Saturday, November 29, 2008

Home Study rundown

Day 3 of the home study....done.

It feels like we've just finished the 4th quarter of an aTm vs. Louisiana High School football game. (I would have loved to picked a better competitor for the Aggies, but it wouldn't communicate how close of a game I am talking about.). Our social worker came on Thursday night. Her train got randomly canceled out of Beijing, so she didn't arrive here until 8 pm or so. The first night was going over paperwork. Medicals, power of attorney, financial statement, the whole deal.

Day 2 was pretty intense. We had interviews together in the morning so that she could assess our marriage. We talked about EVERYTHING with her. Right down to pet peeves :) . We had to recruit an army of babysitters to help out with the kiddos. Some spoke English, others did not. We ate lunch with her while the kids were at home. She wanted to see our interaction together. We held our breath, because all the kids had eaten already, and 4 kids sitting at and around a table with no food is usually not a great formula. But we managed, thanks to some crackers and sweets. The afternoon was filled with personal interviews. They asked about our personal upbringing, struggles, memories, our relationship with our family, etc. 5:00 and we were done...tired and totally done for the day.

Insert narrator here: Note, Carrie got sick the morning of the first day of the home study. So all of her answers are accompanied by blowing of her nose and an entirely irritating nasaly voice. Like that annoying Fran actor lady's voice.

Day 3: She came over at 7:30 am to get started. She had the kids take her around the house and show her around. The whole time, she's giving them instructions on how to be safe with the baby. After they are done, we sit and she gives us some heads up on adoption. What bonding looks like, things to be thinking of before we pick her up, how to handle adjustments in the home.

It was fun to feel like we're getting closer. It was wonderful to actually get the freedom to think through what raising this new baby will look like. I think it really feels more real now. Our social worker was fantastic. Thanks everyone for your prayers, everything went wonderfully.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, there will be no turkey, pumpkin pie, yummy green bean casserole and stuffing. But today, we have our home study. It's the biggest hurdle in the adoption process. So I can think of nothing more that we'd rather do this Thanksgiving, than to give thanks to the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this adoption. We are thankful for His adopting us. And we are also thankful for the grace of getting to adopt our baby from the other side of the world.

God is good.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

2 Firsts

First First:   

We decided to get Kesed's first hair cut.  I've been delaying because he had these precious curls in the back.  But now that the humidity is gone, it just looks like a bird's nest sitting on his neck.  And then there's the comb over in the front.  Bottom line, it just had to be done.  He's chewing on his bribe, but to no avail, he hated the whole deal.

Second First:  

Selah lost her first tooth!  She had been working on it for awhile now.  And actually, the two teeth on the bottom are already in quite a bit.  It was end of the day on Saturday and she wiggled it out.  Before too long, the one next to it will be out.  

We did the whole under the pillow, tooth fairy thing, but she got scared when she saw shadows in the middle of the night.  So at about 3 am, she found out the truth.  She never asked us directly if it was real (otherwise we would have told her the truth), but she had a suspicion.  But we think she really did want to believe it was true, so she just never asked :).  

Friday, November 21, 2008

Question to ask

"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it......But I'm afraid God might ask me the same question."-Anonymous

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Complete opposite meaning

For Selah's birthday, she got this angel from a friend.  I loved the translation/message written on the side.  It reads:  "God grant me the serenity to accent the things I cannot change."

So Brad and I pondered this deep thought.  "God grant me the serenity to accent the things I cannot change."  Ya know, like a bad personality, impatience, brashness, etc.  Ya, God, grant me the ability to accent those.  Seems like I don't really need God's help in accenting those things. Unfortunately, I'm doing a good enough job on my own.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Selah's 7th!

We celebrated Selah's 7th Birthday this week!  I cannot believe she is 7 already.  I love who she has become and how the Lord is growing and changing her in so many ways.  She broke down in grief the other day because we told her to say she was sorry the other day, but she felt like in her heart, she wasn't sorry.  We've had several interactions with her like this lately, where she is becoming more and more aware of sin and her need for forgiveness.  It's beautiful.  (Sorry for the random underlines below.)

