Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why Should One Care About International Poverty?

"Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13, English Standard Version).

This information comes from the Christian Relief Fund:

"Hunger Facts...

*963 million people across the world are hungry.

*Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds.

*In essence, hunger is the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food.

*Hunger manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness.

*Countries in which a large portion of the population battles hunger daily are usually poor and often lack the social safety nets we enjoy, like soup kitchens, food stamps, and job training programs. When a family that lives in a poor country cannot grow enough food or earn enough money to buy food, there is nowhere to turn for help."

You may check out for more information about poverty and how to help.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Choosing Life

Today we received a newsletter from Christian Services of Oklahoma ( Since the people at Christian Services were so helpful during our adoption process, it has become one of our favorite ministries. Here is an excerpt from the most recent newsletter:

"We received a phone call one day from a Christian professor who had a student, Emily, who was considering aborting her unborn child. When she told him her plans, he opened up and told her his adoption story and how if he had not been adopted he would have more than likely died. He began talking to her about her options and told her about the option of adoption.

"He gave Emily my phone number and asked her to call me. She called me that evening and we talked about her options and how that child growing inside of her deserved a chance at life. Emily met with me and it was obvious she really did not want to abort her baby, but felt like she had no other options. Emily told me that her appointment with the abortion clinic was that afternoon at 3 pm but was not sure she would go. I prayed with her before she left and asked her to call me if she needed anything.

"I spent time in prayer from 2:30 to 3:30 the day of her appointment, praying for Emily. I prayed that God would guide her heart and give her the courage she needed to make the best decision for this unborn child. Emily called me four days later and asked if we could meet. We met for coffee again. She sat across from me crying. She said she pulled up to the clinic that afternoon but could not get out of her car. She said she sat there for 30 minutes trying to force herself to get out of the car, but could not go in. She knew that she could not abort this child and wanted to know what she could do to give this child the life he or she deserved.

"Emily and I talked a few more times after that day about her options. She found some family members that were able to help her out and might even adopt the baby. We prayed together and she said that she knew God was leading her even though her faith in Him was not strong.

"At Christian Services, we have the privilege of working with women who are considering abortion and we are able to support them and pray for them as we counsel them to choose life!

"Tracy Gambill
Family Support Specialist"

I love that ministry!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Embracing Adoption

The Christian Standard's theme this week is Embracing Adoption, one of my favorite topics. Here are links to the articles:
Embracing the Ministry of Adoption (

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The High Expectations of God's Grace

The apostle Paul knew the stereotype of the people of Crete. "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12). In fact, he agreed with the stereotype. "This testimony is true," he wrote (Titus 1:13).

However, Paul also knew the power of God's grace. He knew the message of Christ's life, death, and resurrection could transform the lives of Cretans who embraced it in faith.

Therefore the apostle had high expectations for the Christians of Crete. He expected "older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance" (Titus 2:2). He expected "older women to be reverent in the way they live, not be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good" (Titus 2:3). He expected "younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Titus 2:4-5). He expected "young men to be self-controlled" (Titus 2:6). He even expected Cretan men to exhibit the qualities of godly elders who were prepared to pastor the young churches in an ungodly society (Titus 1:5-9). Talk about high and counter-cultural expectations!

I have a feeling that the apostle Paul would write similar words to America's inner city churches today. He would know the stereotypes. He would know that the people of the inner city have a reputation for laziness, irresponsibility, immoral sexual behavior, addictions, and violence. He would also recognize the truth in the stereotypes.

However, Paul would expect the grace of God to change the way inner city believers live. He would expect no less from America's urban poor than from the Cretans who placed their faith in Jesus Christ. He would have high counter-cultural expectations, because he knew the power of the gospel to transform lives.

"(The grace of God) teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:12-14).

Friday, June 19, 2009

From Atheist to Christian at a Secular University

"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer harm for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.' But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:13-15).

While on vacation, we met a couple of friends at their community Bible church ( in Norman. During lunch, the husband told me about how he had been led to Christ by a physics professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Around 10 years ago, our friend was an atheist majoring in science at the university. He became increasingly impressed with one particular professor's knowledge and ability to make the difficult concepts of physics easier to understand.

One day, during the professor's off hours, the professor presented a speech on Evidence for the Existence of God. Our friend could not argue against his professor's reasoning. He was also impressed with his nontenured professor's courage in risking his career in order to share his faith in God. Our friend became a believer.

