Do you have a “Gotcha Day?”

Wednesday was Micah’s “Gotcha Day” – the anniversary of the day we adopted him as our son. It was May 15, 2017, when Micah went from being an orphan to being a son and a brother.

We praise God for bringing Micah into our lives! His sonship, both lovingly and legally, is completely legitimate, as if he was our biological son. We love him the same as our other children, and he has the same legal standing as our other children. Zoe, our adopted daughter, is no different.

Micah and Zoe’s “Gotcha Days” are special in our hearts and minds because they mark the official beginning of their entrance into our family.

Gotcha Day for Christians

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you also have a “Gotcha Day.” You may or not remember a specific day, depending on your age, how long ago it was, how your journey began and continues, etc., but every single Christ-follower has a day when he or she passed from being a spiritual orphan to becoming a child of God.

God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Our adoption as children of God is part of the amazing news of the gospel. Like Zoe and Micah did nothing to earn their adoption as children into our family, we do nothing to earn our adoption as children into God’s family. Rather, because of His unfathomable love for us, He sent His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins and earn our salvation and adoption in and through His resurrection from the dead.

Now, everyone who repents of sin and trusts in Jesus Christ is adopted as a child of God.

And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life” (1 John 2:25). Who else can make that promise? No one. Who else can give us a “Gotcha Day” that literally impacts our eternity? No one.

Gotcha Day Proof

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue my sermon series Prove It and talk about the “Proof of Truth” (1 John 2:18-27). What is the proof of Truth in your life? What is the proof of adoption?

If someone wanted, I could give them sufficient, documented proof that Zoe is our daughter, and Micah is our son, just as I could give them proof that our three biological sons are indeed our sons. In fact, we have much more documentation proving our adopted children belong to us than we do for our biological children. All five are our children, though, and that fact would not be difficult to prove.

If you have a genuine relationship with God, there is also proof. The “Gotcha Day” itself is not the proof, though. Sure, we might celebrate the “Gotcha Day” and enjoy talking about the “Gotcha Day,” but the proof of adoption is not in a day.

For Zoe and Micah, the proof is found in various legal documents, as well as in their daily lives. They live with us. We are raising them. We are providing for them. We love them because they are our children.

For Christians, the proof is also in your daily life. Christ lives in you. You remain in Him. You belong to Him and walk with Him according to His Word. You are faithful to His church, loving Him and loving His body.

Is there daily proof that you are adopted?

Zoe’s “Gotcha Day” is September 13, the day she became our daughter in 2012. If you know Zoe at all, you can probably imagine that she loves to celebrate her “Gotcha Day.” We do, too.
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How to know you have the Light…

Do you have memories of how excited you were as a child when you were able to get together with cousins and/or friends for nothing more than fun? I sure do. And, I see that same energy and excitement with my children when they get together with their friends and cousins (like in the above picture from Easter Sunday afternoon). Pure joy is evident all over their faces.

Our son Silas said Sunday evening, “This was the best day of my life.” Hard to match that kind of excitement, right?

Light’s Impact on Longings

Naturally, we get excited about things we enjoy. We express excitement when getting to do the things we love doing. Kids love to play and have fun. Most of us adults do, too.

I would argue – and I believe the Apostle John made this argument – that genuine followers of Jesus Christ love spending time with other believers. Fellowship and participation with the local church excite us. This is the result of the light of Jesus consuming our hearts, impacting our lives and affecting our desires.

Light impacts longings, and darkness does, too. John argues (1 John 1) that people who know Jesus walk in the light and thus have and long for fellowship with God and with His church. Those who walk in the darkness, though, no matter what they claim to believe or desire, will only long for God and His church for what they can get out of them.

Signs of Light

Do you long for closer fellowship with God and His church? This past Sunday I started a new sermon series – Prove It – in 1 John, and this letter makes clear that fellowship with God and fellowship with His church are clear signs of the light of Christ in the life of a believer. Those who love and follow Jesus not only have that fellowship; they desire that fellowship.

Do you have a born-again relationship with Jesus? If so, fellowship with God and His church are signs of His light in your life. A longing for that fellowship and a commitment to that fellowship are essential. You cannot want one apart from the other, and you cannot claim one is genuine without the other.

Is there proof of Light in your life? Shine brightly in and for Christ and in and for the world.

Getting pictures taken is NOT something our kids tend to enjoy, but they do a decent job faking it at times. This one was taken before family groups and worship with our church Sunday morning. Certainly easier to smile when an exciting day lies ahead of you.

We can’t do anything we put our minds to.

Silas (above) and Zoe (below) are playing Upward Basketball at a local church this winter and learning a lot about teamwork, fundamentals, discipline, and faith, thanks to great coaches like my wife, Marsha.

Now, when kids play sports, especially if they enjoy playing and hope to be great, people tend to say things like, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Is that wise counsel, though? I do not believe it is because the truth is that you cannot do anything you put your mind to, and I cannot either. In fact, we can do absolutely nothing apart from the grace and help of God.

