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  • Psalm-ology, part 1

    For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.  - Psalm 27:10

    We don’t know exactly what happened between David and his parents. There’s not much evidence that indicates that they actually had forsaken David. Possibly they had died, or he could have just intended it to be purely hypothetical. Regardless, David’s message is the same. The love that his parents have for him pales in comparison to the love God has for him. The New Bible Commentary says it this way, even if the strongest human love should reach its limit, the Lord’s love remains. Human love is flawed and imperfect. We have no earthly example that can fully show us the love that God has toward us, whether it be spouse, family, friends, kids, pastor, etc.  None of them are capable of giving us the kind of love that God freely gives. David understood this idea and was fixated on God’s love, so much that when he looked at his parents he felt abandoned and cast off by them.

    David didn’t even have the benefit that we do of being able to look back on the cross and see the work of God in action. David had to look into the future to the promised messiah. This messiah would eventually come forth, through David’s lineage, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the only person in history capable of perfectly displaying the love of God. And his love was never more clear than when he was thrown upon that cross and submitted himself before man and God. Jesus was forsaken by man. His disciples betrayed him and most of his other followers left him. Not only was he deserted by man, he was forsaken by God. On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus himself, God incarnate, submitted himself to the Father’s will on the cross. The Father had to turn away as Jesus took our sin upon himself. For the first time in his life, the connection between him and the Father was broken. The relationship he shared with the Father had tragically been torn apart. What separated Jesus from the Father was sin, not his own, but ours. Our sin is what drove the wedge between Jesus and the Father. For the first time, Jesus was stained by the curse of humanity. But Jesus wasn’t shocked by any of this. He knew his main purpose in coming to earth was to die on that cross. He knew that the Father would have to forsake him, yet he chose to cast himself aside and serve his father. He knew the Father’s plan, he knew God had good in store, even through such bitter providence. He endured it knowing the costs.

    Whenever we feel hurt, or cheated, or abandoned, we need to realize that Christ meets us where we are. He stooped to depths lower than we could ever imagine, so that he could lift us up higher than we could ever dream. That’s not to say everything in this life will be grand and glorious, one look at the life of Jesus will tell you that. The one who was forsaken, will never forsake you. He reaches out to us day by day. He meets us in our sin, telling us to find rest in him just as we are. He doesn’t tell us to clean up our act before coming to him, for it’s only after we begin to see how beautiful he is that we can truly see how sinful we are. And it’s only after we see how vile our sin is that we will want to run to Christ, so that he can save us from it. 

    -Jake Graves

  • Social Media 3: Our Motivations

    This is the final post in this series. Click here for part 1. Click here for part 2.

    I wonder how many people check social media during their bathroom breaks? Isn’t that a prime place to catch up on anything you may have missed, or to respond to someone who may have commented on your Instagram picture?

    More often than I want to admit, I am describing myself. I have to consciously restrain myself from overusing social media. I have set parameters and limitations on myself because if I don’t, I find myself constantly running to it with every spare second of the day.

    Have you ever wondered why we are drawn to something like social media? Have you ever wondered why social media can be such an attractive way to spend our time?

    COMMUNITY
    I believe one reason is because we are created in the image of a communal God, so we crave relationship with other humans. Social media has made a unique way for us to be more connected than ever before. But this connection is not always the biblical, healthy community that we desire down deep. Being more connected does NOT mean that we have deeper, healthier relationships or that we live fuller lives. In fact, I would argue that social media has the potential to create a fake community where we confuse acquaintances and friends, and that it can actually create a deeper hole in our hearts.

    NUMBING
    One thing I have realized is that the sins of the human heart are the same every generation, but they may manifest their fruit differently. Historically, people did not have access to internet pornography, but sexual sin has always been a problem. The way a problem manifests itself may be more unique in this generation, but the underlying temptation is the same one that every human has faced. This broken world has caused us all to develop various forms of coping mechanisms. Some of us drown our problems in alcohol. Some of us numb ourselves with pleasure. Some of us depressively sleep hour after hour so we don’t have to face reality. With the rise of technology came the ability to numb ourselves by escaping the present moment or trouble.

