Friday, October 31, 2008

Ethiopia deluxe

Brief update in the adoption world.  I walked in and showed those cops who was boss and they all scrambled, typed, sealed my document and I was on my way out the door in 10 minutes flat. 
It went something like that, or at least that's how I'm choosing to remember it :).  Bottom line is, we got the document!!  We've also successfully jumped several hurdles.  They were ugly jumps, but we jumped them nonetheless.  Our paperwork is almost finished and we'll now wait for our home study at the end of the Nov.  After that, it's more paperwork and red tape.  

We had a cop friend come over to our house today and help with getting fingerprinted.  While here, he told us he was going to look around a bit.  We nervously threw small talk his way.  He seemed satisfied, but it was a tense few minutes.  Having him walk around just made us feel nervous, even though we haven't done anything.  We tell people, we've got 4 kids, we don't have time to make trouble.

We've been studying Ethiopia these last two weeks of home school.  So tonight we finished up with our Ethiopian meal.  We got to eat with our hands, so that's always a good formula for the kids enjoying a meal.  

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why 2 Blogs on "Free Will"?

What an irrelevant question to life huh? “That’s for pastors and theologians to quarrel about,” you might be thinking.

In fact, one’s view of “free will” may undermine the gospel of grace, steal one’s joy in Christ, and dull one’s ability to read Scripture. Ergo, it’s very relevant.


Actually, this is one of the most relevant and least discussed topics in the normal Christian’s life. Those who argue for “Free Will” rarely can define it and explain without contradiction what they mean. So, we’re committing two forthcoming blogs to the topic. We find few people willing to talk about the topic basically, as we can tell, because they don’t understand what is at stake. Positions have been assumed and people don’t know how to live without these certain assumptions.


The coming blogs hope to show why the “Free Will” argument, if taken to its logical ends, can lead to grave consequences. Everyone says we have “free will”. We want to show that “free will” is an empty term that needlessly confuses people and hinders Biblical truth. We know some people just like the funny cultural stories or the kids’ anecdotes, but we hope you’ll consider reading these blogs as well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Punched in the Gut

I feel like I've just been punched in the gut.  And I'll tell you, my gut has not been well this week.  So this was the final blow.  

I just got home from spending the last several hours talking to the Chinese police.  And if that doesn't sound like enough fun, I got home and got more discouraging emails.  All of them adoption related.  Outside the box questions throw most people here into a tailspin.  At KFC, you want fries and not corn?  "no, we cannot do that."  At the bank, we lost our card and need a new one.  "no, we cannot do that."  I want chicken instead of beef in that dish..."no, we cannot do that."  
So in going to the police and asking for a simple letter stating that we haven't committed crimes while living here in China was received with a "huh?!  Why do you want to adopt?  And you want to adopt from WHERE?!  How are you going to feed it, clothe it, send it to college???"  All I wanted was a simple letter and it has now turned into a 2 week ordeal.  It's still not solved.

I know that the Lord wants us to do this.  I cannot tell you the incredible amount of paperwork we are trying to get done.  It's expensive, time intensive and emotionally trying.  But as I have been praying this afternoon, the Lord has reminded me just how costly His sacrifice was for us.  
So I will press on, because our sacrifice is nothing compared to God's.  And our gain will be great when we get to meet our new little one.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Gospel and the Recent Economic Crisis

We have heard for years a very subtle distinction between Christians (or some types of Christians) and other people like politicians, economists, aid workers, etc... The idea goes that Christians help "spiritual" suffering while other people help "practical, this worldly" suffering. Essentially, preaching the gospel seemingly is made to be irrelevant to an economic crisis, to solving marital problems, educational reform, war, raising kids, pregnancy, and other "real life" problems. This blog (we hope) helps put that myth away. It is a godless myth that perhaps most(?) Christians subtly fall prey to. Consequently, Christians allow sharing the gospel to be minimized and even trivialized.

First of all, the preaching of the gospel is the most practical, long term means of alleviating suffering here and now, not just with respect to eternity. How? The ways are too numerous; let's just think about the recent American and world economic crisis.

