Will You Help Zander Find a Family?

“… Take up the cause of the fatherless …” Isaiah 1:17

Hey TD!

You have an opportunity to fufill what God has commanded us to do … take up the cause of the fatherless!  Here’s how you can help.

Keep Zander in your mind, heart, and prayers; and then just mention him in your conversations with others, including adults, asking whether they or someone they know have ever thought about adopting a child in need of a family.  If they show an interest to hear more, let them know about Zander and refer them to the video above, where they can learn more about Zander, see his personality, and feel his warmth.

If you want to know more about Zander, contact our very own Bring Me Hope (BMH) intern, Angela, who made the video and who is advocating on Zander’s behalf to find him a “forever family.”

You can also email her at angela.hsieh@bringmehope.org.

For more information about Bring Me Hope, visit http://www.bringmehope.org.

C’mon TD! You never know what God will do when His people join together selflessly, loving Him with all we’ve got and loving our neighbor as ourselves.  If we pray and act, God could use us to help change Zander’s life forever!

In the coming weeks, we’ll highlight more children that our other BMH interns are advocating for.  Stay tuned.

How awesome would it be if we could help a few children find families to call their own this year? Let’s do our part, TD!

 

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TD Fri. – UNI-versity Night. Three.

Hey TD!

Come be a part of continuing to shape TD’s history this Friday, as we host TD’s UNI-versity Night. Three., our third-ever event honing in on celebrating the diversity of gifts, talents, pursuits, interests, and passions of TD’s leaders, alumni, and students alike, with a focus on empowering that diversity in unity towards fulfilling our calling in Christ!  Breakouts will be insightful, engaging, and inspiring as we learn to see God at work in various spheres of our world.

This would be a great opportunity to invite your friends!

You will select two sessions to participate in. Check out the sessions and profs below on Cloudup.  You can download them from Cloudup to send them to your friends as well.

Check out the sessions and profs below (click on the blank flyer – the info is on it! Not sure why it doesn’t initially show up):

If possible, please email us at totaldevotionmbcla@gmail.com with your two selections, so we can get an idea of room sizes needed.

Here are the pdf’s in case Cloud up doesn’t work for you:

TD’s UNI-versity Night.Three.

UNI-versity Night. Three. Bios

See you Friday!

One Less Orphan

Hey TD,

On Friday, I read you Isaiah 1, a passage that makes me cringe, as God reveals how He feels about people tantamount to “good Christians” that we mistaken for actually being true Christians.   He gives His solution for how to get out of that false Christianity that so often passes for real Christianity.  It’s not complicated, but it needs to be acted on.  Here it is:

“… Cease to do evil,17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:16-17

As you all know, my family is in the final stages of our adoption process.  But adoption isn’t the only way to defend the orphan.  As you are in the final preparation stage before you reach adulthood, you NEED to heed the Lord and build into your life a regular and consistent ministry to the “least of these,” especially the orphaned and the widowed.  That is written all over Scripture.

At TD, we want to help you cultivate that heart and extend opportunities to obey – through your monthly contributions to our 7 sponsored orphans, participating in our monthly orphanage visits and convalescent home visits (full of widows), caring for orphans in China in the summer, becoming an orphan advocate intern (we have 4 this year, participating in V4V, etc.

” … you NEED to heed the Lord and build into your life a regular and consistent ministry to the “least of these,” especially the orphaned and the widowed. “

I found the following article interesting and helpful in cultivating  a broader perspective in this regard and hope you’ll read and glean from it. – Arthur

One Less Orphan

How Do We Keep Families Together?

Orphan care has been the topic of many conversations within the local church over the last decade. By God’s grace, many families and churches have stepped into ministries of foster care and adoption. Foster care and adoption captured our own hearts as we prayed about how we might grow our family.

Of course, like many Christians, when we thought about orphan care, we immediately thought of James 1:27, the command for Christians “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” Often when the topic of orphan care comes up in Christian circles, it’s not too long before this verse is on the table. Praise God that many people today are aware of, and passionate about, orphan care. But in recent years, we began to learn of situations that challenged how we had grown to apply James’s familiar command.

Bigger Than Adopting

We were foster parents to a three-month-old baby girl, excited to welcome this little one into our home and shower her with love. We changed diapers, did middle-of-the-night feedings, and adjusted our other three children around the schedule of this new addition.