However, he continued to avoid the church. Then one day, he shared, "I said something completely ignorant about something in the Bible to one of my other professors." The professor realized that our friend needed to grow in his faith. He responded, "You need a church that takes the Bible seriously to help you understand and develop as a believer." He suggested his local church, the same congregation the other professor attended.

Our friend and his wife are active members of that same congregation today, Wildwood Community Church. God used two professors at a secular university to change one young atheist into a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Vacation Photos 2009

I wanted to share a few pictures of our vacation this week. The top picture shows Christopher watching a duck on the Bricktown Canal in Oklahoma City. (Janet should win an award for capturing this moment in a photograph.)
The bottom two pictures show Christopher and me next to the Mystery Machine. We saw it parked next to a snow cone shop in Edmond; so we had to turn around and go see it. Scooby and the gang never showed up, but we enjoyed seeing their van close up.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

No Need to Baptize (Yet)

After reading my post at, a concerned friend asked me why I had not baptized Christopher yet. She explained that she had her daughter baptized at birth so that her daughter would not go to purgatory if she died as a child. My friend is a good mother. I would have done the same thing if I had shared her understanding of baptism. No decent parent wants his or her child to suffer in such a manner.

However, as I explained to my friend, I have a different understanding of baptism. Baptism was meant to be an expression of one's faith and repentance.

Before being baptized, a person needs to understand his need for God. He needs to have some comprehension of his sin and its consequences. He needs to know that he has violated God and faces the danger of God's wrath.

He needs to understand that he cannot do anything to pay off his debt to God. He must realize his need for God's mercy and grace.

Then he needs to know that Jesus Christ is his only hope of forgiveness and a guilt-free life. As the Son of God, Jesus suffered God's wrath on behalf of sinners. He took the penalty in our place. He died to save us. When he returned to life, he did so by the power of God, proving God's acceptance of his sacrifice for us.

If a person believes that message and it affects his emotions and will to the point that he wants to give up his life without Christ in exchange for following Jesus, he is ready for baptism. He is ready to follow the apostle Peter's instructions: "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 2:38). He is ready to walk with God and to live under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He is ready to follow the instructions of Christ who wants disciples to be baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). He is ready to mark the end of his old life and embrace a new life living in the grace of God. As the apostle Paul taught, "When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace--a new life in a new land! That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country" (Romans 6:3-7, The Message).

I expect to baptize Christopher someday. Janet and I are sharing the message of Christ with him every day. We are loving him. We understand baptism to be an expression of a heart that trusts in Christ and wants to turn from sin to follow him. We do not want to baptize him before it would be meaningful to him. We will continue to pray, teach, model, and wait until our son is impacted by God's love to the point that he wants to be baptized. Then we want to celebrate his baptism with him.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Little Boys of Summer

Christopher in 2008

Christopher in 2009
Our son completes his second year of baseball on Thursday night! Time flies!

The Contact Church: A Different Kind of Church

Sometimes I take the Contact Church for granted. I forget about how different it is, until I talk to a visitor or invite someone to worship services.

This morning, I ran across Randy (one of our Contact Church members) and his boss while I was working. They were cutting down a tree in the yard of one of our Bible class teachers.

Randy's boss has visited the Contact Church several times and loves it. As he said, "At Contact, you don't worry about religion. You just love the people." I'm sure he meant that we don't worry about formalism and ritualism in our worship services. Instead, we concentrate on caring about each other and our visitors.

I started to think about some of our different practices. For example, we have a period in our worship assembly which we call prayer and praise. For about ten minutes, someone will approach the podium and take praise reports and prayer requests from the congregation. Everyone is welcome to tell us what makes them thankful or what concerns them at that time. Close to 90% of the comments are praise reports (ranging from "I'm thankful for my dog" to "Jesus is coming back"). The remainder consists of prayer requests (ranging from "My neighbor is in the hospital" to "My grandson is in jail").

When someone responds at the end of the service with a need for prayer, the entire congregation goes forward with him or her. The church surrounds the individual and lays hands on him or her as we pray for the person's concerns. If someone confesses faith in Christ and the desire to repent along with a request for baptism, the congregation surrounds him or her after the baptism and everyone gets an opportunity to offer words of encouragement before someone leads us in prayer for the new believer.