When the gospel is preached, God changes human hearts forever. When the heart is changed, a person's life is radically changed; not only that one life but those around him or her. As people continue to spread the gospel into entire families and communities, entire segments of society and generations thereafter are radically altered. Family and social bondage is broken. What happens when the heart is changed?
The truly changed, Christian heart does not love money, thus does not live in such a way that the loss of investments takes away his peace and joy. The free, Christian heart gladly relieves others financial burdens by giving money away in these times. The transformed heart does not long for retirement because her hope is heaven and her desire is productive labor for Christ all the days of her life. This heart does not grow more anxious about the destination of the market than the that of the souls around them. Christians in business seek to work with integrity, not wanting to scam the system for the sake of the next promotion. The Christian heart is motivated to work harder, longer, and wiser in order to find new solutions to relieve human suffering, whether this means solving scientific, business, and economic problems or by offering the sweat of our brow and the use of our skills in order to help people through tough financial times. Resources like homes, cars, clothes are freely shared as in the book of Acts. It is an irony that so many of us continually lament the loss of our portfolios even while we enjoy the leisure of reading this and other blogs, even while children in Ethiopia are hoping to survive the week for lack of food. This economic crisis is an opportunity for Christians to magnify the worth of Christ's gospel. How shall we then live?

With each and every problem, the motivations of the Christian heart, the new desires embedded in the renewed mind address suffering in practical ways for generations to come. Mere political and financial strategizing alone only relives the pain for a season, if at all. We must ask ourselves whether we believe in the power of the gospel, whether we truly love other people, and whether we are truly taking the wisest, practical approaches in abolishing evil in the world. Let us preach the gospel to ourselves and our neighbors.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Young Pioneers

The last couple of weeks, at Selah's school, they have started the "Red Scarf" campaign. Basically, it breeds the smartest kids in each class to be leaders. The idea is that you identify them now and they will be leaders of the Communist Party in the future. They have to memorize certain propaganda statements, march in line every monday morning and recite certain slogans.

Well, a lot of Selah's friends at school now wear these red scarves around their necks to school because they are being groomed for the Party. Selah said that one of her friends told her that Selah would NEVER be allowed to do this. She got her feelings hurt and was really sad at being left out. That day, we had a friend eating with us, so we talked about it as a group. She exclaimed that because she was not Chinese, she would not be allowed to join the Party.

"But Mommy, I don't understand, it's not fair that I cannot join the Party. It makes no sense!"

We had a little discussion on international politics and came to a good resolution. So to help the grandparents sleep easily tonight, the only party our kids will be attending will have cake and noisy balloon games.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pro-Obama but Pro-Life?

Here is a thought provoking article (especially page 2) for any
Christians struggling with their tension of wanting to support Obama
but repulsed by his abortion stance. I know many struggle with the
one-issue voting thing:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Adoption Start

Well, we've got BIG news....we're officially starting the process for adopting a sweet baby from ETHIOPIA!  

We have more thoughts than I can put in one blog.  We basically wanted to update everyone on where we were at in the process.  We are still at the very beginning stages, and could still be denied somewhere in the process.  But we are hopeful and excited.  It basically came down to a special needs Chinese baby or an Ethiopian baby.  After much prayer and conversation, we decided that we just couldn't take a care of most special needs because of life circumstances.  Some of the special needs are really minor, but it is just hard to know when those babies will be available.  And on the positive, we both felt really at peace and excited about the idea of adopting an Ethiopian baby.  Right now, they are experiencing a pretty bad drought, which reminded us of the urgency of help in these sweet child's lives.  

We've been listening to adoption sermons lately and will share some of those reflections in the days and weeks to come.  

This is one of the BIGGEST faith leaps we have taken as a couple and as a family.  And with the stock market the way it is, finances are looking grim.  But that doesn't change the situation in our future baby's life.  He/She still needs a home, a family, brothers and sisters, and a picture of Jesus' love for him or her.  

We aren't sure how we are going to afford this, but we know that GOD is FAITHFUL.  We have seen Him do such amazing things in our lives, that we are sleeping well at night, knowing that He will make a way.  

We'll share more as we know more.  Right now, we are scheduled for a home study in late November.  They will interview us and take a look at our home and family to make sure it's a good environment for them to come in to.  

