Zoe’s Testimony & Baptism

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing privilege of baptizing Zoe and my sister Ashley. Praise be to God! Below, you can see their testimonies and baptisms (first video) and/or just watch Zoe’s testimony (second video).

Never have I been more proud to be Zoe’s dad and Ashley’s brother than when they publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord by sharing their testimonies and being baptized. What a blessing and privilege it was to get to baptize them!

Adopting Micah

Five years ago today, Micah officially joined our family. It may seem hard to believe (for those who know him well), but Micah did not like me for the first several days after joining our family. And, that crushed me! 😦

He was also a wild child! Within the first few days of him joining our family, he bit Silas on the stomach, slapped JoAnn across the face, and knocked the glasses/hats off of anyone within an arm’s length of him! He also loved to run away, if given the chance. 

I laid down in bed at our hotel one night in China and felt utter panic. I wondered how in the world I was going to handle a wild and independent kid, on top having four other wild hooligans to care for. He was lying right next to me in a baby bed when I looked over at him sleeping peacefully, and he looked absolutely precious. My heart just exploded at that moment, and all my fears and panic melted away. I reminded myself that Micah’s whole life had been turned upside down, and he needed to be shown lots of grace and patience. That night, I determined in my heart that I would work my tail off to win him over. During the next several days, I played on the floor with him a ton, read the same three books to him over and over, fed him, rocked him, etc. And by golly, by the time we landed in the United States, I officially became Micah’s favorite.

I will also never forget our first day with Micah back at our house. I was so excited for him to see his new toys, and especially for him to finally be able to run free in our yard, without me worrying about him getting hit by a car (as I continuously worried when we were in China). His behavior shocked me. He never wanted to be more than six feet away from me, and he also wanted to be held almost constantly. He was a completely different kid! 

Over the next two years, Micah was my shadow. He never wanted to be far from his mama. On Micah’s second night in his new home, he was struggling to fall asleep, and he did not want me to leave the room. I laid on his floor until he fell asleep that night. Then, I proceeded to lay on his floor every single night until he fell asleep for the next 18 months! Yes, crazy, I know! I do wish I had not laid on his floor for quite that long ;-), but I am so glad I was there for him during those first days of him grieving. Our sweet boy had lived with a foster family for the first two years of his life, and I have no doubt that he experienced deep grief those first few months. 

Those first two years with Micah were far from easy. Having a clingy kid at your hip 24/7 can be exhausting. Little by little though, Micah gained confidence and independence. His true personality slowly but surely emerged. He is nothing like the wild and unruly kid we met initially. He is also not the super clingy, needy kid that emerged right after we adopted him. He is now a calm, somewhat quiet and shy, happy, thriving kid who is well-loved by all who know him. 

Micah’s deep love for me is still very evident. I get several hugs from him everyday, and he constantly tells me he loves me. We still read books every night before bed, too, but thankfully I can give him a hug and kiss and then be on my way. 😉

The decisions to adopt Micah and Zoe were hands-down two of the very best decisions Nick and I ever made. People are often apprehensive about adopting because they worry they will not love their adopted children as much as their biological children. I can tell you from personal experience, however, that my love for all five of my kiddos is equal. Even though Micah and Zoe did not come from my womb, they might as well have, as far as my love for them is concerned. It is hard to even remember life without them. 

Not only are Micah and Zoe incredible gifts to Nick and me, they are also a treasure to their siblings, grandparents, cousins, and countless others. I do not talk a lot about adoption, but it is something that I am incredibly passionate about. I wish more people would open their eyes and hearts to the possibility of adopting, because there truly is not much in life that is more rewarding.

I love winning!

Whether in a basketball game, card game, trivia contest, or any other competition, I have always loved winning. All five of our children are the same way. They desire to win, and they get upset when they lose. I was reminded of this recently with a “friendly” game of basketball with some of their cousins in Windsor Valley (above). The winners were much happier than the losers when the game was over, and to be clear, there are no ties in the great game of basketball.