“Christian orphan care is more than middle-class families welcoming children into their own homes.”

When we began to consider adopting this baby girl, however, we discovered that she had a biological grandmother living a few states away who was interested in adopting her, despite some significant financial and bureaucratic hurdles. As we began what became a yearlong process of trying to support our foster daughter moving to her grandmother’s house, we started to realize that foster care and adoption were not the only needed ministries for orphan care.

For many, the practical application of James 1:27 is to call individual couples and families to foster and adopt individual children. This is good, but it doesn’t meet every need. If James 1:27 is calling us to look after the vulnerable children suffering in our midst, it requires thinking not only about the children, but also the families and communities these children come from. It challenges us to consider not just the adopting of children, but also the reconciling of children to their original biological families when possible.

For this to happen, orphan care needs to grow in a theology that encompasses the entire gospel story. Christian orphan care reflects the major beats of this gospel — creation, sin, redemption, restoration — and the major themes of the gospel story: themes like grace, justice, reconciliation, and adoption. These major beats and themes then influence our priorities as we consider how best to care for the vulnerable children in our communities.

Mercy Upstream

A theology that includes the full biblical story will recognize that sin — and the brokenness that results from sin — operates not only at the individual level, but also at family, social, institutional, and cultural levels. If we are to be faithful in the battle against sin, it will mean making it more than just a personal fight. It will also mean marshaling our resources to confront sin at every level.

In the case of orphan care, this will mean looking upstream to the sources of sin and brokenness that lead to a child needing to be fostered or adopted. In our own situation, we found systemic challenges to getting our little girl to her grandma within a reasonable time frame.

“As much as we need to foster and adopt, we can do even more to promote biological families staying together.”

Since then we have worked with other mothers who have fulfilled all the steps necessary to have their children returned to them, only to see the courts cancel appointments due to backlogged cases. Their children languish in the system months (even years) longer than necessary. We have seen mothers handcuffed by immigration status, at risk of losing their children permanently due to the extra challenges of finding work.

Orphan care requires more than middle-class families welcoming children into our own homes. Foster care and adoption are relief work — good and beautiful relief for a child from the brokenness of this world. But orphan care will involve more than just relief. It also includes seeking restoration and equity. It involves engaging in broken child-welfare systems and looking to prevent child abuse by walking with those who are isolated and battling poverty and addictions.

Reconciliation is at the heart of the good news of the gospel — in particular reconciliation between God and the people he created. In Christ, God moves toward us in grace so that ultimately he might bring us into fellowship with him.

The fact that reconciliation is a major theme of the gospel storyline will soon make us realize that as much as we still need to foster and adopt, we can do even more to promote biological families staying together. Families reconciling and reuniting is one of the ways we “echo” the gospel and thus bear witness to the God who is reconciling an entire people to himself.

The Savior We Really Need

This side of heaven, we will always have need to foster and adopt children. But the message of the gospel also motivates the wider community of believers to go to the most broken and isolated family units and share the good news that, in Jesus, all things can be made new. It also inspires members to leverage their vocations, legal skills, and political advocacy to shed light on systems and structures within the child-welfare system that are suffering from the decay of sin, and in ways that perpetuate injustice and harm biological families.

As we built a relationship with the grandmother of our foster girl, we began to see and grieve the brokenness that came from generations of both systemic and individual sin: brokenness that led to the mess that this girl and her grandmother found themselves in, and brokenness within the government system that added unnecessary burdens to an already painful situation.

“This side of heaven, we will always have need to foster and adopt children.”

But we were also able to step into their mess and be present with them in their suffering. By God’s grace, we were able to walk with them over the course of a year, to the point where this grandmother, at long last, was able to adopt her granddaughter. One less orphan.

It can be easy to welcome foster children into our homes as though we are their saviors. But that’s not what God calls us to when he tells us to care for orphans. Instead, God calls us to point the vulnerable, the suffering, and the broken to the only Lord and Savior everyone in our world needs.

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(@PastorVP) are longtime foster parents and are involved in promoting adoption and foster care initiatives. They are parents of four children. Vermon is the lead pastor of Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Dennae (@dennaepierre) is Executive Director of the Surge Network in Arizona.

