Stewarding Our Schedules

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Hey TD!

As we end summer and start a new school year, demands on our schedule will force us to prioritize and make good use of our time.  I always tell my clients that the greatest commodity we all have is time. Every moment spent is gone forever; we never get any of it back.

The following article from Gabe Fluhrer in Tabletalk Magazine (by Ligonier Ministries) is a good read that will help you steward you your time with the right perspective and understanding.  Enjoy! – Arthur

One of the supreme ironies of modern life is that we are worn out from leisure. The end of summer illustrates this phenomenon. So many of us finish up summer vacation thinking, “I need a break!” When we’re worn out from what should refresh us, the gospel offers hope for burned-out disciples like us.

A WEDDING ON SCHEDULE

Not long ago, our pastor preached a marvelous sermon on the wedding at Cana (John 2). He pointed out a feature of Jesus’ first miracle that I had never noticed. The very fact that Jesus was at a wedding turning water into wine can, and should, and has inspired both adoration and dissertations. But he focused our attention on one particular part of the text. Jesus says to His mother: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4). Now, to dispel any fears that Jesus was a misogynist, He was not using the term “woman” in a derisive sense. Instead, it was a term of respect. In any case, John wants us to focus not on what Jesus calls His mother but on what He says to her.

He says, “My hour has not yet come.” Later in the gospel, He will tell us His time has come (17:1). In other words, Jesus kept a schedule. He was never in a rush to be on someone else’s clock. He knew His mission, and He did not deviate from it for passing demands, no matter how pressing they seemed to those around Him. Jesus labored to the point of exhaustion (Mark 4:38), yet He never seemed burned out. What can we learn from our Savior when it comes to our hectic lives?

THE SAVIOR OF SCHEDULES

Here’s a simple, if overlooked, truth: the Savior who kept a schedule is also the Savior of our schedules. As such, we need to commit and recommit our time to Jesus. Details can overwhelm us, and the demands of a busy life can diminish our faith. We are distracted by that device in our pockets that is constantly alerting us, buzzing, beeping, and reminding us that someone always wants some of our time.

But Jesus meets us where we are. His schedule reminds us that the most urgent appointment we have each day doesn’t come with a “remind me fifteen minutes before” option on a drop-down menu. That’s because our days don’t belong to us, ultimately. They belong to God. Therefore, the most important part of our day is every second of it, communing with God instead of being overwhelmed with a crazy busy life.

So this week, let’s “give” our schedules to Jesus (they belong to Him already). Let’s be reminded that He knows everything that will derail our best-laid plans. But instead of stressing about these inevitable failures, let’s rest—what we all need more of—in the knowledge that a divine wisdom, mingled with the greatest love imaginable, keeps watch over every second of our schedules.

 

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Learning How to Think

Hey TD!

Now that we are fully vested into the summer, I’d love to encourage you to brush up your mental game, so to speak.  The Apostle Paul exhorts us to not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be TRANSFORMED … how? … by the RENEWING OF OUR MINDS (Rom. 12).  In a culture that is increasingly thinking with its feelings, Ravi Zacharias cautions us to remember that our feelings ought to be connected to thinking, and our thinking ought to be right; if we don’t think rightly, we will feel the repercussions of whatever it is that we’re thinking.  As Proverbs 23:7 comments, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

RZIM’s  Margaret Manning perceptively and honestly challenges us to work through the origins of our own thought patterns with the following contribution to RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Think about it! – Arthur

Learning How to Think

by Margaret Manning Shull

There are patterns of thought that come as natural to us as our daily routines. These patterns of thought emerge from constructs and experiences that color and shape the way in which we view the world and they can emerge in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes we simply repeat what we have heard. Mindless phrases spill out of our mouths forming the patterns of response—even when the response is incongruent with the situation. “It is what it is,” we say, when compassionate silence is called for or “Everything has a reason” when faced with inexplicable chaos.

I recognize in my own life how these patterns of thought belie my true way of viewing the world, much to my chagrin. Oftentimes, they reveal callousness to the suffering of others. I’ll tell someone, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers” as a substitute for tangible assistance. Or my desire to fit every happening into a neat, understandable package compels me to speak when I first should listen.