    SAVIOR
    For me the most chilling realization about social media is that I run to it to make me happy (I just want to laugh) or to give me worth (how many likes/comments?). In a real way, I can use social media as my savior. It is always available. I can always find something else to look at or search. There is always something else to read. Instead of waiting on God, pursuing God or listening for God, I can take matters into my own hands. I can do something with tangible, measurable results like check social media, and it can be devastating to my spiritual vitality.

    If you resonate with anything I have said, would you honestly ask yourself some questions to diagnose your heart?

    • How many times do you check social media per day? Be honest. Most of us open our phones and click the Facebook app without even thinking about it. It is a habit. Do you have a framework for how often you check social media? How many hours do you spend on social media?
    • Are you using social media in an attempt to solve a deeper issue in your heart? The human tendency is to attempt to make God’s gifts do the things that God is supposed to do. Are you attempting to use social media in place of God? If so, do you think this points to something deeper like a lack of trust in God to be faithful, good, true or loving?
    • Do you have anyone in your life who truly knows you? Do you have someone that knows more than what you want them to know? Do you have someone in your life who knows you AND has permission to speak into your life?

    These questions are revealing, and sometimes, when our hearts are revealed, it leaves us feeling like a failure or full of shame. The gospel of Jesus doesn’t simply change our behavior. It doesn’t simply change how we use our words or the filter we use on Facebook. These things are good and need to be exercised with wisdom, but the gospel goes past our behavior to the depths of our heart. The gospel digs into the roots of why we do what we do and leaves us exposed revealing who we are in our depths (Hebrews 4:12-13).

    If those three diagnostic questions above expose your heart, know that you don’t have to stay there. When God reveals our sin to us, it is called conviction, and it is a gift! He is showing us what is hindering us from fully walking, knowing and communing with him.

    One of the the beauties of the gospel is that while it does fully expose us, we are not left there. No, through Jesus, we are welcomed into the family of God. We are invited to life and relationship with our Creator. We are pursued by someone who knows everything about us and still loves (and likes) us. The more we can grasp the depth of our sin and neediness, the more we will understand the infinite love of God toward us in Jesus.

    Meaning this, you are convicted and exposed not because God is mad at you, but because God loves you and is calling you to something deeper, something better. This is how the Gospel frees us. We don’t have to look for something in social media that we already have in Christ. What could we possibly gain from social media that we don’t have more fully and more beautifully in Jesus? How could we find better approval? How could we attain to more joy than the source of joy itself? How can we find more hope than the essence of hope, our eternal God?

    Social media is good, but it can be used in harmful, unwise ways. What does it look like for you to redeem social media for God’s glory and for other people’s good?

  • The Seven Deadly Sins, Part 2: A List of Little Gods

    This is part 2 in my blog series on the seven deadly sins.  If you would like to read part 1 please click here.  In this post I aim to show that the list of seven sins is legitimate and that it ultimately summarizes all other sin.

    Are you the listing type?  There is really no middle ground.  We are either list-lovers or list-loathers.  I am personally a list-guy (to a fault).  I have shopping lists in the notes of my phone, lists of scriptures, goals, and processes plastered on my office bulletin board, list-making apps, cryptic stickynote lists stuck everywhere, and even lists written on my hands from time to time.   

    This is not a lesson on productivity-styles or how to madden yourself with to-do’s but have you ever thought about how many lists are in the Bible?  There are the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20), the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12), the offices of ministry (Eph. 4), the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5), the characteristics of deacons and elders (1 Tim. 3) and numerous lists of sins (here are a few examples - Mk. 7:20-23, Rm. 1:29-31, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Tim. 1:8-11, Rev. 21:8).  A quick Google search indicates that the New Testament alone lists about 125 unique sins.  

    So why am I interested in this shorter list of seven?  Because I believe it’s a helpful and memorable diagnostic tool, further, I believe the other 100+ sins that the New Testament mentions are encapsulated in one of the seven headings (pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust).      