TD Fri. – “Dying to Live” SG Study/mp3

“Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

– Romans 12:1

Hey TD,

Here’s your toolkit for this Friday’s small group study together! Download the study, listen to the message (or re-listen to specific parts of it) and spend time in prayer and prep during the week, so you can have a great small group discussion.  Use the Table of Contents to locate a certain section of the message.  Click below.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. – Coach John Wooden

“Dying to Live” (sg study)

“Dying to Live” (mp3) – Arthur

“Dying to Live” (mp3) Table of Contents 

“Renew” Theme Intro – 0:05

Intro to Romans – 10:30

“I urge you therefore brethren to present your bodies” – 20:45

What is a “living sacrifice”? – 30:40

**”Acceptable to God” – how we are all Stephen Paddocks** – 41:50 – 1:10:30

(video shown)

The $20 Challenge – 1:12:20

Check with your small group leader as to where and when you’ll be meeting!

TD Fri. – Frumpy Friday/Opening Message – Look Inside!

A throwback “classic” audio podcast from our first Frumpy Friday 4 years ago. Have a listen!

Hi TD,

Prolific social critic, Os Guinness, author of A Free People’s Suicide, has insightfully called America a “cut-flower civilization,” a term he uses to describe a nation that has been cut from its roots and foundations.  While a bouquet of cut flowers may appear vibrant and exquisite for a season, it isn’t long before it deteriorates and becomes ugly.

As a nation persistent in keeping God out of education and out of the public, over and over we are alarmed at the results.  TD, let us respond to the growing cacophony of what’s evil and wrong in our nation by passionately resolving to highlight the One who is Good and Right-eous, and who can bring true life and salvation to rotting and broken souls.  That’s done one person at a time through one genuine, authentic Christian at a time.

Transformed societies come from transformed people, not from those playing at or pretending to be transformed.  TD, we can’t change the world (yet), but we can change our worlds, and that’s where it starts.

Please join us on Friday as I give the opening message of our new theme, Renew: Transforming Our Lives in Christ.  

This Friday, we need you to come … frumpy.  Yep, frumpy.   Please come in ugly, frumpy clothes.  Don’t do your hair, don’t gel it, no hairspray, don’t blow dry it, don’t shave, don’t put makeup, no bows, no hair clips, no jewelry.  Wear your glasses, not your contacts.  Wear flip flops or old shoes you’d normally only wear around the house when nobody’s around.  We’ll explain at TD!

See you there! – Arthur

“An Act of Pure Evil” – Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

Image result for las vegas

 

Hi TD,

With heavy heart over what’s transpired, I urge you to read Dr. Al Mohler’s response to the massacre in Las Vegas.  The truth of the matter is this, if God does not exist, then there’s nothing truly wrong with what happened in Las Vegas.  We cannot, as a nation, straddle both sides of the fence, wanting our cake and eating it too.  And we cannot as Christians either … and too many of us are.  Let us pray and then let us live hard the life God wants us to live, being who God wants us to be, doing what God wants us to do; and put the world be on notice that there is a real God who will provide real salvation, and grant real victory. – Arthur

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

“An Act of Pure Evil” — Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

by R. Albert Mohler

Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are — a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.

Today, most Americans awoke to news from Las Vegas that is nothing less than horrific. For so many in Las Vegas, Sunday night must have seemed like the night that would never end.

In the face of such overwhelming news, we naturally seek after facts. We want to know what happened, and when. We want to know who did it. By mid-morning the facts were staggering. More than fifty people are dead and hundreds wounded after a lone gunman opened fire on a music festival from a perch in a hotel room 32 floors above. The attack was deadly, diabolical, and premeditated.

The shooting is already described as the worst in American history. The gunman, believed to be Stephen Paddock, killed himself as police prepared to storm his hotel room, from which he had aimed his deadly gunfire. The facts emerged slowly, and are still emerging. Paddock had no notable criminal record. He had worked for a defense contractor, owned two private aircraft, and was known to own guns. He was reported to like Las Vegas for its gambling and entertainment. No one seems to have considered him a threat. His brother, contacted after the massacre, said that the family was beyond shock, as if “crushed by an asteroid.”

In Las Vegas and beyond, hundreds of families are crushed by grief and concern. More than fifty human beings, very much alive just hours ago, are now dead, seemingly murdered by random order.

