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A Tale of Two Roads: A Sermon on James 1

My wife and I recently adopted a beautiful girl, Charis. She is incredible and we are grateful to have her in our family. But the process of this adoption was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever experienced. In this sermon, I unpack some of what we went through as a family, before diving into James 1, the passage that the Lord laid on my heart throughout the journey. For all of the pain of the process, God was using it to refine me: to make me mature and complete, not lacking anything.


Adoption as war: Will you join us in battle?

“Adoption isn’t charity. It’s war.” So writes Dr. Russell Moore in his book, Adopted for Life. What a powerful, compelling statement. While I have used this space to reflect on adoption and the call upon Christians to care for the orphan, I have not discussed shared much of the personal journey of adoption that my wife, Kim, and I have been on. Instead, we have chronicled that primarily on our personal website, JeantetFamily.com. While I do not intend to make an ongoing plea here, I do want to make an exception in this, what I consider important, case.

When people hear that we are adopting, they think, “Well, that’s nice.” They look at us and think “charity.” But adoption isn’t charity. It’s war. Will you join us in battle?

The entire cost of our adoption from Zambia is estimated at $26,000.  We have worked hard to save, scraping together every penny to pay for the adoption. Still, we need approximately $12,000 more to bring our child home. Will you prayerfully consider giving to support our adoption?

If you feel called to partner with us in this way, we have set up an account with Lifesong for Orphans where you can send a tax deductible donation and we will then receive 100% of your donation from them.*

To give by mail:

  • Make checks payable to: Lifesong for Orphans
  • To make sure it goes to our account, please write: ”preference Jeantet/#1791 adoption” in the memo line
  • Mail checks (preferably by April 8, 2011) to:

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40 / 202 N. Ford St.
Gridley, IL  61744

To give online by credit card (using PayPal):

Words cannot express how blessed we are to have family and friends walk beside us as we welcome baby #2 into our family in this unconventional, yet very exciting way.  Thank you for your love, your prayers and your generosity.  They are life changing!

*Note: In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use.

Answer the Cry – How we all can care for orphans

Tucked right into the midst of chapters 19-24 of Exodus, wherein God is handing down the law to Moses and the Israelites, is a seemingly misplaced, but important, promise to the orphan. “If they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry” (Ex. 22:23). Now, it sounds great to say that God will answer the cry of the orphan, until we consider the nature of his response. The question becomes: How will God answer the cry of the orphan?

The church is God’s plan for the orphan. You are God’s plan for the orphan. With Orphan Sunday tomorrow, it is a timely opportunity to reflect on what it means to be God’s plan for the orphan. That is, how are we to answer the cry of the orphan? Kim and I may be called to adopt, but not everyone is. But everyone of us is called to be God’s plan for the orphan. Let me briefly outline a few potential next steps for each of us…

  • Adoption
    • Worldwide estimates say there are between 145 and 165 million orphans worldwide. They need a home. Maybe your family is being called to adopt either domestically or internationally. Go, find your child!
    • Care for adoptive families: Maybe you can’t adopt. But do you know an adoptive family? They need your support and encouragement. Focus on the Family has written a booklet entitled, Wrapping around Adoptive Families, that is available as a free download and uses the acronym WRAP as a description on how you can support an adoptive family.
  • Foster Care
    • Did you know there are a half million kids in foster care in the United States? Consider being a foster family. Growing up, my family was. We had 17 different kids stay with us at some point ranging from overnight to 3 years. Look up local foster agencies near you and start the process.
  • Advocacy
    • These children need a voice. Lend them yours and speak out for them. Let me suggest two ways to speak out.
    • Share with others: Speak with family members, church friends or even teach a children’s Sunday School class about God’s heart for the orphan.
    • Start a movement within your church: Imagine if care for the orphan became part of the mission of your church and there was a culture of adoption and/or you actually had a formal orphan ministry in the church?
  • Prayer
    • We can never say this enough: these kids need your prayer.
  • Financial Support
    • Help pay the ransom for an adoption: Domestic adoptions can cost as much as $20,000 and international adoptions are typically between $25,000 and $30,000. Consider supporting a family pursuing adoption by helping pay their adoption costs.
    • Sponsor a child: Sign on with an organization such as Compassion or World Vision to sponsor a child somewhere in the world. For your monthly gift, you provide food, medical attention, clothes, schooling and the love of Christ to a single child. Almost all of us can do this right now!
    • Sponsor an orphan home: Maybe as a church or even just your small group could get together and say that you want to support an orphan home. I have worked with World Orphans and love their model of partnering an American church with an indigenous church to care for orphans in that country.
  • Volunteer
    • Go volunteer at a foster agency, adoption agency, pregnancy center or even tutor. Stuffing envelopes in any of those places is a vital service to caring for orphans or, even better, preventing a child from becoming an orphan.
  • Short Term Missions
    • Nothing will change your life like getting out of the ordinary and everyday and onto the mission field. You will see how these kids live, what they eat, the little (in any) schooling they receive and, in the process, experience God’s heart for them. Go.