    Check out this quote from the book Killjoys: The reason the church has so long liked to talk about these seven sins is because they represent the rest.  More precisely, these seven sins have been considered the sources of species of sin - root level sins from which a host of other sins often spring. - pg. 2  

    Earlier in the book, the seven deadly sins are referred to as the most promiscuous and prevalent in history [which] have seduced the sinful in every culture on every continent through every generation.  - pg. viii 

    The illustration of a tree helps explain how the seven effectively represent the rest.   Pride is the taproot and primary nourishment for all sin.  In so being, it has plunged it’s leading root deep into the soil of our hearts.  Because of this, a secondary root system establishes (the other 6 deadly sins).  Remember, this entire work of establishment is taking place below the soil line (your heart).  Before you know it, there is observable growth above the ground.  The parallel here is that sin is beginning to visibly manifest but may still be more or less indistinct and hard to define.  This is what will eventually be called the trunk in an established tree.  From the trunk come branches and limbs and eventually a more distinct form of growth, such as a flower or fruit.  No one sees shimmering red apples growing on a tree and says “what a pretty pinecone!”  At this point sin becomes a distinct species (ie. not just lust but adultery against your wife, not just anger but verbally abusing your children).                

    My hope is that with the list distilled down to seven root sins we can better study the nature and characteristics of our own struggles with sin.  I dare all of us to labor in the work of not just picking fruit or identifying trees but to pray and invite counsel and to study in order to know the roots that are most entrenched in our lives.  These roots are nothing less than little gods that want to ruthlessly reign over your life.  Would you pray with psalmist, ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’  - Psalm 139:23-24 

    Remember, we don’t enter this work hopeless and alone.  We have the forgiveness and healing of Jesus, who has disarmed Satan (Col. 2:13-15), the aid of the Holy Spirit, who wants to put sin to death (Rom. 8:13) and the counsel of brothers and sisters in the faith, which spurs us on towards godliness (Heb. 10:24).

    The great Puritan John Owen wrote, “Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin.  His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls.  Live in this, and you will die a conqueror; yea, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet.”   

    -Josh Graves

  • Social Media 2: Our Words

    This is part 2 of a 3 part series on social media. To access the first blog, click here

    I don’t think social media is bad. I love it and use it almost everyday. I enjoy sharing spiritual insight or media of my kids or attempting to make joke. Social media is also a great source of encouragement for me. I get to see the humanity of spiritual giants who I will most likely never meet but who God has used to grow me in significant ways. I would never suggest that all social media is bad and that it shouldn’t be used. I would, however, emphasize caution for Christians to use social media with wisdom and grace.

    When I scroll through Facebook, it seems like everyone has an opinion and they are eager to let it fly. And because we are more connected than ever before, that opinion has the potential to do much harm. We easily forget the power of our words and the high calling of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

    Listen to what the Bible says about our words:

    • Psalm 19:14 - Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
    • Proverbs 15:1- A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
    • Proverbs 16:24 - Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
    • Proverbs 18:21 - Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
    • Proverbs 29:20 - Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
    • Matthew 12:36 - I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,
    • Luke 6:45 - The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
    • Ephesians 4:29 - Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
    • Colossians 3:8 - But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
    • James 1:26 - If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
    • James 3:1-12 - The tongue has untold potential to bless or curse…

    This is only a small part of what the Bible teaches on the tongue, but it is enough for us to see that God takes this subject seriously. Many times social media makes public what should be a private conversation over coffee. Sometimes, what we say we have not filtered through the Word of God. Often, we fail to exercise caution and it creates unnecessary conflict and offense.

    FILTER 
    I encourage you to create a biblical filter that helps you think through what you are going to post. This will help you exercise more wisdom in your social media usage. The following is a good biblical filter you could adopt.

    1. Is it true?
    I shouldn’t have to include this, but I am. Lying and slander should be unheard of among Christians because it is so far from the character of God. Are you posting things that aren’t accurate? Are you posting things that are partial truths? Remember, our words reveal our heart. False words paint a dark cloud over what should be a bright, God-honoring life, showing us the reality of who we are living for.