Ok, that's it for now.  Rejoice and pray with us as we start this journey!!!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The 4th Child

I've gotten those forwards that talk about the differences in parenting between the first and fourth child, and they are right on.  I always laugh out loud because they are just so true.  

Well, just tonight, I was laughing at how different we are with Kesed than we were with Selah.  I could go on forever, but I'll leave you with just two for now:

With child #1

1.  You practice and practice walking with them.  You spend countless hours prodding them to go to your spouse and clapping and screaming like kindergartners at recess when they finally take a step.  

By child #4

1.  You want to duct tape their hands to the floor so as to prevent them from learning to walk.  You are happy that they are fairly slow and immobile and you can still put things on the bottom part of your bookcases.

With child #1

1.  When something drops on the floor, you scramble to get it and go immediately to the sink to wash it for 2 minutes in boiling water.  And then put it in the dishwasher and get another pacifier from the piles you got at your baby shower.

By child #4

1.  You find them in the kitchen eating at half eaten apple from the trash can.  And then you let them finish it, because at least they are getting some fiber!

I don't know what kind of parent lets those things happen, I've just heard stories  : )

Friday, October 03, 2008

Arbitrary Parent Rule #17

"Malachi, you may not wipe your boogers on the wall."

Malachi:  "But Mommy, my hand didn't even TOUCH the wall!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"Bondage of the Will" (Martin Luther) Part II

For the two other persons who are interested in this blog series, here’s part 2.

So far, Luther has been responding to Erasmus’ Preface. (The whole book is a response to Erasmus’ book on the matter).

Luther explains that all of God’s promises depend on his total sovereignty over all things, especially the Will. He says, “For when [God] promises, it is necessary that you should be certain that He knows, is able, and willing to perform what He promises; otherwise, you will neither hold Him true nor faithful…” To put it another way, to deny God’s total sovereignty is to make God merely a predictor of things he can’t do and/or hasn’t actually accomplished. All things in history arise from human decision, whether to birth a child, move locations, take a job, betray a friend, crucify a man, or any other thing. Accordingly, if God were not sovereign over the will, he could not promise to do anything (since all the factors leading up to various events required decisions outside his control).

He also addresses the argument that such debates and inquiries ought not happen because they create divisions. He has stated that salvation and the gospel are actually at issue for this matter informs us of our desperately humble state and God’s grace. However, he furthers his argument by saying “tumult” is natural when the Bible is taught. Should we not teach gladly the weighty things of Scripture simply because people will get upset? He challenges the premise common today that unity must be predicted at all costs. The issues that surround the “free will” conversation are central to the gospel (i.e. grace, human righteousness, sin, God’s power and promises,…)

Erasmus asserts that since such doctrines cannot be understood by people, we ought not to accept them. Understanding is necessary for acceptance. If we are not careful in selecting what we teach (says Erasmus), people could be adversely affected. However, Luther aptly replies, “What else do you mean by all this, than that the words of Scripture should depend on, stand on, and fall by, the will and authority of men?” How many of us hesitate to say things because it might cause people to be uncomfortable, humbled, or upset, though the Truth could save them from many worldly troubles or even hell? Truth will never find “consensus” (yet we may easily acts as if it should).

Finally, Luther advances towards a defining and explaining what is meant by people when they say “Free Will”. He speaks of two kinds of ability (better explained by Edwards 200 years later; I think I mentioned this in a previous post on being responsible for what we cannot do.) In short, he wants to explain that the Will always does what it wants. It cannot do other than what it wants. However, the will cannot change itself. All theologians agree on this point, including Erasmus, who says that God’s grace is necessary to affect the will. However, Luther points out that Erasmus undermine the “Free Will” argument when he say this. Why? Because if God’s grace is necessary for a person’s heart to be changed, then it cannot BY ITSELF do what God wills. Therefore he says “ ‘Free Will’ without the grace of God is, absolutely, not FREE; but immutably, the servant and bond-slave of evil, because it cannot turn itself unto good.” In other words, if the Will supposedly has some power, but this power is ineffective, then it has no power, no freedom. At he heart of the conversation is what is decisive…God’s grace OR the human will apart from grace.
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