We always have a family dinner on the night of their actual birthday.  She wanted chicken alfredo.  We invited our close family friend over to join us because she couldn't come to the party.  We also go around the table and express what are a few things that we love about the birthday person.  
We had the party on Saturday.  She invited a school friend and some friends that live around us.  I'm so proud of her Chinese.  It's so fun because she doesn't really even complain about not having English speaking friends.  But we did get to invite one other American family in the city.  Here's mom doing some face painting.  It was a flower themed party.  I just couldn't do princesses for another year.  

This is her friend from school.  They used to sit next to each other, but got separated because they talked too much.  She's a sweet friend to Selah.

We played pin the bee on the flower too.  The girls all thought this was a blast and played it again and again.

The weather wasn't super cold, so we headed outside and played a game called "Eagle catches the small bird."  It's a traditional game here that all the kids play.  

We had a wonderful time!  Selah has become a wonderful girl.  As parents, it's amazing to watch her love others and care deeply for the hurting.  The last few months, she has told us several times that when she gets older, she will move to Africa and live among Muslims.  It will be fun to see what He does with her.

We love you sweetie!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Try to Define "Sin"

Most of us simply list sins instead of define “sin”. At best, we might say “breaking God’s laws”, but this is still misses the main problem with not mature past a child’s thinking towards a more mature Biblical understanding.


Simply put, we suggest the following definition of “sin”. Sin is valuing of anything else above God. This simple definition actually has far reaching ramifications. But first, we need to defend the definition. Romans 1 is the clearest. Romans 1:23, 25, 28 speaks our “exchanging” the glory and truth of God for created things. This is the fundamental problem of the universe; all other Scriptural descriptions of “sin” fall under this basic idea. “Whatever is not done by faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), yet faith believes that God rewards those who seeks him and that He is able to do what he has promised (Hebrew 11:1, 6; Romans 4:20-21). Given that we are commanded to do everything to the glory of God, including eating and drinking, (1 Cor. 10:31), then all sin is “falling short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)—again, not showing the worth of God above all other things. What we value is always evidence by our lives.


This means that we stops asking “Is this or that a sin?” This misses the point and shows us that we are not thinking of the worth of God but the worth of our self-interest. Also, sin is not merely about law-breaking and guilt; it’s also about the honor of God and how we have publically shamed him before the world. Sin is like publically spitting in our father’s face. Romans 2:23-24 is chillingly clear, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." Notice that law-breaking is the MEANS, not the ultimate problem—the worth (glory) of God is ultimately at stake.


This should cause us great angst as we realize our “list” of sins just expanded. Worshipping God is feeling, thinking, and doing anything that shows the worth of God. How many things do we do, think, or FEEL that do not reflect His infinite worth. What a joy to define sin as it is that we may see our desperate condition, confess sin, and call out to the God of Mercy to transform our hearts more and more like Christ’s!!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

just a normal saturday

Just a normal Saturday in our household.  We're doing straw painting.  Here's Selah and one of her best friends, Mao Yuan.  They have a blast together.  They just got done roller blading and are now painting together (along with Charis and Malachi).  Kesed was there too, but I think he was busy playing with the broom.

Here are the kids sporting their new hats.  I got them all knit just in time for winter to come.  Yesterday, winter snuck up and slapped us from behind.  I've also got one for my sweet neice who is coming in Dec.

And just what you've all been waiting for, Charis, following in her big sister's shoes. Here she is sporting a corduroy jacket, velvet dress, pink turtle pajama pants, her red socks and wizard of oz ruby red shoes.  And you ask, did you go out like this?  Of course.... dressed and ready to go.  Those of you who know me well, shouldn't be surprised.  

That's all for now.  

A Little Noticed Contradiction in "Freedom"

It is plain wrong to say both that a person (1) has the “Free Will” to have faith in Christ but (2) not the “free will” to be justified by law, by one’s own righteousness. All Christians agree with the latter; many also assert the first statement even though these two claims (as will be shown) are contradictory.