Really, don’t we all love winning? Sure, there are various levels of competitiveness, depending on the person, but no sane person ever says (or thinks), “I love to lose!”

God created us to love winning, I believe, because we were made in His image, and He never loses. He wins for eternity, and the only way we can experience such victory is in and through a right relationship with Him.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Zechariah 13 – 14 on being “Renewed and Victorious.” When you experience new life in Christ, you are promised eternal victory in Christ. No other victory is so sweet and satisfying!

This is especially true when considering that what we actually deserve is eternal defeat and death and destruction. We are not worthy to share in the Lord’s victory, but the gospel makes it possible for us to win and win forever.

I have always loved winning, but no victory is more exciting than the victory of experiencing the forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. This is true when we experience such victory, and it is true when we see others experience such victory. Praise the Lord!

Have you experienced victory in Jesus? If so, your pursuit of other victories will pale in comparison to your pursuit of victory in Him – victory for yourself and victory for others.

If you have yet to trust in the Lord for everlasting victory, would you consider checking out The Story and turning to Him today?

Happy New Year!

Well, 2021 is almost over, and we would like to wish you a happy new year! May we seek the Lord, honor Him with our lives, and glorify His name in 2022 and beyond! If you want to learn more about what it means to know and follow the Lord, please check out The Story.

If you have yet to do so, you can read our recent Christmas letter HERE. After publishing that Christmas letter, though, we were blessed to spend great time together with our families over the past week. Below are some picture highlights of our time together celebrating the birth of Jesus and giving each other unnecessary gifts.

How sure is your future?

During our church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week, not a single child has asked me if he or she could be confident our building would not collapse on us. While our church building has had its share of issues over the past several months, no one has expressed concern about our safety when we gather together. Frankly, we probably take our safety (pertaining to our building and otherwise) for granted. My point, though, is that we arrive at our church facilities with the confident assurance that we will leave safe and healthy. This is our expectation.

Of course, we have good reason to have such an expectation. History is on our side. Experience is a good teacher. Evidence is all around us.

Still, we all realize that even the strongest of buildings and the greatest of securities and the best of expectations can fail in this life. They will fail eventually.

During VBS this week, though, we have been talking about a foundation that will never fail. He is the only foundation who will never fail. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Philippians 1:6 on “Jesus – Our Strong Foundation.” Just as we pray the children have grasped during VBS, I hope to communicate our need to trust and depend on the only foundation that lasts forever.

If you place your hope and assurance in other things or other people to ensure your future “success,” you will be disappointed. Only Jesus and those who know Him will endure. Only the gospel message is sufficient for our future foundation. No other way will provide what we need for eternity.

How sure is your future? What comes next is indeed certain, so are you ready? Do not take your safety and security for granted. Likewise, do not find your hope in your current safety and security. Something so much better – what you were created for – is available. Experience the sure foundation and rejoice in Him today.

Glory be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

To be sure about your future, turn to the Author of your life. Learn more via The Story.

Never to Lose

When I play all-time quarterback (meaning quarterback for both teams, for those who do not know and/or have not had the joyful privilege) with my kids and nieces and nephews, I never lose. I suppose you could say I never win either, but I do not see it that way. Instead, I get to throw touchdown passes all game long and the team for which I play wins in the end. As a competitive person who hates to lose, I kind of like being all-time quarterback. The game is fun, and I get to throw the winning touchdown pass. Never to lose; always to win.

I was thinking about this during our recent vacation when I had the privilege of playing football with some of the kids (pictured above). Seriously, I never tire of being all-time quarterback, kind of like I never tire of winning, although I do not always win in sports (or in life).

A much better victory is possible, though.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 5-6 on “Reclaimed Victory.” When we know and follow the Lord, we have a victory that is so much greater than anything this life has to offer. We have a victory that is far superior to the greatest of sports dynasties. We have a victory that lasts infinitely longer than any potential fame and fortune.

Victory in Jesus is eternal. We must respond to Him in order to experience His victory, though, and His victory demands a continued response from us. How are you responding to the God of victory?

