Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Let Taiwan Be Glad!

The school I'm in puts me in-touch with international students from 10 or so nations. Over the last month I've enjoyed forming a relationship with Chia-hwa (who goes by Michael). He's a captain in Taiwan's military and has been here for about 18 months working on a Master's degree.

He's fascinated with the idea of homeschooling (first he ever heard of it). Today this on-going conversation matured into a discussion of the Gospel. The Mormons reached him in Taiwan several years ago and he has been in LDS-led Bible Studies off and on since then. But thankfully he has been somewhat frustrated that they keep studying the Book of Mormon when he wants to study the Bible. I was delighted to explain the true Gospel to him and offer to study the Bible with him.

What a joy and opportunity to reach Taiwan with the Gospel, all from the comfort of a computer lab in Dayton, Ohio!

Monday, August 30, 2004

What's Inside the Cup?

Through a number of sources it came to my attention recently that I need a corrective in an area of my thinking. Since being introduced to the Highlands Study Center a couple of years ago, I've realized that my life should be different that those without Christ. The way I educate my children, what I find pleasure in, my rejection of yuppie sensibilities are some ways that I think we successfully demonstrate that.

These are good distinctives, and there are plenty more to wrestle over. Yet these by themselves are not the sorts of things that should show our simple, separate and deliberate lifestyle. The radical difference between my family and Christ-less ones should be our love for each other, our joy in the Lord, in short, the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

So it's good that our family is different than the pagan down the street. Yet it's self-defeating trying to be a reforming, homeschooling family without faith, hope, and love.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Finding Faith Outside

Several times Jesus commended the faith of individuals who were considered outside of God's covenant people. Think of the centurion seeking healing for his servant (Lk 7) and the daring faith of the Canaanite Woman (Mt 15). Contrast this with the lack of faith He found in Israel. Those that grew up with the promises failed to believe them, while those from outside counted on them being true.

Should I then be surprised to find strong faith in people who belong to a church that is less biblical than mine? We who understand more of God's word, are we not also slow to believe?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Baby Shoes, Never Worn

I heard a story recently about a man who wanted to achieve the effect of a great novel in only a few words. He wanted to capture the tension, the relationships that make a novel so meaningful, but do it without the length. His result was one sentence long: "For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never worn".

A little over a week ago my mom stumbled across Candy, a 16 year-old girl who was about 2 months pregnant. A couple of years ago, Candy's mom died suddenly of an aneurysm while playing cards with the children. Her dad is an alcoholic. Candy has grown up dirt poor in a trailer I wouldn't kennel my dog in. She's currently on probation from school for fighting, and cries a lot.

The news of her pregnancy was not an occasion for joy. The truant officer had warned her that if she gets pregnant she'll be sent to Juvenile Justice. Her boyfriend told her that he'd also go to jail because he's 19 and she's only a minor. Candy's father wanted the abortion done by this weekend.

My mom, who aborted a baby decades ago and only recently realized what she's done, aggressively intervened for Candy's little baby. She quickly asked us if we'd take this child and call it our own, which we whole-heartedly agreed to do, and then pleaded with the family's grandmother, father, and older sisters, to let the child live and enjoy life in our home.

She contacted adoption lawyers, adoption counselors, and for the past week labored to dissuade the family from abortion. Gradually, the tide started to turn. On Thursday, the grandmother supported adoption. On Friday, Candy's father changed his mind and said it was up to Candy.

I suppose there's some law in South Carolina that before you can have an abortion you must watch their film. Candy's sisters told mom that Candy couldn't make it through the film without changing her mind. Regrettably, they were wrong. Mom received a phone call yesterday, saying that Candy miscarried. The baby's gone.

Whether she miscarried or aborted I don't know. But I did learn some things about the pressures a pregnant teenager faces, and that since abortion is legal it creates an "easy out" that's hard to resist.

Friday, August 20, 2004

President George W....

Our four-year old daughter, Grace, was startled this week by all the signs posted in the front yard of many of the houses in our neighborhood. She thought everyone was putting their house up "For Sale". Kristin explained that the signs are for the upcoming election of a president.

My daughter said, "Do they say George Washington?"

"No", my wife replied while driving the van out of the neighborhood.

"Why not?" wondered Grace from the second row.

"Because he's dead."

"Does Daddy know?!?", exclaimed Grace.

Mom replied sympathetically with a "Yes, Dear".

"What did he die of?", asked Grace.

"uh...I don't know", said Kristin, which satisfied our daughter's curiosity for presidential happenings.
To be Humbled, Yet Not Discouraged

Moments ago I finished a math test in which I did very poorly. After preparing for this test for many extra hours, I still scored well below the class average. How hard it is to not be discouraged, but rather to rightly understand this humbling experience...

O Lord,

My sin is to look on my faults and be discouraged.

You have made me what I am, and placed me where I am;
help me to acquiesce in your sovereign pleasure.

I forget to submit to Your will, and fail to be quiet there.
But Scripture teaches me that your active will
reveals a steadfast purpose for my good,
and this quietens my soul and makes me love You.