Alexej von Jawlensky, The Thinking Woman, oil on canvas, 1912.Regardless of the situation, it seems a sad reality that so often these patterns of thought and action revolve around placing the self at the center of everything. Many function as if the world really does revolve around the immediate and urgent demands of living one’s own life. Everything is simply an incursion into the routine of putting me, myself, and I front and center. I automatically feel offended, for example, when cut off in traffic. I instinctively feel slighted or defensive that my very presence doesn’t delight and soothe the unhappy. I groan at the inconvenience of having to wait in another line and when I finally have my turn, I take offense at the clerk who doesn’t smile at me the way in which I think I deserve.

In his lauded address to graduates of Kenyon College, the late author David Foster Wallace exposed the routines of thought and action that place the self at the center.(1) In his remarks regarding the benefits of a liberal arts education in shaping one’s ability to think, he suggests that it is the “most obvious, important realities that are the hardest to talk about.”(2) In other words, one of those obvious realities is that when left to our own devices humans think and behave in self-centered ways. But it is one of those routines of thought that mostly goes unmentioned. He continues, “The choice is really about what to think about and how we think about it…to have just a little critical awareness….Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.”(3) Rarely, Foster Wallace notes, do we think about how we think because what is revealed is that we are basically selfish in action and thought 99% of the time.

But what if we really made thinking about how we think the routine? Foster Wallace conducts a thought experiment to illustrate how this can be done. What if the car that cuts me off in traffic is not about being in my way or being rude to me, but is a father trying to rush his sick son to the hospital or the doctor and I am in his way? What if the person who is critical of me or sullen towards me has only known criticism and neglect her whole life? What if the grocery bagger is not without social skills, but someone who has had little opportunity, whose parents’ have recently split up, and whose general home life is nothing but misery? How different these situations might look if I took the time to think! Indeed, what if my routine became first thinking of the other person?

One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian story is that we really don’t have to live for ourselves in order to find the good life. In fact, the opposite is true: those who seek to save their lives will lose them. Jesus offered an alternative vision as the one who came to serve. As the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to not merely look out for their own interests, but also to have the interests of others in mind, he looked to the life of Jesus. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant and made in the likeness of human beings.”(4) How different the world might look if each day we took time to think about the needs of someone else—even just once per day? In so doing, how might that change the very patterns of thought that conspire to keep us living at the center of our own universe, embittered by all the ways we’ve been slighted?

Foster Wallace concludes his address by telling the Kenyon graduates:

“Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad of petty and unsexy ways every day.”(3)

In a world that isn’t always sure what it thinks about Christianity, Jesus stands inviting us to encounter a very different kind of kingdom at the center of all creation, a kingdom in which he, the suffering servant, is Lord. In this kingdom marked by his living example of sacrifice and care, it is most freeing to discover you are far from alone.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) David Foster Wallace, “This is Water,” Commencement Address, Kenyon College Graduation, Kenyon, Ohio, 2005.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.

 

A Christmas Devo from Angela – “The Paradox of the Present

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The Paradox of the Present 

by Angela Hsieh

In this Christmas season , songs filled with general holiday cheer are echoed everywhere proclaiming “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” “tis the season to be jolly” and the like. Though lighthearted, these sentiments in cultural may subtly influence our expectations of what this season is supposed to deliver. For many people, however, they are left with deep disappointment, and the holidays are far from “the most wonderful time of the year.” For if Christmas is not grounded in the hope which Christ brings, it can be the most depressing time of the year – it can be a time where the presence of unfulfilled longings and the absence of loved ones may be felt most of all.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior.