If there was any man who seemed like he could do anything he put his mind to, King Saul was surely that man, was he not? But, as is clearly recorded in 1 Samuel 13 and following, King Saul had a tragic downfall. In fact, he became the villain – the enemy of God.

King David, on the other hand, was not someone you would think of, at least at first, as someone who could do anything he put his mind to. And, the reality was, he too could not do anything he put his mind to. Sure, he did amazing things, but how? Well, by the grace and help of God. Not until after the Spirit of God took control of David did he do the incredible things people still talk about today.

The story of King David is not a story to inspire us to think we can do great things. Rather, the story of King David ought to remind us that we serve a great God.

God can do anything He puts His mind to, including use ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things. Do not believe in yourself. Believe in Him.

Start by making sure you have a genuine, born-again relationship with Him, and continue by trusting and surrendering to Him each day. Only He is sufficient to enable you to reach your full potential in Him.

Will Silas and Zoe be basketball superstars some day. It is possible but statistically unlikely. Who cares, though? More importantly, they are learning about a super God – the One who can do all things, the One who never fails, and the One who loves us so much that He sent His One and only Son to die for our sins.

We cannot do anything we put our minds to, but we serve a God who can. He, not our abilities or accomplishments, holds our eternal destiny in His hands.

I need to get over myself.

I don’t think he ever sent us a thank you note for that gift we gave him.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

He was recognized, but they didn’t say anything about all that I did for them.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Hey, let’s take a selfie and show everyone what we’re doing to serve others.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Why didn’t more people like my most recent social media post?” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Ah, shoot! They took my parking spot.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Look – someone is sitting in our seat.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Narcissism is an excessive interest and/or admiration for oneself. It is vanity and high esteem for oneself, loving oneself most and selfishly putting oneself first. Narcissism results in a sense of entitlement.

And, narcissism is evil. I need to get over myself, and maybe you do, too.

There is a reason Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, behind loving God with your entire being, is to love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said, “depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:40).

Loving God most and loving your neighbor as yourself are the opposite of narcissism.

In talking about God’s will for unity in the body of Christ – unity that is impossible when we are self-entitled narcissists – Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Romans 12:3).

Yet, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and constantly wanting more for ourselves, rather than obeying the command: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Narcissism does not have to be taught, as self-centeredness is part of our sinful nature, is it not? We see this with small children refusing to share their toys. We see this with temper tantrums when things do not go their way. We see this with kids running to get to the front of the line, cutting off others in the process. We see this when a child hits another child because a toy was taken. We do not teach our children these things. They do these things because they are sinners.

Oh, if only we adults were better, but are we? Surely, narcissism is not a problem in the church, right?

Sadly, our selfishness is on full-display every week in church activities…

How often do you arrive early for worship services but take the farthest parking spot, so that others can get the best spots? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you sit toward the front of the sanctuary and in the middle of a pew, so that others who arrive after you do not awkwardly have to walk past you and ask if they can get by you? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you do the things no one else wants to do, even when no one is watching? “That’s disgusting (or hard or miserable).” Narcissism.

How often do you volunteer to serve in the church nursery or in some other area of great need, even without being asked? “I’ve done my time, so it’s someone else’s turn now.” Narcissism.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing a short sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. If you consider the life of King Saul, you might realize that he had lots of problems, but did not narcissism seem to be the ultimate sin that destroyed him? His self-love led to his jealousy of God’s blessings on someone else.

So often with children, we see our own narcissistic nature shining through. If I am honest with myself and with you, I need to get over myself. I am a selfish sinner who needs God’s help every single day. My children are no different than I.

As they learn to trust in Jesus, though, and as He begins to change their lives for His glory, we see results. The Holy Spirit begins to change their hearts, which results in changed attitudes and changed behaviors.

Praise the Lord! If He can change selfish children and give them a desire to get on the floor and play a less-desirable game with their younger siblings without being told to do so, then He can change you, too.

Narcissism destroys lives, so pray for God’s help to live a life of humility and to have contentment in Him. This is only possible in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

All or Nothing

After the recent winter storm that brought us 18 inches of snow, our furnace stopped working. Actually, it worked just enough to confuse us. If I messed with the thermostat a little or manually reset the ignition switch to light the burners, the furnace would kick on for a little bit. Still, the actual temperature could not rise to the set temperature.

I was baffled. Talking with some trustees from our church (we live in the church parsonage), we thought maybe it was the thermostat. Then, we thought it must be something with the furnace itself.

Finally, we called a professional to take a look, and after he did some diagnostic tests, he realized the furnace was not getting the air intake necessary to allow the burners to ignite for more than a few minutes.

Why was that the case? Well, there was so much snow on our roof that the air-intake pipe was sucking up snow rather than air, causing the furnace to malfunction. Above, you can see a picture of our roof at the time and how the snow around the white gooseneck pipe was starting to break away.

Thankfully, just enough snow melted that same day, so I did not have to get up on our metal roof. The problem is solved. Our furnace is working again.

When it was only working part of the time, though, were we satisfied? No. What did we say? That our furnace was not working. First world problem, I know, but people are not content with a furnace that only works part of the time.

