Workplace Devotionals

June 24, 2011

Adoption

I recently gave my 10th and final speech of the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual – the speech definitely has a devotional feel to it, so I thought I would inaugurate my participation on workplacedevotionals by sharing the speech here.  Enjoy!

Introduction

When I was thinking about how I might inspire you today, I decided to share something that has deeply impacted my life and that of my family.  It is a joy that has enriched our lives and increased the love in our family.  This afternoon, I will share with you about adoption.  I hope what I share will inspire you to respond through investigating adoption for your family, through supporting financially and prayerfully those who are trying to adopt, and through reaching out to widows and orphans in your neighborhood.

My Experience with Adoption

First, I would like to share what my experience with adoption has been like.  I have a photo of my family, minus my Dad, stepmom, youngest brother, and youngest sister who is now two years old.  The photo was taken at my sister Sydney’s graduation a couple of weeks ago.  The family members in this photograph include my Mom Jody, my brothers David and Alex, and my sisters Sydney and Madison.  In this picture you would  probably notice that my two sisters look a little different than the rest of the family members – that is because they were both adopted from South Korea when they were a couple of months old.  But don’t let the looks fool you – these girls are Menenbergs through and through.

I consider the adoption of both of my sisters to be a joy and great benefit to my family for two main reasons.  The first reason is that adoption has been a blessing to my sisters.  We don’t know the exact circumstances they faced before being brought into our family, but we know that had they not been adopted, their parents would not have been able to care for them and they likely would have spent time in orphanages and without a family.  They might not have had a Mom and a Dad, and they likely wouldn’t have grown up with 3 older brothers.  My family certainly isn’t perfect, but I know that being part of our family has been a great blessing for them.  Their physical needs have been met, they have been educated, and they have been part of a loving immediate and extended family.

Secondly, I consider the adoption to be a huge success because it has been a blessing to myself and the rest of my family members.  Sydneyis now 22 years old and graduated from the Universityof Washingtonthis month.  This Saturday, she left for Washington DC for a year-long consulting job.  She is thoughtful, intelligent, loving, and honest, and it has been a real joy to get to know her over the last 22 years.  Madison is 13 years old, and she just finished 7th grade. Madison is sophisticated, observant, thoughtful, and caring, and she is a tremendous addition in our family.  She is a great badminton player, and playing with her is one of my favorite things to do.  We have been enriched by their sense of humor, by their sensitivity, and by their beauty.  These two girls have made our family immeasurably richer, and I am thankful that God brought both of them into our family.

Biblical Mandate for Adoption.

My family has certainly been blessed by adoption, and it is nice to reminisce about the joy we have experienced.  However, as a Christian, this is more than just a nice story.  Adoption is a central teaching of the Bible and is essential to a proper understanding of our relationship to God.

Romans 8:14-17 says: “14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

As Christians, we must never forget the great truth that at one time, we too were “children of wrath”.  We were separated from God because of our sin, and we were destined for judgment because of our rebellion.  However, God, in His mercy, while we were yet sinners, sent His Son Jesus Christ to die the death that we deserve and forgive our sin so that we might be reconciled to Him.  And then what did He do?  He adopted us into His family.  Now, for those of us in Christ, we are not orphans, but we have a heavenly Father who loves us.  We have brothers and sisters who are part of our family.  We have our inheritance in God Himself.  This is the doctrine of adoption, and this doctrine is central to the Gospel.

For those of us who are in Christ and who have been adopted – what does it mean that we have been adopted?  How do we respond to this Gospel of free grace and adoption into sonship?  How do we return the generous love of our God who gave Himself for us?  John chapter 21 offers some insight into the proper response when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  Three times Jesus asks the question, “Peter, do you love me?”, 3 times Peter responds, “Lord, you know that I love you”, and 3 times Jesus responds to him: “Tend my lambs”.  Jesus, in no uncertain language, tells Peter that genuine love for Jesus is more than a verbal affirmation of love.  True love for Jesus will result in a Christian loving Jesus’ sheep.  And I ask you today: which of Jesus’ sheep are more in need of love than orphans without a family?