    2. Is it wise?
    We don’t have to post something just because we have an opinion or because we can (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Are you posting something that you know is going to cause unnecessary problems? Are you saying something that is true, but needs to be said in a different context? Are you letting an opinion fly that should be first filtered by the Word of God?

    3. Does it build up or tear down?
    It is possible to say something that is true, but to say it in such a way that it causes harm. Is what you are posting true, but unhelpful? Are you posting something that could possibly cause an unnecessary offense? Are your words being used to benefit or to beat down?

    WHAT IF YOU ARE THE OFFENDED PARTY?
    Maybe the problem is not what you have posted, but what a friend or family member has posted. What do you do if you are offended by what is said? Three quick things: 1) its never helpful to respond to serious matters of offense in text, email, social media or any other venue where people can’t easily discern your heart and your tone. 2) Being a Christian means you are called to handle conflict biblically. We constantly refer to Watermark Church’s Conflict Resolution Field Guide to help guide us in conflict.1 3) If possible, handle conflict quickly. Unresolved conflict that lingers is fertile ground for issues like bitterness and resentment to take root and cause much spiritual harm.

    Is there another question you add to build a healthy, biblical filter for what we post on social media?

    Next week we are going to discuss the motivations behind how we use social media and what we say on social media.

    Click here for part three of this series.

    1. Click here to access Watermark Church's Conflict Resolution Field Guide.

  • Social Media: The Problem

    I remember when social media was a rare and odd thing. I first started with Xanga and Myspace! Social media is not a rarity anymore. Now, it is uncommon for a person not to be on social media to some extent. The big three seem to be Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but a single Google search reveals there are dozens of different sites vying for our time, attention and presence.

    Social media has changed the way we communicate, share ideas and interact with each other. Rick Warren says, “Today’s communication is instant, constant, permanent and global.”1 Think about how true this statement is in light of our social media usage. This truth can be seen in both a positive or negative light.

    INSTANT
    When something is posted on social media, we don’t have to wait long for other people to see and respond. Sometimes, this is convenient and beneficial. It can help us make decisions, solve problems and correct error. Other times, this instantaneous communication causes deep regret, shame and more conflict than we ever imagined. Who knows how many posts or comments that we have gone back and deleted (or posts that we should have gone back and deleted)?

    CONSTANT
    Not only do you have a massive amount of information coming at you every time you log onto social media, but the content you create is interactive. With notifications, you can get alerts even when you aren’t actively using social media. This endless supply of information can teach, inform and influence, but I believe it can be very dangerous. Many times the problem lies in the fact that we want to be constantly connected and informed, but that desire can quickly become something much more. How often do we find ourselves wasting time and energy scrolling on social media? How often do we see ourselves running to social media in the various breaks in our day? How often does social media actually become a numbing for our hearts and minds?

    PERMANENT
    The moment you update a status, it has the potential to last forever. If someone sees it, they can’t unsee it. If someone takes a screenshot, they can keep it forever. It seems every week that there is another story of how someone was fired or caught because of what was posted on the internet. Communication is permanent. The old saying is to choose your words wisely, you can’t take them back. These days, that also extends to what we type.

    GLOBAL
    We can communicate faster and more efficiently than ever before and from anywhere in the world. Never before in the history of the world has this been as true as it is right now. This reality is leading us to fight worldwide poverty and the orphan crisis on massive levels. This global reality is giving us opportunities that didn’t exist just a few decades ago. And with the advancement of technology, it will continue to grow and develop in an untold amount of ways. On the opposite side, our sin, stupidity and negligence can be globalized as well.

    Our communication is instant, constant, permanent and global, which can be a blessing or a curse. The Bible has much to say about how we use our words, live as a light among darkness and interact with one another and with non Christians. From my perspective, social media may be the place where we have more access to non Christians than any other area of our lives, but it also may be the place where we are the most lax about our Christian beliefs, call and values.

    The next two blog posts in this series will address the words we use and the motivations we have in using social media. How do we know if what we are going to post should be posted or not? How can we check our hearts and see if we are using social media in unhealthy, unbiblical ways? How can we examine ourselves and see if social media is doing more harm than good in our spiritual lives?