Throughout the morning, children (who make up roughly half of the 160 or so people in the assembly) roam the aisles with adults trying to gain some control over the clowns and darlins (as our minister refers to them). It makes for a lively worship service. Since most of the children do not have parents in the assembly, the adults have learned to take responsibility for more than their own children.

Most of the worship service is interactive. In addition to the prayer and praise portion of the service, the children will interact with the children's minister on stage before going to classes after our communion service. During the sermon, members of the congregation will speak to the preacher (whether he asks a question or not). (When I lead the prayer and praise or the communion service, Christopher will stand up front with me. Children tend to like to be on stage with adults. When we visit other churches, I'm always a little concerned that Christopher will not know how to act in a normal church, but he always does fine, despite what he is used to.)

We don't have calm and quiet worship services (except sometimes when the children are in summer camp...but not all the time even then). The Contact Church is a little different, but we always walk away encouraged to live a Christ-honoring lifestyle. It's different, but good.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Christ's Concern for Disabled People

"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14).

Christ cares about people with disabilities. He spent much of his ministry healing the blind, deaf, and paralyzed people who crossed his path. He instructed his disciples to go out of their way to offer hospitality and acceptance to people with disabilities. He wants disabled people to feel welcome in his church.

(By the way, if you know sign language, the Contact Church could use your help during our Sunday school classes and worship services. We have a few hearing impaired and deaf visitors and members who could benefit a great deal from your willingness to help us. Please call 918-447-1130 if you are interested. Thanks!)

An Alternative to Being Too Nice and Being a Jerk

Kevin DeYoung believes we are living in an age of weak and irrational discourse. At, he analyzes the state of discourse in our society and offers good advice to improve it. Here is an excerpt:

"So what's the problem? It's not that we are all suddenly morons. This is not going to be some elitist rant on 'if only everyone could be smart like me and my friends.' Likewise, the problem is not the banality of the world around us. There is plenty to discuss, dissect, and disagree on. The problem is not even that television has robbed us of the ability to communicate in complete sentences (although it certainly hasn't helped). The problem with our discourse--are you ready for this brilliant insight?--is that some people are jerks and some people are too nice."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I'm Still Pro-Life

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

A few days ago, late-term abortionist George Tiller was murdered. He had killed an estimated 60,000 pre-born children.

How should I respond to his murder?

First, I oppose his murder. Mr. Tiller's murderer did not have the right to take his life.

Second, I mourn his loss. Mr. Tiller could have used his talents to help people. He could have been a healer rather than a killer. Even after committing numerous abortions, he could have repented. He could have become a Christian. He could have become an advocate of life rather than death. He could have received God's forgiveness. His death is an occasion for mourning.

Third, I will remain committed to pro-life principles. Mr. Tiller's death has caused a backlash against the pro-life position, but I remain convinced that Christians need to continue to seek to save the lives of unwanted children. I have addressed this issue a number of times on my blog.

At, I explain why pro-lifers must continue to work to save the lives of pre-born children even when things don't seem to be going our way.

At, I share ideas about ways to put pro-life convictions into action.

At, I share a principle for effectively opposing abortion.

At, I tell about how our small actions on behalf of children can have a large impact in the lives of those around us.

The tide of public opinion may shift away from the pro-life position, but I will remain pro-life. I believe it is an honorable way to express compassion for those who need it. I also believe it is an honorable way to serve the Christ who cares about the defenseless.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The God of the Lonely People

"All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
(Ah, look at all the lonely people)" ~The Beatles

During last Wednesday evening's Bible class with Harold Shank (, Dr. Shank was discussing God's heart for the widow and the orphan. He pointed out that the widows and the orphans were left alone after the deaths of their husbands and fathers. They were left without providers, defenders, and companions. They were alone and vulnerable, not only to those who would take advantage of them but to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

God notices such circumstances. He cares.

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families..." (Psalm 68:5-6).

In the Old Testament, he set up laws to protect vulnerable and lonely people like orphans, widows, and immigrants (Exodus 22:21-22). In the New Testament, he calls upon Christ's church to "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). Reflecting his heart for the lonely, God calls on his people to care for those who are alone and vulnerable.

Now the challenge is to look around and see the lonely people. Then I need to take the initiative to let them know that they are not alone and that God cares about them.