The Mover

O supreme moving cause,

May I always be subordinate to thee,

be dependent upon thee,

be found in the path where thou dost walk,

and where thy Spirit moves,

take heed of estrangement from thee,

of becoming insensible to thy love.

Thou dost not move men like stones,

but dost endue them with life,

not to enable them to move without thee,

but in submission to thee, the first mover.

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference

between my receivings and my deservings,

between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness,

between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit.

Who made me to differ, but thee?

for I was no more ready to receive Christ than were others;

I could not have begun to love thee hadst thou not first loved me,

or been willing unless though hadst first made me so.

O that such a crown should fit the head of such a sinner!

such high advancement be for an unfruitful person!

such joys for so vile a rebel!

Infinite wisdom cast the design of salvation

into the mould of purchase and freedom;

Let wrath deserved be written on the door of hell,

But the free gift of grace on the gate of heaven.

I know that my sufferings are the result of my sinning,

but in heaven both shall cease;

Grant me to attain this haven and be done with sailing,

and may the gales of thy mercy blow me safely into harbour.

Let thy love draw me nearer to thyself,

wean me from sin, mortify me to this world,

and make me ready for my departure hence.

Secure me by thy grace as I sail across this stormy sea.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett. Please support our sponsor and help us adopt James by purchasing your copy on the right side of this page.

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Religions and Beliefs Part 1

I have been receiving emails from people calling me bigoted and self-absorbed because I follow a faith that claims there is just one God and one God alone. The emails are fine; I truly take no offense. I even don’t mind the claims that people can believe whatever they want in regards to religion. Constitutionally speaking, that’s true. Heck, even God Himself gives people the freedom to believe what they want, so I will not try to pry you from your religion, whatever it may be. In fact, I’m all about laying all the facts down on the table and examining each one from various angles. That way, people can decide for themselves what religion they want to put stock into, and those who don’t know about other religions may be informed.

I don’t think anyone would have a problem with me doing that. But there probably will be people who will resent me being bias with my own faith as I present each religion. To that I say that it’s a very difficult task to view anything through a bipartisan lens, because our beliefs color our world view. Besides, I have no problem with that since it is my duty to share my faith, and quite honestly, it is a joy and a pleasure for me to do so, so I will do so happily.

Before we begin, let me just state very clearly that I am no scholar, nor do I claim to have any more knowledge than anyone reading this post. I have a long way to go in that department. I am simply doing my homework on the topic of different religions and belief systems, and I’m inviting you along. If I make an incorrect statement about any religion, to which I will take full responsibility for my lack of research, please correct me in a comment or send me an email at adoptingjames@aol.com. To that, I say, let us begin by defining a few terms that we’ll run into throughout this discussion for the next several weeks.

Naturalism – To align with this belief system is to say that God does not exist and that physical matter is all that there is. Charles Colson believed that this is the dominant world view today and has shaped the post-modern Christian influence.

Pantheistic monism – Almost sounds like the Musketeers: “All is one, one is all, and all is God.” This is found in a lot of Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. The Western version? New Age. While Christianity, Judaism and Roman Catholicism believe that history is linear, having a beginning and an end, Eastern Pantheism believes that history happens in cycles and has no end, going round and round.

Polytheism – There are many gods, goddesses and spirits we must appease to have a good life. This type of belief system is found in Hinduism, New Age, and though they deny this, Mormanism. Polytheistic stories are of gods and men having babies, and its believers think that the virgin birth of Christ is copied and that Jesus is half man and half God.

Christianity has had to fight a lot of battles over the years. It seems as though each generation of Christians has a new set of beliefs and values it must fight. At least in the West, it seems we are having to fight secular-humanism, postmodernism and New Age sects. These systems agree on a slogan that is probably the most dangerous belief anyone can ever subscribe to: “Whatever works for you.”