For those of us who are in Christ and have faith in His atoning work – what will the natural result of this faith be?  James 1:26 states the following: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James later goes on to state that faith without works is dead.  Therefore, we must conclude that true faith in God’s love and adoption to sonship will result in Christians responding to the needs of widows and orphans.  It will result in Christians opening up their homes and welcoming orphans, trusting in God even when there is uncertainty about how things will go.  Real faith will result in other Christians giving generously to support others who are adopting.

The Need
Now that I have shared my story and the Biblical mandate to practice adoption, you may ask: what is the need?  There are a variety of statistics that I saw in my research, but the picture i saw is clearly staggering.  Most statistics suggest that there are over 100,000 foster children in the US and millions of orphans worldwide. This is an overwhelming number and we may wonder if it is possible for one person to make a difference.  To this I simply say: ask my sisters if adoption has made a difference in their lives.  Ask another adopted child you know what it meant to them.  Even if we as individuals cannot adopt every orphan, we can make a difference in one life at a time. And if the church together rises to this challenge, we can fulfill the great commission through opening our homes to orphans and adopting them into our families.  If we fail to respond and do nothing, these orphans may not be adopted into any family, and they may end up as victims of human trafficking, in jail, or dead.  The stakes could not be higher for each of these children.

The Response
How will you respond to this need?  For my wife and I, we have increasingly felt a burden to respond to this need.  I am being seconded to Zambia by my organization later this summer for a year-long assignment.  We are thrilled for the opportunity to live in Zambia and serve the Zambian people.  However, we believe that God may have something more in store for us than simply working for World Vision.  We have talked about adoption since we first got married, and we planned to adopt at some point.  However, for more than a year, we have experienced infertility, and as a result, we are prayerfully seeking the Lord to see whether or not this is the right time for us to adopt.  We are also in the process of preparation and have initiated a home study in order to be prepared for the potential adoption.

There are other ways to respond besides adopting a child yourself.  There are many adoption agencies and organizations which can use your financial support and prayers.  If you personally know a couple that is trying to adopt, you can support them directly.  Adoption can be an expensive proposition as parents-to-be must complete home studies, get background checks, pay for travel, and many other costs.  Additionally, you can get involved as a foster parent, with commitments ranging from full-time foster care to respite care where you watch a child for short periods of time.  Finally, you can impact the lives of orphans or vulnerable children by volunteering for organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister.

So I ask you again: how will you respond?  Will you investigate adoption for yourself and your family?  Will you consider supporting another family that is trying to adopt, whether through prayer or finances?  Will you reach out to orphans or foster children in your neighborhood?  The need is tremendous, but we serve a God who can do the impossible.  He is a Father to the fatherless – are we?

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April 5, 2011

Vision

What is Vision?

One of my favorite books is the book “Walden“, by Henry David Thoreau.  For those that are not familiar, Thoreau over the course of two years, built a house by the small Walden Pond, and for the most part lived alone, occasionally taking visitors or going to town for supplies.  He then wrote his thoughts and experiences in the book “Walden” as if they had occurred over the course of a year.

In the second chapter Thoreau writes, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

I focus mostly on what Thoreau says of wanting to live “deliberately.”  To be deliberate in what you do is to intentionally follow a certain course, to make your way based upon a certain decision or series of decisions.  Generally speaking, it is difficult to follow a deliberate path without knowing where that path leads; otherwise you’re deliberately walking, but not deliberately living.

How do we as Christians live deliberately, intentionally?  Following our own path might be deliberate, but it also might mean walking deliberately away from God.  Walking deliberately, in and of itself, is not enough.  Being Christian, we are called to walk not only deliberately, but deliberately in the path outlined for us by God.

Have you ever been walking alone in a path that wasn’t God’s?  It’s not a good feeling; you know it’s not right; you long to be with God.  Have you ever been in a place where you knew it was exactly where God wanted you to be?  It’s great!  Any trials or difficulties that come during that time, don’t seem so bad, because you know it is all for a purpose, and a vision that God has for you.

This path that we take or this end goal is what we like to refer to in the workplace as “vision.”  Without vision, your next step may keep you moving, but you’re not going anywhere in particular.  Having a vision for where you are going, or where God has for you, gives purpose, and intentionality to your actions.  Vision is important in business, just as it is in our Christian walk.

Where is “vision” in the Bible?

