Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spotlight: Cleveland

We are rejoicing after a wonderful weekend in the Cleveland Metro area. We went to take part in events to promote National Orphan Sunday. Our friends Doug and Monica Robinson invited and hosted us. Doug did a teaching on the vertical and horizontal dimensions of adoption Sunday morning. We’ll have more on that shortly. And Sunday night, the Robinsons held a fundraiser to help with their upcoming Ethiopian adoption, and to draw attention to the tens of millions of orphans around the world. It was somewhat amusing on the flight from Charlotte to hear the pilot announce the current conditions in Cleveland, he continued, “the place also known as The Mistake on the Lake”. I didn’t hear any laughs so it could be the plane was filled with Clevelanders. In any case, our visit to the city for the weekend was anything but a mistake. It was clearly where the Lord placed us.

When I think of organic relationships that have emerged over the past year, our fellowship with Doug and Monica Robinson would certainly come to mind. After initially meeting Doug in St. Louis at a ministry conference last year, we stayed in touch and continued fellowship. And at another conference that summer our wives got to meet and they connected wonderfully. We were blessed to have them visit us earlier this year on their way to the beach. We share a love for the Lord, and a deep desire for Kingdom life, so it was no surprise to us when we learned they were planning to adopt a child (or more than one) from Ethiopia. For National Orphan Sunday the Robinsons organized a fundraiser, and it was clear to us that the Lord wanted us to be there for it. I must say I was profoundly impacted by the testimonies and the videos. I certainly had no idea how many abandoned children there are in this world… 143 million!

It is also a joy to partner together with others to make a difference for at least one child. I know the Robinsons will shower this child (or children) with God’s love. Doug also did such an awesome job teaching on the vertical and horizontal dimensions of adoption Sunday morning. He started by addressing reality: all too often we respond emotionally to human appeals out of human compassion, and that can serve a minimal purpose. But God wants us to walk out of Kingdom conviction. We can be emotionally affected on National Orphan Sunday, and all too easily go about our business on Monday. But convictions of the Lord about this issue will cause us to WALK this out because it is now a part of our DNA.

Doug reminded us that spiritually, we were once orphans. And he adds that this is the starting place for us living out of who we are instead of what we should do. Our text was Ephesians 1:1-14. It is here we learn that adoption is not a human invention. It is GOD’S idea. He planned before the foundations of the world to adopt us into His eternal family, which is a great lead-in to the first point of Doug’s message:

ADOPTION IS PLANNED In verse 4 we learn that the Father chose us in Him before the foundation of the world We are not accidents.

ADOPTION IS PURPOSEFUL He chose us to be holy and blameless before Him. We are part of His ultimate plan to unite all things on heaven and earth in Him

ADOPTION IS FOR HIS PLEASURE We read in Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Doug asked us if we see ourselves as objects of God’s pleasure. I know all too often, my view of myself is marred by sin or foolish self consciousness. We need to lay hold of this truth and let it set us free.

ADOPTION IS FOR HIS PRAISE Adoption brings glory to Him by showcasing not just grace, but his GLORIOUS grace.

ADOPTION COMES WITH A PRICE The Robinsons are learning the monetary price of human adoption… the cost is in the thousands. The cost of our adoption is immeasurably greater. In verse 7 we learn that our redemption comes at the price of Jesus, our Savior’s own blood.

ADOPTION GIVES US PRIVILEGES We now have an inheritance! We read in II Corinthians 1: And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. In Ephesians 1:13 we see that (we) were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee [4] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, [5] to the praise of his glory.

IN ADOPTION THERE IS A PRIZE 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Ahead for us is the redemption of our bodies. The prize is to ultimately be like Him, no longer tainted by the stain of sin. Doug did a tremendous job of helping us to see what the Lord has done for us and in us. And this positions us to walk in obedience to his command to care for orphans. We can do so for them because He has done so for us.

BRINGING LIVING STONES TOGETHER I will have much more on to say on this later, but my visit to Cleveland again reminded me of the tremendous burden in God’s people to come together in an atmosphere where Jesus reigns, where authentic New Testament body life can flourish. I saw this desire during my short time in Cleveland, in just a few short conversations with people. But as usual, God’s people continue to be scattered by institutions that divide us, institutions that don’t run on the Life of God but on programs and traditions of men. My appeal to people in that city and all others is to find other believers who want Jesus and Him alone and just begin RELATING. Stop just going to church and doing church and ask Jesus to help you BE the church. The Lord wants to do a new thing, but for us to enter into what God has for us, we’ve got to stop holding onto the old thing that’s draining our time, our hearts, our money, and to top it off, is all too often breeding nothing but discouragement, even bitterness and cynicism. If that’s what it is producing, I assure you it’s not the church Jesus is building. Jesus says those who don’t gather WITH HIM are scattering abroad. Ask yourself, am I gathering around JESUS, or am I gathering around a pastor, an organization or a brand? And after answering the question, ask the Lord for the wisdom and courage to make a change that will honor the Lord and advance His kingdom.

1 comment:

Doug and Monica said...

One of the greatest privileges for me this weekend was sharing it with you, your wife, and of course your precious little one. Thank you for your friendship and sacrifice, and most importantly your complete commitment and passion for Jesus, His kingdom, and His church. It was a blast having you here. Wish we could have seen more of our - NOT mistake-on-the-lake - city.

Love you guys! Doug