The facts will continue to come as investigations continue. We need facts in order to steady our minds and grapple with understanding. We must have facts, and yet we can be easily overwhelmed by them. Some “facts” will not be facts at all. National Public Radio helpfully and honestly ended its news coverage of the massacre with these words: “This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities. We will update as the situation develops.” I count that as both helpful and honest.

But the facts of who and what and where and how, still unfolding, point to the even more difficult question — why?

Why would anyone kill a fellow human being? Why launch an ambush massacre upon concertgoers listening to country music? Why premeditate a mass killing?

Was he driven by some obsession, fueled by some grievance? Was he sending a signal or political message as an act of terrorism? Is the answer psychiatric or pharmacological? Our minds crave an answer.

Why do we ask why?

We cannot help but ask why because, made in God’s image, we are moral creatures who cannot grasp or understand the world around us without moral categories. We are moral creatures inhabiting a moral universe and our moral sense of meaning is the faculty most perplexed when overwhelmed by horror and grief.

The terror group known as ISIS or the Islamic State claimed that Stephen Paddock was a “lone wolf” attacker who had recently converted to Islam. Law enforcement authorities said there is no evidence of anything related to ISIS or Islam.

Clark County (NV) Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters that he was not sure if the massacre was sending a message as a terror attack: “We have to establish what his motivation is first. And there’s motivating factors associated with terrorism other than a distraught person just intending to cause mass casualties.”

So far as we now know, Paddock left no note and communicated no clear message. The gunfire tells some story, but we do not yet know what the story is. We may never know.

That troubles us, and so it should. Knowing the story and determining the motivation would add rationality to our understanding, but we will never really understand.

A massacre by a lone gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Another killed 27, mostly children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Yet another killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. We really do not fully understand any of these attacks, nor countless other outbreaks of evil around the world.

One of the main theological insights about evil is that it is so often absurd. It is ultimately inexplicable, unfathomable, and cannot be resolved by human means.

President Trump has demonstrated little interest in academic disputes over moral philosophy so he probably did not intend to wade into deep theoretical waters when he called the massacre “an act of pure evil.” But he called it right, and he expanded on his judgment. “In times such as these I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness.” He went on to say: “The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”

That is exactly how a president should speak, and underlining the “act of pure evil” as evil is exactly how a morally sane person should think. The judgment of evil here, real evil, should be beyond dispute.

Evil is a fact, too. And evil is a theological category. The secular worldview cannot use the word with coherence or sense. The acknowledgement of evil requires the affirmation of a moral judgment and a moral reality above human judgment. If we are just accidental beings in an accidental universe, nothing can really be evil. Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are — a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.

College professors tell us that moral relativism has produced a generation of Americans who resist calling anything evil, and even deny the existence of moral facts. Justin P. McBrayer, who teaches at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, wrote in The New York Times that “many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts.”

That’s truly frightening, but McBrayer argues that by the time students arrive at college, they have already been told over and over again that there are no moral facts — that nothing is objectively right or wrong.

Only the Christian worldview, based in the Bible, can explain why moral facts exist, and how we can know them. Only the biblical worldview explains why sinful humanity commits such horrible moral wrongs. The Christian worldview also promises that God will bring about a final act of moral judgment that will be the final word on right and wrong — as facts, not merely speculation. The Gospel of Christ points us to the only way of rescue from the fact of our own evil and guilt.

Our hearts break for the families and communities now grieving, and we pray for them and for those even now fighting for life.

It is both telling and reassuring that secular people, faced with moral horror as we see now in Las Vegas, can still speak of evil as a moral fact — even if they continue to deny moral facts in the classrooms and courtrooms. No one can deny that the horror in Las Vegas came about by an act that was evil, pure evil, and evil as a fact.

I think of the Prophet Isaiah’s words: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” [Isaiah 5:20, ESV]

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Churchgoer

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Introducing Jill to Almond Green Milk Tea with Boba (or bubble tea, as they say in Atlanta)

Hey TD!