Christians adamantly do not hold to that view. We claim that there is one God and one God only. He is transcendent (above and beyond us), and immanent (right here among us) at the same time. The chair I’m sitting on is not part of God, it is a man’s creation created from material provided by God. At the same time, am not a part of God. I am made in His image, as a separate being, united to Him only by adoption through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Remember, as we discuss the various world religions, that Christians are not to fight man, but the evil spirits that seduce and deceive. And as I’m sure the comments will be rolling in, let me remind my brothers and sisters in Christ of Proverbs 15:1, that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

My main source of research is from the book found on the right side of this page, So What’s the Difference by Fritz Ridenour. Support our sponsor and help us adopt James by purchasing it from the link on the right.

Next week: Roman Catholicism: The one true chruch?

The Longest Baseball Game Ever

There is a certain type of story that is unique to all other types of plots. The content may vary, the themes might oppose one another, and the setting will almost always never be the same. It is a type of storytelling that I have been falling more and more in love with, and honestly I don’t even know if there’s a technical name for it.

I call it “singular plot” storytelling. I doubt if it could ever work for fiction. But what I mean by singular plot storytelling is that type of story that focusses exclusively on one split-second time frame, in one location, plucked out from all of history and examine it exhaustively from every angle. Fans of movies like 127 Hours, World Trade Center and Phone Booth will know what I’m talking about. It’s the type of story that stays in one place and only leaves the setting or the characters through a series of flashbacks, if any.

The Bottom of the 33rd is one such book, where we never leave the ballpark. To do this as a storyteller is deserving of my admiration. Author Dan Barry has earned said admiration. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide if I’ve come across a writer that possesses such great prose since Charles Dickens.

It’s difficult to own up that going to a ball game this summer would not be the wisest use of our money in this economy, but I feel like Mr. Barry provided me with VIP tickets complete with locker room tours, pre-game exposure, and everything else a baseball fan could ask for in this unforgettable book.

James Patterson fans and baseball haters may now excuse yourselves if you wish. This book is not a pulse-pounding thriller, but it delivers a grand slam of a a singular story about baseball’s longest game ever played. Even though it wasn’t televised, it’s all true, and the publishers provide a photocopy of the ridiculous scorecard to prove it.

Join the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings on Easter Eve, April 18, 1981. It’s the AAA minors, the game is unimportant as there aren’t even any scouts, and almost every player is sporting a mustache carried over by the ’70’s. Barry does a masterful job at retelling the play by play, pausing at just the right moments (“Dave Koza drifts to his right… ready to catch a ball he believes is his…”) to flash back in time to enlighten his readers about each influential player, manager, and batboy about who they are and why they’re still at the local ballpark at 3 in the morning on Easter Sunday, trying to keep warm, praying that this game would just be over already.

Being a fan of brilliant and rare writing styles, America’s favorite pass time, and stories that revolve around singular plot lines, I cannot recommend this book enough, especially with the temperatures rising and the grass shining green just off the patio. Treat yourself to a simpler time and take a tour of the small town called Pawtucket (Paw-TUCK-et) tucked in the small Rhode Island state and stop by McCoy Stadium on your way to the Easter Church service, and ask the Pawtucket’s manager, Joe Morgan, what he’s doing peering through a hole in the backstop at 3 in the morning. I’ll be revisiting this book for many more summers.

Disclaimer: This book contains frequent use of the F-word.