Much more importantly, God is not satisfied with an individual who only submits to part of His Word. God does not want just part of your heart. God is not calling you to serve Him part of the time.

All or nothing. Jesus is Lord of all, including Lord of your life and Lord of my life. Not part of our lives but the entirety of our lives.

So, just like every other person in all of human history, you have a decision to make. Will you daily surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and submit to His Lordship? Or, will you pick and choose when and how to obey Him?

King Saul wanted to pick and choose. He had everything but had the kingdom torn away from him because he decided full submission to God was not necessary. Lord willing, I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 15 on Sunday morning – “Villains Refuse Submission” (from our Becoming the Villain series).

King Saul began as God’s chosen man to lead God’s chosen people, but he became a villain – an enemy of God. Do not let the temptation to only partially submit to the will of God and the Word of God cause you to become a villain, too.

I have no desire for a partially working furnace, and God has no desire for a partially committed disciple. Surrender your all to Him today and every day. Trust Him to change you, equip you and enable you, as you surrender to Him.

This picture of Zoe has nothing to do with this post, but I love her afro and wanted to share this great picture, which is a fitting representation of her fun personality, too.

So Little Power

With 18 inches of snow came an overwhelming reminder of how weak and powerless I am, especially next to our infinite, mighty God.

I have spent hours shoveling this past week. I do not recall shoveling this much snow since I was a teenager living in northern Iowa. My back is sore, but I have slept well!

When the snow began Friday, I was hopeful that the storm would end by Saturday, so that we could clear the sidewalks and parking lot and still have church services on Sunday. Well, that obviously did not happen. In fact, our parking lot was not cleared until Monday afternoon, when two trucks with blades worked together for two hours to get rid of the snow.

Even those trucks had a difficult time moving the snow, as the snow was and is heavy. They had to do the lot with their blades halfway down and then go over it again.

As the time passed each day, I felt like such a weakling with a little snow shovel in my hands. My contributions to making the walkways and driveways passable seemed so slow and insignificant. And, even when I would get a sidewalk cleared, more snow would come, or snow would fall off the roof of the church building or parsonage, covering the shoveled areas again.

Is this not all a great lesson in humility? I have so little power, especially next to the mighty Creator of the universe. He created me. He sustains me. And, He is able to humble me whenever He pleases.

Another winter storm is coming this weekend. Again, I pray things are clear enough by Sunday morning to have services. I am actually planning on preaching on power – how we must be sure to not love and pursue earthly power (and what we should do instead).

Seemed like a fitting reminder to me, then, that my “power” truly is not only temporary but limited. Praise God for His power that is matchless and eternal!

If you have not yet experienced how great it is to find your hope and trust in His power, I encourage you to call on Him today.

There are certainly some perks to snow storms and snow days, including extra family time.

Fear must not win.

When we spent time at Marsha’s parents’ house last week, I was able to help her dad take down an old antenna from their yard. Thankfully, he did most of the work, including the final removement of the antenna with his tractor (in picture below, which only includes the bottom half of the antenna).

Before getting to that point, though, he had secured a couple long ropes to the antenna going out from a couple angles to keep the antenna from falling into the house. One rope was securely fastened to the tractor, while I was pulling the other rope in a similar direction.

That antenna is much heavier than a couple men can handle. Otherwise, there would have been no need for a tractor and ropes. Praise God for tractors and ropes!

After some necessary cuts had been made and we had everything set and ready, Marsha’s dad began pulling with the tractor while I pulled my rope, and we were, at this point, only pulling down the top half of the antenna!

Was I afraid that the antenna would hit the house or crush me? No. Why? Well, certainly not because I am strong enough and certainly not because I am smart enough. Rather, I was not afraid because I was at a safe distance, was pulling on a good rope, knew the tractor was also pulling a good rope, and trusted that my father-in-law made a good plan to accomplish the task.

Faith filtered out any fear I had that something would go wrong. If not for faith and knowledge, when that antenna started to fall, I would have ran away for cover. That would have been an act of foolishness, though. Faith protected me from fear and folly.

Unfortunately for King Saul in 1 Samuel 13, his faith (or lack thereof) was defeated by fear. He feared what others would do, rather than trusting God and His promises. Thus, King Saul made a very foolish decision to deliberately disobey the commands of God, and the consequences were devastating.

Fear must not win. Fear is an enemy of faith.

During our morning worship service Sunday, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. In the passage I’ll be preaching through Sunday – 1 Samuel 13:5-14 – we learn through the beginning of King Saul’s downfall that “Villains Follow Fear.”

That may sound harsh, but everyone is in only one of two camps. You either follow Jesus Christ, or you do not follow Jesus Christ. In the end, then, you are either a redeemed servant of Jesus, or you are a villain in rebellion against God.

Don’t become a villain, which happens if you think you can do things your way or any other way than God’s way. Turn to Him in faith, and trust Him to take away your fear of anything that will pull you away from following Him.

Remember, too, that it is not the strength of your faith that gives you victory over fear, sin and death. Rather, it is the object of your faith who has already won that victory. Jesus Christ is the key. He is the Victor. He must be the object of your faith, or your faith will prove to be folly.