The old maxim says, confession is good for the soul.  As I was reading today’s A Slice of Infinity by my friend, Jill Carattini, I must confess that I too share the same shortcomings that she references in her Slice. Read on, fellow churchgoer, and see if you do too. If so, let’s confess, repent, believe, and let God continue His redeeming work in our lives, so we can share the greatest confession of all:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

– Arthur

Confessions of a Churchgoer

In a world of finger-pointing, Tetsuya Ishikawa paused instead to confess guilt. After seven years at the forefront of the credit markets, he took the idea of a friend to write a book called How I Caused the Credit Crunch because, in the friend’s analysis, “it sounds like you did.”(1) In the form of a novel that discredits the notion of the financial sector as a collaboration of remote, unthinking forces, he admits in flesh and blood that he believes he is guilty, too. Though reviewers note Ishikawa does not remain long with his admission of responsibility, he succeeds in showing the financial markets as a reflection of human choices with moral dimensions and, ultimately, the futility of our ongoing attempts at finding a better scapegoat.

Whenever the subject of blame or fault comes about in any sector of life, whether economic, societal, or individual, scapegoating is a far more common reaction than confessing. Most of us are most comfortable when blame is placed as far away from us as possible. Even the word “confession,” the definition of which is concerned with owning a fault or belief, is now often associated with the sins of others, which an outspoken soul just happens to be willing to share with the world. We are interested in those confessions of a former investment banker/warlord/baseball wife because the “owning up” has nothing to do with owning anything.

Perhaps like many of us in our own confessing, Charles Templeton’s 1996 book, Farwell to God, and the confessions of a former Christian leader, is filled with moments of confession in both senses of the word—honest commentary and easy scapegoating. In his thoughts that deal with the Christian church, it is particularly apparent. Pointing near and far and wide, Templeton observes that the church indeed has a speckled past: “Across the centuries and on every continent, Christians—the followers of the Prince of Peace—have been the cause of and involved in strife. The church during the Middle Ages was like a terrorist organization.”(2) He admits that some good has come from Christian belief, but that there is altogether too much bad that has come from it. He then cites the church’s declining numbers as evidence that the world is in agreement; people are losing interest because the church is failing to be relevant. Pews are empty; denominations oppose one another; the church is floundering, its influence waning—except perhaps its negative influence, according to this confessor.

Paul Klee, City of Churches, pen, pencil, watercolor, paper, 1918.

Of course, many of these confessions regarding the church are indeed riddled with difficult truths that someone somewhere must indeed own. Other assertions are not only difficult to posit as relevant, but are simply dishonest attempts to point blame and escape the more personal, consistent answer. As Templeton determinedly points out the steady decline of attendance in the church as reason to disbelieve, it is unclear how this supports his personal confession that Christian beliefs are untrue. Does the claim of the church’s decline (the veracity of which is debated) say anything about whether Christianity is based on lies, lunacy, or fact? Jesus spoke of those who would turn away, churches that would grow cold, faith that would be abandoned. Moreover, if one is truly convinced that Christianity is an outlandish hoax, isn’t it odd that so much energy is taken in criticizing the church in the first place—as if one had a vision of what the people of God should look like?

Of course, responding to Templeton’s darker admissions regarding the church, I am at times tempted to make a scapegoating confession of my own. Specifically, if I could reasonably judge God by some of God’s followers, I would surely say farewell as well. Like Templeton, I have seen so many lives badly wounded by the pulpit, people trampled by those who call themselves Christians. I have been more disillusioned within the church than I ever have outside of it. Templeton confesses in his book that the church “has seldom been at its best,” and on this point, I couldn’t agree more.(3) But I would also have to add a critical addendum; namely, that I am rarely at my best. I am a part of this church who fails to love well, who says things that hurt, and falls short of its best on a regular basis. But if the church is truly meant to be the place where followers learn to become more like Christ, then I also can’t imagine a better place to be holding such a confession. Failings and all, it is the community that communes with the one who longs most for our human flourishing, who embodies God’s hope for humans at our best. Of the one who meets us in this human place, it was once confessed: “The righteous one shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:12).

It was with such a conviction that G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper seeking opinions on the question “What’s wrong with the world?” in one sentence. “Dear Sirs,” he replied, “I am.” In confessions of dark or disappointing realities, can our own hearts really be excluded? It was with visions of war and brokenness around him that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”(4) It was before the cross scarred body of the human Christ that Thomas confessed, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This, I believe, is humanity’s best confession.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Sathnam Sanghera, “Confessions of the Man Who Caused the Credit Crunch,” The Times Online, April 20, 2009, http://timesonline.co.uk, accessed April 21, 2009.
(2) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996), 129.
(3) Ibid., 127.
(4) Psalm 51:10.