home the day after she graduated from Nursing School at Morehead State University. One year later, I took her four hours from home to the mountains of southeastern Kentucky so that I could finish my undergraduate degree and from there on to Louisville for an 11 ½ year stay. And then we REALLY left and came to Florida.
“Leaving” father and mother is essential for a marriage to be successful. You cannot bond emotionally to another person if your primary emotional attachment is still interwoven around parents or, in some cases, children. Our Creator’s lesson in relationship building only has room for one primary human relationship, and that is to be WITH YOUR MATE.
I have learned on two levels how hard this can be. One level was watching the struggle my wife had and still has in some ways, in that “leaving” process. She has paid a price for it… deeper than I have. It is one of the many things I love her for giving to me.
But I also learned how hard it is on the parents. I watched my family weep as we drove away in our Dodge Caravan with their two precious grandchildren to begin our adventure in Florida (which, I assured them, would probably only last two years… then I’m coming home!) And then one day I was the weeping father standing in the driveway waving as our newly-married daughter drove away with her new husband to begin seminary in Wake Forest North Carolina… 8 hours away!
And then I learned that this “leaving” was not just something the married person was to accomplish. It was something the parents had to bless, even as their hearts were being torn apart. A relationship that is new… that is ‘two becoming one’… must begin as the priority of another relationship is transitioned.
The first key to a successful marriage relationship, then, is learning to leave. Being willing to release the hands of your parents and cling to the hands of your mate.
But this word from Dad: Don’t forget to visit!
“For this cause a man will leave his father and mother….” (Genesis 2:24)
FOR REFLECTION: Take some time today or this week and call your parents, if you can, and thank them for releasing you to begin a new family.
Matters of the Heart – Part 3
by Pam Maynard
In my grade school years, the month of February was all about Valentine’s Day. We learned that Valentine’s Day was a celebration observed on February 14th where many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine”. Our teacher told us we were going to celebrate, too, and we were going to have a party in our classroom!Our classroom was decorated with red hearts, crepe paper chains and Cupid figures hanging from strings from the ceiling. One of my assignments was to decorate an old shoebox to serve as a “mailbox” for cards I would receive at our party.
As the party day approached, I carefully selected a card for each of my classmates making sure no one was left out. I even sent cards to some of the “stinky boys” that I didn’t like so much.
It was always really fun getting to read all the sweet Valentines from so many friends… and I got a box full!!
Tim and I still give each other Valentine gifts each year. It is great to get an expression of love confirmed on that special day. What is even sweeter, is, every day I work at Mayo Clinic, I pack my lunch in preparation for the long day ahead. Every day – yes, every day, my sweet Valentine slips a love note in my bag telling me of his love. It is something I look forward to and helps me get through some rough long hours.
John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world (this means He made sure that no one was left out), that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I like to think about this verse as our Valentine love greeting from God.
What a gift of love He sent us!!
FOR REFLECTION: Express your love to God today. Pray thanking Him for this wonderful gift of love- the amazing gift of salvation.
Matters of the Heart – Part 2
by Pam Maynard
The Psalms are filled with accounts of praise and worship songs of thanksgiving to the Lord. I love to play songs on the organ each Sunday that make us turn our thoughts to praising God. He is our righteous, mighty Savior – indeed worthy of our praise.
We are so happy and very excited with the great news that we are going to have our first grandchild!!! We are so thankful for this wonderful blessing and praise God for this gift to our family.
When I was in nursing school, one whole semester was dedicated to obstetrics and maternal nursing care. I was able to study and learn all about the developmental stages a tiny baby goes through during those short 9 months. I studied hard and enjoyed the learning process, but nothing compared to the personal experience of having my own children and now a granddaughter on the way!
I still find it amazing and so wonderful how God is “knitting this baby together in her mother’s womb”. Psalm 139:14 describes that we are fearfully and wonderfully made!
God knows everything about us because He made us. He even knows the very number of hairs on our head! Psalm 145:17 states “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.”
We can give thanks today for our righteous God who knows us so well and yet loves us so much. Today, He calls us to live a righteous life. Why? Because we are constantly called to become more like Jesus.
“Search me O God and know my heart, test me to know my anxious thought and see if there is any offensive way in me-and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)
Pray asking God to give you the strength you need as you face another day. Thank Him for His wonderful love. Find ways to praise Him today!