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    Elders' Blog - Entries from February 2013

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    ThuThursdayFebFebruary28th2013 Adoption: Blessed, Challenged, and Changed by It

    Almost five years ago, Angela and I ventured to Jamaica on a missions trip. We thought we knew everything that this trip had in store for us. We knew we were going with some wonderful people. We knew we were going to work on a construction project. We knew we were going to share devotions with some school children. We knew we were going to visit an orphanage. What we didn't know was how God would use this trip to radically change our lives. Radically, in ways we could not imagine. Radically, in ways that would challenge our faith, our marriage relationship, and at times, our resolve to keep pressing on.  

    As many (or most) of you know, that trip to Jamaica is where we discovered Ian, a non-verbal, non-ambulatory bundle of smiles and charisma with an absolute love for people. We brought Ian home as our son in September 2008, a year and half later. I can honestly say that he has changed my life in a positive way that I never imagined. God has used Ian to open our hearts toward those with physical handicaps and opened our bank account to help others who are adopting.

    Ian tends to impact people everywhere we go, whether family, church family, or even strangers when we are out and about. Ian was cared for by loving people in the orphanage and the transition into our family was seamless. He trusted us immediately and as a result he has been free to enjoy our home, our antics, and even receive discipline well.

    However, our adoption saga does not stop there. The sun has not always shone and the birds have not always been singing. Adoption can be a messy, challenging and frustrating endeavor. We have seen most of our family accept our decision to adopt, while some did not and strained relationships developed. We have made many new friends because of adoption, yet we have also felt isolated at times because of how this has changed relationships. We are most thankful for our Care Group and their ministry to us through prayer and encouragement.

    Still being burdened for orphans and orphan care, we adopted again, this time through the foster care system. We were totally unprepared for what we would deal with. Reading reams of paperwork and diagnoses did not prepare us for how much damage had been done to two boys in a previous home. It did nothing to give insight into young minds that have seen nothing but rejection in relationships. We did not anticipate how much we would learn about the gospel in dealing with children who expect to be rejected, are fearful of trusting and determined to be in control at all times.

    While holding an angry child and singing “if you hit, I will love you anyway; if you spit, I will love you anyway; if you kick, I will love you anyway,” we were reminded of God’s undying, unending love for us. Even when we hit, spit, or kick at him, he does not abandon us. We were reminded of how we don’t want to give up control of our lives and are fearful of trusting God to lead us where He wants. The contrast in how Ian’s trust drives his behavior and how Lucas’ lack of trust drives his has caused us to really consider how well we trust God and how our behavior reflects that trust.  

    Adoption has changed us, and continues to change us. We have moments of sheer frustration, followed by moments of utter joy. As a couple, Angela and I have not undertaken anything this difficult. God has used the challenges to expose our hearts and the many idols we still hold onto. Slowly, ever so slowly, God is prying our fingers from a death grip on control of our lives.

    We recently meditated on what Paul said in Acts 20:24: “But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

    May we continually live that out with our lives. 

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary21st2013 Interconnected
    byPaul Briggs Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    It was a Sunday evening in January several years ago when my phone rang. Having just finished with an international student Bible study, we had a house full of guests. But recognizing the name on the Caller ID, I took the call wondering why my friend was calling me on a Sunday evening. This was not his usual pattern.  On the other end of the line, my friend asked me if I know a young man named Ernesto at Purdue. I laughed as I told him that there were nearly 40,000 students at Purdue, and I certainly didn’t come close to knowing all of them! He proceeded to tell me that while at his church in the Cleveland area earlier that evening, a young man by the name of Ernesto had walked into the church service and sat next to him.

    Ernesto was in that town as part of his internship program from Purdue University and would be there for the next four months. I ended up speaking with Ernesto on the phone that evening; we exchanged contact information and agreed that we would meet when he returned to Purdue for the start of the fall semester. When we met in August of 2011, I learned that Ernesto had come to know the Lord in Pennsylvania at an internship prior to going to the Cleveland area. What transpired in the four months Ernesto was at the church in Cleveland contributed significantly to Ernesto’s spiritual growth—to the point that Ernesto was baptized prior to his return to Purdue.