I also recommend: Calico Joe by John Grisham

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Returning the Gift

Please welcome Greg and Jackie. (Names have been changed by request.) Jackie was adopted as a child and when she married she decided to return the favor to another boy who needed a home. Here is their story:
I [Jackie] was adopted at birth, I only know that my Mother was unwed, didn’t feel she could care for me.  My … father left the scene shortly after the pregnancy was announced.  I have names, but not searched more than cursorily on line.  Of course I am grateful for my adoptive parents, there was some hurt and anger I had to deal with, more as an adult than a child.  I alluded to some attachment issues, (not feeling like a member of my family) but overcame that through therapy, which I choose to do as an adult.
My husband and I met and married years before we fostered, it was actually a TV special in the early 90’s about foster-parenting that piqued our interest, we had a large farmhouse, extra space, and both simultaneously came to the same decision(although he would never admit it, it was [definitely the] Holy Spirit.  I never really thought about the connection to Christ/adoption until you – [AdoptingJames] – mentioned it, but [definitely] do recognize Jesus’ fingerprints in Chris coming into our lives.  Only completely loving him unconditionally will ever break through his “issues” he lives in such a place of shame- we have not successfully overcome that yet- yes, at times, but then he goes back into shame again, and withdraws (common [behavior] for adoptive kids – they expect rejection).
 Here’s how the adoption itself went down:
[It’s] pretty straight [forward], we became foster parents, went through the classes, and were not really in the “market” to adopt, but fell in love with our foster son Cole, so after talking it over with his social worker, and asking him if he wanted us to adopt him, we did.  We had him in our home for about a year before we decided to see if he was interested, and from the time he said yes, to his adoption was about 8 months.  He came at age 10, we asked him at 11, and he was almost 12 before all was said and done.  There are so many children languishing in foster-care, who need good parents.  I won’t lie to you, parenting Cole has been a challenge, he is 25 now, and still [making] not great decisions, he is spotty at keeping in touch with us, but all of his counselors over the years have confirmed for us that he [probably] would have committed suicide if he hadn’t been adopted, and I def feel like God will work in his life in the very near future, I feel like I have a promise there.  So in the meantime, we keep financial boundaries, help occasionally where we can, and when he is in touch, offer as much emotional support as we can, and pray.
Do you have any advise for people who are thinking about adopting, or are in the process right now?
The best advice I can give is to TAKE THE FOSTER PARENTING/ADOPTIVE PARENT CLASSES usually taught by your state foster/adoption services, it was “Family Services” in Kentucky.  Great people, great class.  It prepared us better than anything could have- ever.  THEN, talk to parents who are adoptive parents, for support.  It is a tough job, but worth it, and support is worth it’s weight in gold.  Other than that, pray, cry when you have to, and practice love, those are the best suggestions I can give.  I have no ideas about foreign adoption, I’m sure it is very different.
Check out their blog: www.hearinggodtoday.wordpress.com
If you have been affected by adoption in any way, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us your story at adoptingjames@aol.com. Maybe your story will inspire others…

A Sect of Supers Blending In?

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve sort of been composing a Pixar theme around my most recent movie discussions. You can check out Finding Nemo here and Monsters Inc. here. It’s for no other reason than building anticipation for Disney/Pixar’s newest movie Brave, coming out July 22, and I’m just going mad waiting for it. Poor Sarabeth has to put up with crazy/anxious me every spring until Pixar’s annual summer movie comes out, then we go see it and I find that it’s better than I expected and I rave and rant impatiently until it comes out on DVD in the fall. And the next spring the whole process starts all over again, but she is gracious and patent with me.

Whether it’s intentional or not, I feel like The Incredibles is just saturated with so many deep-rooted themes about the importance of family – in the traditional sense. If you’re having marriage problems, I seriously recommend watching this movie because the makers of this film really get people. (Watching a movie won’t solve your problems, but sometimes it can help identify what you’re really feeling and why you’re acting the way you are.) Then read Love and Respect  if you’re serious about getting your marriage back on track.

But we’re not going to focus on the marriage aspect of the film here. What strikes me during this movie is how Christians can relate to the Parr family in The Incredibles universe. You’ll recall how some people are born as Supers (people with super-human powers). Back in the 70’s they were revered by citizens all over, respected, honored. Then as lawsuits became more of a common practice in America, people who were injured while being saved by a Super would sue their hero, some even claiming that they didn’t even want to be saved. The Supers had no choice but to disappear, or blend in, and become average citizens, not using their super powers.