The Bible gives many examples of God showing vision to his people.  Sometimes it is a clear vision spoken directly to that person, sometimes it is indirect.  Sometimes it is a path to follow; sometimes it is a path for someone else.

In Genesis 15, we see an example of God giving a clear vision to someone and a path for them to follow.  God appears to Abraham in a vision, to give him a vision.  “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”  God showed Abraham what the future of his family would be and gave him a course to move in that direction, a very direct vision for Abraham.

In Deuteronomy 34, God takes Moses and allows him to view the Promised Land, “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.'”  God gave Moses a vision, but a vision for someone else to follow, a vision that Moses played a central role in, but would not see to fruition.

In both these cases, a vision was given, but the two men were not able to see the completion of it, they were only able to play their role.

In Nehemiah, the vision given is implied, “They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’  When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.'”  At this time, the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down the gates burned for decades.  This was not news.  Perhaps at this time, Nehemiah saw Jerusalem in a new way, and the reminder of the walls struck him.  Oh perhaps, as I believe, God gave him a vision.

How do we know God’s plan/vision for us?

God does have a plan for each of us.  We see several scriptures in the Bible of God giving specific visions to people.  If God has this vision for us, how do we know his will?  It’s a difficult question and one that I struggle with.  I haven’t discovered any particular magic formula for discovering the future.  My tea leaves never tell me anything.

There is one teaching by the pastor Andy Stanley, which stands out to me.  In his series “Discovery God’s Will” Stanley describes God’s will into three parts:  the providential, moral, and personal will of God.

The providential will of God refers to those things God is going to do, regardless.  God has a plan.  God’s plan will be carried out.  We see this throughout the Bible.  God uses men and women to accomplish his providential will, but God’s will is done.  God’s will for Abraham came through: a powerful nation was created.  God’s vision Moses came through: the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, albeit, without Moses.  And, God’s will came through Nehemiah: the wall was restored and a city was built in Jerusalem once again.  God’s will is done, and will continue to be done, all the way through Revelation.  We know God’s providential will through the studying and knowing of God’s word.

The moral will of God refers to the dos and don’ts God has commanded.  There are many commands by God in the Bible.  The Old Testament is full of laws and commands.  Commands are not reserved to the Old Testament, however.  In nearly all of Paul’s letters he includes a list of behaviors to focus on and behaviors to avoid.  One such example is in Galatians 5, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Of all the moral commands in the Bible, there is one that stands above all. In Mark 12 Jesus points out the greatest commandment: “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”  What God is most interested in is us discovering Him, not His will.  He wants us to seek Him, and seek Him first above all else.  Knowing God is knowing God’s will.

Think of a family member, or a coworker that you have worked with a lot.  When you are doing a project, writing a memo, creating a reconciliation; you do certain things as you are doing that thing, because you know it’s what your manager wants.  Because you have spent time with them, because have worked closely with them, you know their will.  It is not entirely different with God.  Spend time with him, spend time in his Word, and you will being discovering God’s will.

Stanley explains the connection between the three parts of God’s will by saying, the more familiar we are with the providential will of God, and the more obedient we are to the moral will of God, the easier it will be to discover the personal will of God for our lives.

Stanley illustrates it like this:  The providential will of God is a road, it’s the path that is going somewhere, with or without you, because God’s will, will be done.  The moral will of God is like the guardrails.  They protect you and keep you on the path.

The personal will of God refers to personal decisions and plans for our lives.  The path you travel is on that road.  How exactly God will show his personal will for you, I can’t say.  Perhaps he will speak directly to you, speak to you through a friend, or you will discover it through scripture.  When God called me the first time to go on a mission trip in college, I heard his voice speak to me.  I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.  When he called me back to go again, I heard no voice, only the overwhelming presence of God and the confirmation of others.

While I don’t know the plan God has for each of you, or the way he will communicate that plan to you, there are a lot of tools that God gives us.  (1) God gives us his scripture.  We have the opportunity to read about his providential and moral will every day. (2) Through prayer we can speak to God, and petition God.  (3) God gives us other people in our lives.  Very often in the Bible, God calls through other people.  God appoints Saul as king through the prophet Samuel.  God called David to repentance through the prophet Nathan.   God called Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife through a servant.

I believe God has a plan for each of us.  Seek Him, His commands, and His morals, and he will reveal His vision for your life.

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