These are just a few of the next steps you and I can take. Given that we are God’s plan for the orphan, how will you respond? If you want to know more about Christian organizations that are serving the orphan, visit the pretty comprehensive list at Christian Alliance for Orphans.

Interact: How will you respond? What are you going to do to care for the orphan?

The Cry of the Orphan

In the previous post, we looked at the nature of our spiritual adoption in Christ. This is the second post resulting from my thoughts in light of Orphan Sunday that was celebrated last Sunday to bring awareness and call God’s people to hear the cry of the orphan, as God has promised he will. By the way, Orphan Sunday has already been scheduled for November 7, 2010. Plan to be a part of it!

As we grasp our adoption as children of God, our hearts should be moved toward sharing his heart for those who are without mother or father here on the earth. Exodus 22, right in the middle of the giving of the covenant to Moses and the Israelites, records this, “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless” (Exodus 22:22-24). That is a stunning passage. God warns his people that failure to care for the orphan is a punishable offense. In fact, God warns the Israelite that if they take advantage of orphans, they will be killed, leaving their own kids as orphans! The stakes are very high.

The orphans will cry out. How we respond matters. The Scriptures lay out two directions our response will take. Either we will fail to come to the rescue of the orphan and face condemnation or we will show our true repentance through justice and defending the orphan. Let us briefly look at a few passages for each of these points…

Failure to defend orphans will be a source of condemnation

“Your rules are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them” (Isaiah 1:23).

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robing the fatherless” (Isaiah 10:1-2).

“Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good. Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor” (Jeremiah 5:23-28).

“‘So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:5).

Ok, so failure to care for orphans is bad. But did you catch that? The Scriptures discusses failing to care for the fatherless in the same breath as making unjust laws, accepting bribes, stealing, committing adultery or perjury and sorcery! Just as we are not to do those things, we are to care for the fatherless.

True repentance means justice for the orphan

“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, please the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:15-17).

“If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:5-7).

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3).

“And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not thing evil of each other”” (Zechariah 7:8-10).

We have seen the warning against failing to care for the orphan. But consider the verses above. True faith and repentance will show itself in mercy and justice for the fatherless. Learning to do right means seeking justice for the oppressed and defending the orphan!

There are 143 million orphans in the world. It has been asked (don’t know where this originated – I saw it on Twitter!), “If there are more Christians in the world than orphans, why are there any orphans in the world?” James 1:27 tells us that “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.” In Christ, we have been adopted and have a spiritual Father who loves us and gave himself us for us. May we be moved to extend that love to the 143 million orphans here on earth that they may be cared for and Christ may be glorified.

Interact: How will you care for the orphan? Are you called to sponsor a child through Compassion? To adopt? To support someone who is adopting? To become a Big Brother/Big Sister?


Our Adoption as Sons

This past Sunday was “Orphan Sunday.” My small group tuned in for the webcast live from Nashville. It was great. In fact, I would encourage anyone reading this to watch the archive from the broadcast at www.gospelmusicchannel.com. Over this blog post and the next, I want to look at a theology of adoption and then the resulting call upon all believers to care for the fatherless, as orphans are often called in the Scriptures.

When I was in seminary, as part of my ministry to college students, I led a trip with students from the University of Central Florida to a conference in North Carolina. While driving the van back from the conference, one of the college girls and I were talking about her adoption. She and her sister had both been adopted as young girls.  She shared what I thought a powerful statement that her parents told her all growing up: “Other parents get stuck with their kids. We chose you to be our daughter.” Now, obviously, other parents don’t get “stuck” with their kids. But the picture is powerful: Her parents picked her, chose her, to be their child.

That is precisely the picture of God’s sovereign election f those whom he would save. He picked us to be his children. In the study of salvation, we often speak of the ordo salutis, that is, the order of salvation. In the evangelical church in America today, we have missed out on crucial part of that process: adoption. Consider the following passages…

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory… Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:15-17, 23).

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely give us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).

The Scriptures tell us that those who are outside of Christ are children of Satan. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44). We were born to an evil father – one who wanted only our destruction and for us to share in his judgment and death. Yet, in Christ, we have been adopted as his children so that we can pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). Instead of being children of the one who wanted our judgment, destruction and death, we have been “made children” of the God who is the author of life and hope and joy.

In summary, we have been adopted into the family of God. The Greek word “adoption” (huiothesia) is actually the putting together of two words: “to make/appoint” and “son/child.” We have been appointed to be children of God. And given all the rights as a full member of the family. To God be the glory.

Now, the challenge is what does this mean for us as we consider the world’s 143 million orphans? That is will be the topic for the next post.