So let me ask you: Have you been blending in with the rest of the world? Have you been refusing to operate out of the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Maybe you’ve been hurt too many times by people telling you that they don’t want your Jesus. Maybe, you’ve thrown your hands up in surrender saying, “If they don’t care about their own soul, then why should I?” Well, the thing is, we’ve got to remember that anyone who isn’t alive in Christ is dead.

Literally, spiritually dead. So, how can a corpse care for himself? That is why we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to shine the light on them and let the Holy Spirit do His work. Now, we cannot bring people to life, but God can. We are just the messengers, or the nurses in the great operating room of life, if you will. When the doctor asks for a q-tip, we bring the doctor a q-tip. In the same way, when the Holy Spirit beckons us to talk to the difficult customer in a loving, God-honoring way, we must do just that, and shine the light of Jesus in their direction so that the Holy Spirit has an advantage to work on their heart. (Not that the Holy Spirit is dependant on us to do His work in any way; think of it as a father allowing his son to help change the oil in the car, even if he doesn’t quite know how.)

Brothers and sisters, we have been empowered to do a work that is unique from anyone else in the world, but the world doesn’t want us doing that work. Jesus predicted this. He said that the world will hate you (but it’s really hating Him). The world will stop at nothing to silence us, and make us blend in with the rest of the fallen human race. Go to work, get your work done, come home, and do it all again the next day.

Don’t you get it? That’s the kind of mundane meaningless existence the world is calling us to! That, and do whatever you please when you’re not punched in on the clock. But God has called us to live a much better, more purposeful, more dangerous kind of life. He is calling us to engage in warfare! We are to be battling the demons that are keeping the caskets locked on your co-worker’s hearts and whispering lies to your unsaved friends. We are to be battling them daily, all the while keeping their filthy claws out of our own lives.

We must not pull back from the War and go about our lives as though it didn’t exist, and that we are here simply to just live and let live. Engage in the battle. It may not be fighting giant robots on tropical islands, but it may be learning to open back up the communication lines between you and your spouse, or becoming more involved in your kids’ lives. Helen Parr imparts this wisdom to her daughter: “Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it.”

If you’re a true Christian, your identity is in Christ Jesus. You must protect that, and live like that is true. You will be noticed, and people will call you out on being a Christian because you’re different from everyone else. But that is a very good thing – that is exactly what God wants! Because what better opportunity to enter the battleground and share the Gospel with them so that you can be a part of possibly escorting that person to the Gates of Heaven?

Don’t squelch the powers God has given you in His name. Use your gifts, your talents, your resources in order to bring honor and glory to Him. Blending in is exactly what the enemy wants us to do. Not seeing our family as a great adventure is part of our enemy’s grant scheme. Don’t give in. Stay strong, and persevere. Step onto the battleground, reveal your identity, and fight the good fight.

The video is corny, but here’s a song I tend to listen to when I need to be reminded that we are fighting in a war. It’s featured at the end of Prince Caspian, and it brings me to tears every time: The Call

Keep on eye on The Incredibles director Brad Bird.

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Puppies!

I thought it would be a fun Friday treat to give you guys a look into our home life. In this post you’ll find a link to the blog Sarabeth maintains about the three dogs we have living with us in our  loft. The purpose for her blog is so that her sister and brother-in-law can check in on their babies every now and then.

Last summer they moved across the Atlantic ocean to carry out missions work for our Lord. (For a little more on missions, read here.) They own two dachshunds, Roxy and Sydney, but they couldn’t take them along because they heard that the people group was hostile against dogs. So they left them in our care. Our dog Pixie was glad to have new roommates to play with (especially Sydney), and so this has been our life for the last ten months.

Enjoy. And please tell my wife what a wonderful blog she has: The Dachshunds

(Also, please don’t judge us for the poor quality photos. We’re trying to save up for a better camera to post better pictures for you all.)

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