All of Scripture attests to the fact that the fruit of our lives reflects. The condition of our hearts (Mt 7:16, 12:33; Lk. 6:43-44; Rom. 7:4-5). True faith is evidenced by good works (see James, 1 John, Hebrews) Faith without works is death (i.e. is not genuine faith). Yet, notice that in the above two statements, a person says that we are able to have faith in Christ (independent of grace, since the will is “free”; otherwise, it’s not free) YET this ability for faith should therefore imply the ability to do good works [again, independent of grace].  Does this not mean that we could be saved by works by virtue of our own inherent good, “free will” [apart from grace]?


However, this has never and can never be done. In fact, to assert such would be to deny the gospel. Galatians 2:21 plainly states, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.


That so-called “freedom” which theoretically makes faith possible without grace (hence, “freedom”) is the same that makes works based salvation theoretically possible. Yet, this is impossible!!! The key point often overlooked by “Free Will” advocates is that is it contradictory to say both that the will is “free” and in need of grace. {It is a simple side step and not a real solution to say grace makes free will…grace does not make one as if there was no grace}. If it also needs Spiritual grace, then it is not free of itself!! It is still a slave to impotence of sin.


How can we call slavery “freedom”?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Believe...!" Does Not Imply That We Actually Can

This is a follow-up to a previous blog.


We have heard a thousand times people respond to us saying, “Because God commands us to do something, it must imply that we can do it. Otherwise, why would he command it?” As we will show, this logic does not hold up. Those who hold to “Free Will” do not show explicit Scriptures for this position, nor can they very well define “Free Will”. In truth, it’s a philosophical position fought for based on what they think the Scriptures infer (though don’t actually say). [This blog is also a follow-up on the Martin Luther series since it’s drawing from his book “Bondage of the Will”.]


It ought to be a plain to us that in Scripture God’s demands to us do not necessary imply our ability to obey them. (I will offer a very simple, daily life example in a moment.) Rather, God’s laws are meant to expose our sin, in particular our sinful inability, that our natures are unable to delight or heed his law (Gal. 3:19-21; Romans 3:20, 7:7-13). Romans 7:7-9 especially makes the point that God’s giving of the command does not merely show us past flaws in us, but provides the occasion by which sin is provoked to exert its power. Therefore, giving law does not at all imply ability; rather, it is the tool God uses to humble us, showing us our moral inability.


It is like giving a large hammer to a small child who pleads to swing it though he’s clearly too weak to even hold it. Yet, the father gives it to his son that the son may be silenced in humility and in awe of the work of grown-ups. Likewise, how many physicians tell their patience to do things they know well they can’t do. Such “futile” exercises are meant to reveal our inability, NOT our ability.


The belief in “Free Will”, if taken to its logical end, comes dangerously close to denying half the gospel. How so? The New Covenant, which we see in Luke 22, 2 Corinthians 3, and Hebrews 8, is what Christ’s life, death, and resurrection brought ought. It says that we will (1) be forgiven of sin and (2) given a new spirit such that we will have new hearts causing us to obey {for example, see Ezek. 36:26-27; Jer. 31:33-34}. Everyone knows about forgiveness, but people rarely relish the second part of the New Covenant (thus the “good” of the gospel): He gives us new hearts that CAUSE us to obey!! If we already had “free wills” to obey God, why do we need a new Spirit to cause us to obey? If our wills necessarily need the Spirit to obey, then it’s not free in itself!


Rather, we should agree with Romans 6, we are all slaves...either to sin or to righteousness. There is no room for “free will” in between these two categories. Without the Spirit’s saving grace, all of our wills are enslaved, not free. That’s why it says in Romans 8:7-8, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


Thus, God’s commands are not given in vain. They achieve their purpose—that we might learn our impotency! And thus be saved.



Saturday, November 01, 2008

"Help Me Believe" cd

You need to check out this album:  "Help Me Believe" by Donna Stuart.  It's an album filled with hope, redemption and freedom.  iTune it and put it in your worship playlist.  

It has really ministered to me this weekend as I pondered the Grace of our adoption.  I have been blown away by how much the Lord loves to care for His children.  This cd is an expression of a child pleading with her father to come and sit together.  

Love it.

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