    Fast forward eight months from the original call from my friend: Ernesto and I connected in the fall and he began attending Kossuth regularly and getting involved in what the Lord is doing in and through Salt and Light Christian Fellowship. Ernesto completed his undergraduate degree in December and has started his graduate studies in Civil Engineering.

    In the past couple of weeks, Ernesto had the opportunity to travel with me and my family to give his testimony and update the body of believers in the Cleveland area about how the Lord has been working in his life in the year and a half since he left them and came to Kossuth. What a blessing to be able to speak about the continuation of the work the Lord had begun even before Ernesto had gone to the church meeting on that January evening so many months ago! It was stirring to hear him speak about how the Lord has grown him spiritually since that time, using Kossuth as part of that process! It was a privilege to hear him speak about how the Lord has supplied for his physical needs as he attends graduate school. And it was wonderful to hear of the Lord’s work in opening doors to Ernesto to serve in a variety of ways in the realm of the local church.

    The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians:

    …speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

    Amazing grace…that took a young man from Texas, brought him to Purdue before taking him to Penn State for an internship where He saved him, grew him up further in the faith during an internship in the Cleveland area, and brought him to Kossuth to continue his growth in grace. Praise God for His faithful work—and how He uses each of His people to help sharpen and strengthen people He brings our way! Thank God today for how He takes the pieces of the puzzles our lives and puts them together for His own glory.

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary7th2013 Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It!

    I thank God for his gracious assignment to KSBC of international student ministry. In the early days—and even on occasion presently—Dana Gottfried would gently come alongside me and help me keep the sermon as clear as possible for those who come from another culture and do not claim English as their native language. I think we would all agree that if anything is important to say clearly, it’s the truth about God and his love expressed in Jesus Christ.

    One Sunday morning when we were meeting in the old sanctuary, I became quite enthusiastic about a point I was making in the sermon. I drove home the point by leaning forward to declare, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!” As I turned to walk back behind the pulpit, I could see out of the corner of my eye two visiting Russian students turn to each other in wonder and then huddle toward Dana, obviously lost in the idiomatic exclamation they had just encountered. That may have been my first lesson with Dana on cleaning up my speech.

    An idiom is a natural manner of speaking to a native speaker of a language. “Under the weather,” “start from scratch,” and “hit the sack” are further examples of the well-understood use of the unclear to say something. It is obvious that these phrases are not intended to be taken literally, yet in the host culture’s language they are packed with clear meaning.

    Sometimes the Bible is either misunderstood, minimized, or mocked because of this issue of determining meaning. There are some places in the Bible where the terms and meaning would be crystal clear to the original readers and culture, yet seemingly unclear and perhaps nonsensical to readers 2,000 years later. Many have found great encouragement in the fact that a document as ancient as the Bible is so well preserved, attested, and understandable regardless of the language or culture it is connected with. However, the reader of the Bible must still on occasion take into consideration that the Bible was written within an ancient context.

    One example is the 1 Corinthians 11 passage we are currently studying together on Sunday morning. It is seems apparent that “head covering” had a significance in the ancient culture of Corinth that it does not have in our current culture here in America. The surface message of the text is clear: wives should cover their heads to participate in corporate worship. The supporting truth woven throughout the context is that wives should embrace publicly their joyful commitment to the headship of their husbands. The original situation in Corinth was that some wives were being stubborn rather than submissive. If head coverings do not communicate the message of joyful submission to husbands in our culture today, what parallel behavior on the part of wives in worship would express obedience to the core instruction regarding headship and contentious wives? We will talk about this more Sunday morning Lord willing.

    Other examples of culturally-influenced commands in the Bible may be foot washing and greeting with a holy kiss. Some mistakenly and irresponsibly believe that the Bible’s teaching regarding homosexuality, polygamy, male headship, limited roles for women in leadership, and even baptism are limited or revised by the lens of culture. One key is to look for clear indicators of a difference between the host culture’s understanding and ours. Usually in these later examples the text connects these commands directly to the creation mandate or the teachings of Christ. There are no compelling reasons to inject cultural distance into the search for meaning of these commands.

    The Bible is both reliable and clear. What the Bible says, God says. In a few places we have to work our way through the nuances of ancient culture and context, but we will still discover with the Psalmist that “the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8). Read it and obey it with faith and anticipation as God’s clear word to you.

    Stick that in your . . . I mean . . . deal with that!      

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