    Click here for part two and here for part three of this series.

    1. This quote is accredited to Rick Warren, but the actual reference is unknown.

  • Multiplying (Worship) Leaders for the Sake of the Gospel

    As a church, we just finished a series which had sermons on topics like discipleship and multiplication.  These are the very ideas that underlie the vision statement of our church.  We are a church that exists to make, train and send disciples of Jesus who, in turn, make, train and send disciples.  You may have a firm grasp on this command to train and multiply and for that I would commend you.  You may be clueless as to how you can participate in this commission and in that case I would like to help you.  Either way, I ask you to read on.    

    There is a pithy saying that has been in use for the last several years which goes something like this, “a church should be measured more by its sending capacity than its seating capacity.”1

    What this statement means is that a healthy church is marked not by the retention of people and resources, but by the generous releasing of them.  However, Satan craftily whispers into the ears of those who lead churches, “if this thing doesn’t grow, you’re a failure. If you send away your best people and resources, you will never gain the recognition you deserve.  You will never measure up to those other churches.” 

    And so as leaders, we need to bring these lies and desires before the radiating light and truth of God’s Word, and to obey what we find therein.  One of the ways we tried to demonstrate this last year was through our partnership with the planting of Redeemer Midland.  We helped the families of their leaders, Jason Hatch and Cameron Brown, move into their homes as they transitioned from Irving.  We gave $10,000 to help with the manifold expenses of planting a church.  We gave Jason the opportunity to preach at Redemption, and explain the need for a gospel-centered church in Midland.  We encouraged families who drive to church from Midland to consider parting ways with us in order to join in the work with Redeemer Midland.  As two families felt the call to Midland, we publicly honored, praised and released them to service with Redeemer.    

    Another way that we aspire to make, train and send is through leadership development.  The truth is that barring the return of Christ, we will all someday pass away.  We must be actively involved in multiplying leaders for the sake of the gospel reaching the next generation.  In 2016, we started (small as it may be) a line in our church budget called Next Generation for this express purpose.  

    One of the ways I personally feel called to make my investment into the future is through helping develop worship leaders.  Aaron Keyes said, discipleship is giving your life away so that others can do what you do, even better than you.2           

    With that said, I would like to bring you up to speed with an exciting opportunity that God has opened to our church.  I have been asking God to give me a young man who aspires to worship ministry for a couple years, and that request has largely felt unanswered.  Then, in November last year, my younger brother Jake called me and told me of how he had been sensing a call to ministry for some time and had finally surrendered to God’s direction for his life.  Jake and his wife Desiree will be moving to Odessa in June to begin a 12-month worship internship with us.  This ministry will be entirely self-supported, so if you would like to read more or help financially, please click here.  We must give away our lives so that others can do what we do, better than we ever could.  

    1. http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2014/02/plumbline-13-not-just-seating-capacity-but-sending-capacity.html.  David Platt has made this statement many times too so I am unsure who it originates with.  

    2. Doxology and Theology, pg. 155.

    -Josh Graves

  • The Seven Deadly Sins, Pt. 1 - Warfare

    I read a book last year called Hit List:Taking Aim At the Seven Deadly Sins by pastor/ author Brian G. Hedges.  I know some of you may recoil at those words ‘seven deadly sins’ but there is doubtless some wisdom to be gained from studying this historic list.  The book is written from a protestant perspective as opposed to the traditional Catholic view, which draws distinctions between mortal and venial sins.  That is to say that all sin is deadly and we do not want to get in the habit of creating a tier system for sin, calling some terminal and others tolerable.  Brian gives a chapter treatment to each of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust), which he calls the leading undercover operatives for the world, the flesh, and the devil.1

    I understand that at the end of the day, the seven deadly sins are just a list put together by a monk in the 4th century but I deeply feel the spiritual strangulation that they have dealt to my own life and I have had a front row seat to see them rear their head in the lives of those I love and counsel.  So this year I plan to write a 10 part series on the seven deadly sins and I hope you will come along and find help and hope in your pursuit of godliness.    