All my distresses and apprehensions prove
that this is but Christ's school,
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.

(Selections from Valley Vision)

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Looking for a Good Samaritan

School can be a survival-of-the-fittest experience, despite all the talk about “cooperate and graduate”. When a classmate doesn’t understand the lecture or homework, rare is the person that takes the time to help him out. Understandably, we all have plenty to do already, just like the religious leaders that passed by the beaten-down man along the way.

Here again is where the Gospel should make a radical difference in our life. When we see someone who obviously needs help, we should be willing to set aside our plans for a while and give him a hand.

Monday, August 09, 2004

A Good Whippin'

And he entered the temple, and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers."...And he was teaching daily...the people were hanging on his words. Selection from Luke 19:45-48

Christ didn't stop cleaning things up after this bit of rough-housing. He continues this work, driving out some from the Church while teaching others daily.

And for a different purpose, whip in hand (or a rod if you prefer), He beats on me now. But if He strikes me with a rod I will not be driven out. Indeed if He strikes me with the rod, He will save my soul from Sheol (Prov 23:13-14).

O Christ, daily drive-out and teach-in. And may I hang on Your words.

The pressure is on here at school. The time period between mid-terms and finals, with all the projects and papers coming due, is said to be the most stressful period. I certainly feel the stress. Sometimes I wonder if God hasn't blinded me to higher learning--I lack the eyes to "see" a math problem many others find straightforward. But what has my hopes up is that some of my fellow students are feeling the stress, too. This is a welcome thing, because now I can finally see a need in their lives. And it creates a teaching opportunity for the Gospel.

Sometimes we fail to consider that the Gospel applies to more than fixing our sin problem. Yes, that is our largest problem, and one we greatly underestimate and neglect. But how gracious that the Gospel also includes promises from God to help us in our stressful times and in all our difficulties.

What comfort are found in promises like these!
"Cast all your anxieties upon Him, for He cares for you" 1 Pet 5:7
"Our God is a very present help in times of trouble." Ps 46:1
"Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" Mt 11:28,30
"The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron, he will bless those who fear the LORD - small and great alike. May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children" Ps 115:12-14
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" Rom 8:28

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Ripe for Reforming

Today was a harvest day. The tiny Bible study I've been attending finished reading the first chapter of Titus. After discussing it, one of the men who attend said he was struck at the need for an elder-led church and when he moves in a few months he plans to look for one. Since his background is fundamentalist Baptist, he asked for some help in finding the right church. He's also recently determined to homeschool his children and is starting right away.

What a joy to see a brother journey down the path of reformation!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Baby Needs a New Home

We receive e-mails like the one below pretty frequently. Most of the situations involve a church-going girl who becomes pregnant by a young man of a different race. The young girls' parents rule out abortion. But the birthfather isn't popping the question. Adoption is their solution.

And then there are some situations, like the one below, that are sadder and criminal (or seems like it ought to be).
This birthmother is borderline mentally retarded and she used drugs during the first trimester. Her last three drug tests have been negative. She is getting routine prenatal care but she still drinks alcohol daily. She placed through us 6 years ago and the little boy is smart and beautiful. The fees are $11,000 and I don't think she is going to have any living expenses because her bills are paid by the government. She is due in November but does not want to know the sex of the child. I know this is a difficult situation but if you have any families that would be open to this, could you please let me know? The BM is getting anxious and wants to look at families.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Learning to Drive

Perhaps you've seen young children enthusiastically try to steer a shopping cart down an aisle. They usually spend more time stuck on the side of the aisle than they do going forward.

There may be a parallel here to how we discipline children. How do we consistently correct our children without exasperating them? Lately, this aisle has seemed mighty thin as we bump from the too tough side right over to the too lenient side.

Perhaps this is only because we're still learning how to drive the big shopping cart.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

A Rock and a Hard Place

Help me to see that although I am in the wilderness
it is not all briars and barrenness.

I have bread from heaven, streams from the rock,
light by day, fire by night,
thy dwelling place and thy mercy seat.

I am sometimes discouraged by the way,
but though winding
and trying it is safe and short;
My great high priest stands in the waters,
and will open me a passage,
and beyond is a better country.
excerpted from Valley from Vision

Then I Will Go to the Jews

After talking with many adoption agencies here in Ohio we've asked Jewish Family Services to conduct our homestudy. I hadn't considered them until I heard from a classmate that they "tolerated" his convictions regarding biblical discipline of children. We contacted them and have a good first impression. We'll meet together for the first time this week.

To say the least, it's disappointing that the Christian adoption agencies we tried first were just as skeptical of biblical discipline as the secular ones.

I wonder...can the adoption process be taken back from the State, like the pioneers of homeschooling did with education? Why couldn't a church's elders, who are accountable for me and my household before God, vouch that my home is and will remain safe for a child, and the State accept that? Isn't there a need for adoption pioneers to rise up in the Church and find a way to welcome into the Kingdom of God these thousands of orphaned children?