Sure, we learn valuable lessons in life when we lose. Those lessons are good for us because winning does not come easy, and no one always wins in this life.

When this life is over, though, you will either have eternal victory or eternal damnation, eternal life or eternal death. Jesus enables you never to lose when you come to know Him. We must respond to the God of victory, and I hope to communicate those necessary responses Sunday morning. May we experience His victory, and may we celebrate His victory! To God be the glory!

If you have yet to experience victory in Jesus (or are unsure if you have), would you please check out The Story and turn to the Lord today?

Family Time in Illinois

Last month, we had a great time hanging out at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Illinois and doing a day trip to Chicago. We do not see our nieces, my sister Stephanie, and my brother-in-law nearly as often as we would like, so times like this are sweet. Here are just a few pictures from our trip…

Track and Field

This is the first track and field season for Noah (ninth grade) and Levi (eighth grade). Below are a couple of short videos capturing their events (or the finish of races). Noah has been primarily focusing on high jump, and Levi has been running the 1600-meter run, the 800-meter run, and the 4×400-meter relay.

 
 
 

Reason to Sing

This past Sunday evening, our kids with Richland Baptist Church had a children’s Christmas program. They sang some well-known Christmas hymns and shared some stories of how God has used angels to touch the lives of His people, as recorded in Scripture.

Perhaps more than any other time of year, I love singing hymns about the birth of Jesus. No, I don’t mean the commercialization of Christmas and songs like “Here Comes Santa Claus.” What I love is the great theology found in some of our great Christmas hymns.

I loved hearing the kids sing them Sunday evening, and I especially love singing them myself with our church family.

Jesus is the reason to sing. His coming to take on flesh is a reason to sing. His life, death, and resurrection for our salvation is a reason to sing. Do you desire to sing?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55, talking about how “Redemption Is Certain.” When we know and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, the redemption we have in Him is certain.

Does that make you want to sing? If you have experienced that redemption, I am unsure how your answer could be anything but an enthusiastic “YES!”

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Luke 1:46).

The same reason Mary burst out in praise – celebrating our great God of redemption – ought to compel us to to sing praises to the King.

Do you have that reason to sing? If not, would you consider turning to the Lord for the eternal redemption only He can give?

Then, let us sing together. He is worthy!

If you do not have the reason to sing praises to the King, would you read or watch The Story and cry out to the Lord for the Reason?

Passion Is Priority

Our kids opened a few presents last month. They received Christmas gifts about which they were seemingly excited. Of course, some gifts were received more gladly than others, while some have probably already been forgotten. The gifts about which our kids were sincerely passionate, though, are still used and talked about each day. They play with them. They care for them. They protect them. They declare their greatness.

They prioritize these gifts with their time, efforts, and energy because they are passionate about these gifts. Passion is priority.

Now, the reality is that all of these gifts are temporary, meaning they will not last forever, nor will the passion had for them last forever.

WE ARE PASSIONATE PEOPLE

Everyone is passionate about something. God created us this way, and we declare that passion in and through our priorities. You give of your time, your care, and your resources to that which you prioritize. Or, you end up prioritizing the thing(s) to which you give of your time, your care, and your resources (see Matthew 6:21).

We are passionate people, whether our personalities are outwardly charismatic or more reserved. So, what are you most passionate about?

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can you possibly be more passionate about anything than you are about the gospel? Nothing is even close to as great as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and if you have experienced that salvation, you are surely passionate about it.

HAVE APPROPRIATE PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a 3-week sermon series on 2020 Vision. My hope is to challenge our church (both as a body and as individuals) to have the right (biblical) purpose and vision in 2020 and beyond, beginning with having appropriate passion – passion focused appropriately.

Our passion for the gospel ought to be greater than our passion for anything else. Is your passion the gospel? If not, why? Have you experienced new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you prioritizing your relationship with Him?

Micah, who received plenty of Christmas gifts about which he is passionate (at least for now), opening a gift with Papa and Mema.