    We’ll start in my own life.  Over the last 2 years, God has graciously revealed to me how prone I am to finding my greatest significance and worth in my self and my ways.  Even in my specific calling as a worship leader, I often pridefully, like a dog returning to its vomit (Prov. 26:11), trust my planning and performance over God’s power.  I am a prideful man.  Here’s a link to an entry I made last year about that.  More recently, God has been showing me how I can unhealthily relate to money and possessions . . . how I can tithe, support missionaries, live within my means and be frugal, all the while seething at the supposed financial ease and prosperity in the lives of those around me.  The greed and jealousy in me cry out “when is my break? when do I cash in?”  I’m realizing that I can live a life that, from man’s perspective, will never earn me the indictment of being “greedy” while inwardly covetousness abounds and ravages my soul.  I’m learning that I have tendencies to circumvent God’s conviction and judgement on these sins and to instead manage them with self-therapy.  I am a greedy man (this particular example is a fusion of greed & envy).       

    The truth is, we can all relate to a story like mine.  You may have to pencil in something like anger, lust, laziness, _________ to adapt it to where you are at in life but the war for your soul rages on nonetheless.  If you don’t believe me just listen to the words of Peter in 1 Peter 2:11.  

    Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.    

    This isn’t an obscure verse that dubious ministers pull out when they want to scare you out of your sin.  It’s one among a multitude of others that convey this idea of spiritual warfare.  If you have time, read 1 Peter 5, where Satan is likened to a voracious lion that has been trained to crave human destruction.  Also see Hebrews 3:13, James 1:14, Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 6, etc.

    Hear me, this is no time for pacifism or passivity with your sin!  Your heart is a battlefield and we do not gain the hard ground of sanctification through pretending to be an impartial civilian but through taking up arms and engaging in the fight WITH God.  This is where the proverbial “rubber” of our gospel-centrality “meets the road” of our life and fight with sin.  19th century pastor Horatius Bonar explains this well.  

    It is forgiveness that sets a man working for God.  He does not work in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven, and the consciousness of his sin being pardoned makes him long more for its entire removal than ever he did before. . . Forgiveness, received freely . . . . acts as a spring, an impulse, a stimulus of divine potency.  It is more irresistible than law, or terror, or threat.  A half forgiveness, an uncertain justification, a changeable peace, may lead to careless living and more careless working, may slacken the energy and freeze up the springs of action, but a complete and assured pardon can have no such effect . . . Irrepressible we may truly call the momentum which owes its intensity to the entireness and sureness of the pardon.2

    So if we truly want to carry the banner of being a “gospel-centered” people, we ought to be a confessing, repenting, sin-fighting, war-waging people.  If we really believe we are forgiven people and that the penalty of sin on us has been banished in Christ, let the foretaste of glory serve to whet our appetites all the more for a life unstained by sin.  We are forgiven sinners and forgiven sinners ought to be the most hopeful of warriors.     

    In the book Killjoys, Marshall Segal aptly reminds us of this hopeful warfare. 

    It is a war that’s already been won.  The enemies have been named and defeated, but they are still dangerous.  The outcome is decided, but the war wages on, and the fighting is as fierce as ever.  Jesus’s victory at the cross wasn’t meant to make us relax and put down our weapons.  No, he died and rose to arm us with the invincible hope and power of his Spirit and promises.  He went to Calvary so that we could kill our sin (Rom. 8:13).3  

    1. Brian Hedges, Hit List, pg. 12

    2. Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Peace, pg. 38-39

    3. Marshall Segal, Killjoys, pg. XII-XIII

    -Josh Graves

  • God Loves the Orphan - Pt. 2

    Books

    Blogs

    Media

    Local Foster Care & Adoption Agencies

    Opportunities

    • Foster care - start the process of becoming a licensed foster parent
    • Respite care - become approved to provide childcare for foster families
    • Adoption - pursue a domestic or international adoption
    • Mentorship - invest time to mentor some children or youth that live at the shelter
    • Financial assistance - help subsidize costs for a family seeking adoption.
    • Pray - ask God to continue raising up families to care for orphans and for those kids to become followers of Jesus
    • Be Informed - read a book &/or listen to a sermon and seek to respond.
    • Bless a foster/adoptive family - cover a date night, throw a shower, make a care package, mow a lawn, etc. 
    • Serve - seek involvement with HighSky or another local agency
  • God Loves the Orphan - Pt 1

    If you missed pastor Josh Green’s sermon this past Sunday on adoption, you need to listen to it now.  Click here to listen.  The following is part one of two which is an attempt to follow up his sermon with some extra information and resources.

    In his sermon, Josh labored to show how beautiful and gracious God’s adoption of us is.  In J.I. Packer’s classic Knowing God, he has a wonderful chapter titled Sons of God.  In it, he contends that the doctrine of justification (though primary and fundamental) is not as glorious and high a blessing as that of adoption.  Consider this excerpt from Dr. Packer:  

    The free gift of acquittal and peace [justification] won for us at the cost of Calvary, is wonderful enough…but justification does not of itself imply any intimate or deep relationship with God the judge…  you could have the reality of justification without any close fellowship with God resulting . .. but, contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father.  In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship - he establishes us a his children and heirs.  Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship.  To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.- pg. 207  

    To express it another way, if all the truth of the gospel were contained in a multi-faceted diamond, adoption would be the most brilliant and beautiful of facets, where God’s love shimmers the most.  It is good to think on how God the judge forgave our sins in the legal realm, but it is unfathomable that the judge would step out from behind his bench with adoption papers in hand and take us home.  But THIS is the doctrine of adoption.  

    And while we could do exposition on doctrine all day… doctrine is meant to lead to worship, and worship is meant to affect action.  

    This is expressly what the author of James says when he states, 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. - James 1:27

    James says if we really claim to be children of the Father, we will busy ourselves visiting the orphan and widow.

    Visiting seems like an interesting word choice at first glance.  It sounds kind of touristy and weak, like window-shopping instead of buying, or spectating when we are supposed to be getting our hands dirty working.  

    But a quick word study reveals the rich texture of meaning behind this word.  It appears at least three times in the book of Luke (1:68, 1:78, 7:16).  The usage in Luke 7:16 is especially helpful in providing us with some insight.    

    Listen to the account from Luke 7:11-16

    Afterward he (Jesus) went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!

    There it is in verse 16, God has visited his people.  The visit prophesied by Zechariah in Luke 1:68;78 and fulfilled by Jesus in chapter 7 (only to be completely fulfilled at Christ’s death and resurrection at the end of the book) entails much more than window-shopping.  The visit we are talking about began at Christ’s incarnation, where he left the eternal pleasures of heaven and stooped to enter his creation.  Secondly, the physical healing and resurrection detailed in the story of the widow’s son only anticipates a deeper healing that Jesus would accomplish by defeating the power of sin through the cross and bringing ultimate redemption.  

    So, this is a hint of the meaning wrapped up in the call to visit the orphans (taking initiative on another’s behalf, seeking the good of the helpless), that compassion in the heart (7:13) would lead to life-altering action on the behalf of the those who need it most.    

    Russell Moore explains it this way, Adoption is . . . mission.  In this, our adoption spurs us to join Christ in advocating for the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned and the fatherless.   

    And if adoption leads us to mission, it is a big mission indeed.  It’s a mission only a Church convicted by the word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, and led by the example of God is big enough to accomplish.

    In closing, listen to this quote by pastor Tony Merida that on one hand is overwhelming and on the other should galvanize us into action!

    Today, upwards of a half-million children are in the foster-care system in America, and approximately 130 thousand of those children are immediately adoptable.  With nearly 225 million professing Christian adults in America, no identifiable reason exists that all of these children cannot be placed immediately in the care of loving Christian families who can nurture them with he love of Christ as they grow to adulthood. - Orphanology, pg. 51

    In part 2, I’ll list some books and other resources, some opportunities to serve, and ways we are corporately hoping to do our part in the James 1:27 challenge. 

    -Josh Graves

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