Many dear families that I know have tragically lost loved ones this year. When death hits home, gaping wounds are left which cannot be soothed by any well wishes or holiday cheer. In fact, they may make it sting even more. As it often is, there is a strange contrast between the simultaneous life experiences of people. For some, this Christmas is tainted by grief as it marks the first year without a loved one, yet for others, it is joyfully celebrated as the first Christmas for a new arrival. While many gather in warm homes for Christmas parties, others are homeless on the street. While many appreciate the warmth of familial love and companionship, millions of children are in orphanages without a family to call their own. While many feast, others are famished. While people give and receive a bounty of gifts, others lack the basic necessities of life. The human existence is filled with paradoxes like these.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-8, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God bestowed this message of blessing through the person of Jesus Christ. God drew near to a broken and needy people in a marvelous way – by becoming one of us. Truly Christmas is about how He broke through darkness to “give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The present of His Presence is the most wonderful and paradoxical occurrence in history. Christ, the Lord of all and yet the Humble Servant, reaches out to save all people – those drunk with pleasure and those overcome by sorrow, those enamored with success and those who’ve hit rock bottom, those who are seeking and those without hope. He is the One who fully knows each person’s experience and offers to speak meaning into it. The King of Kings (Rev. 19:16) was not born in a lofty palace but a lowly manger. The Prince of Peace’s (Is. 9:6) arrival would cause the uproar of a nation. The Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) became the son of a young girl and carpenter. The One robed in majesty (Psalm 93:1) traded His garments for infant swaddling clothes. Christ knows exactly how to address the human condition and bring reconciliation that every person desperately needs.

He is the Present of infinite worth that we could only receive if we come with empty and open hands. This Christmas, will you open up your heart to receive the greatest Present ever given?

Immanuel, God with us.

 

In Critical Care

Carattini

Hey TD!

Here’s an insightful piece from our friend, RZIM’s Jill Carattini, managing editor of A Slice of Infinity. In classic Jill fashion, she shows us the eternal in our everyday lives. Enjoy! – Arthur

In Critical Care

by Jill Carattini

The “doorknob phenomenon” is an occurrence many physicians know well. Doctors can proceed meticulously through complete examinations and medical histories, taking care to hear a patient’s questions and concerns, but it is often in the last thirty seconds of the appointment that the most helpful information is revealed. When a doctor’s hand is on the doorknob, body halfway out the door, vital inquiries are often made; when a patient is nearly outside the office, crucial information is shared almost in passing. Many have speculated as to the reasons behind the doorknob phenomenon (which is perhaps not limited to the field of medicine), though a cure seems unlikely. Until then, words uttered on the threshold remain a valuable entity to the physician.

If I can speak on behalf of patients (perhaps I’ve been a perpetrator of the phenomenon myself), I would note that the doorway marks our last chance to be heard. Whatever the reason for not speaking up until that point—fear, discomfort, shame, denial—we know the criticalness of that moment. In thirty seconds, we will no longer be in the presence of one who might offer healing or hope or change. At the threshold between doctor’s office and daily life, the right words are imperative; time is of the essence.

One of the many names for God used by the writers of the Bible is the Great Physician. It is curious to think of how the doorknob phenomenon might apply. Perhaps there are times in prayer when the prayer feels as if we are moving down sterile lists of conditions and information. Work. Finances. Mom. Jack. Future. Of course, while bringing to God in prayer a laundry list of concerns with repeated perseverance is at times both necessary and helpful, perhaps there are also times when we have silenced the greater diagnosis with the words we have chosen to leave unspoken. Can a physician heal wounds we will not show, symptoms we will not mention?

Rembrandt, Beggars on the Doorstep of a House, 1648.

Thankfully, yes. The Great Physician can heal wounds one cannot even articulate. Scripture writers speak of a God who hears even our groanings too deep for words. On the other hand, choosing to leave out certain details is hardly helpful before any doctor. Can God begin the work that needs to be done if we won’t really come near as a patient? Is there a cure for those who do not seek it? Mercifully, there is a physician who seeks us.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah once cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? No healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah lived during one of the most troublesome periods of Hebrew history. He stood on the threshold between a people sick with rebellion and despair and the great Physician to whom they refused to cry out in honesty.

“I have listened attentively,” the LORD declared, “but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”(1) His words describe behavior a doctor likely recognizes. A patient who complains of a cough while a fatal wound is bleeding will neither find respite for the cough nor her unspoken pain, and of course, a good physician would not treat the cough until the bleeding has been stopped.

In Jeremiah’s day, as in our own, the promise of a quick and effortless remedy was cunningly presented in many ways. Of these “prophets of deceit” God declared, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”(2) There are some promises that are quite easy to stand beside but crumble under the weight of us. To stand in honesty before a physician is more difficult. To stand in honesty with the greatest of Physicians is to submit to a kindness that may undo us. It is to ask to be made well, to be made new, to be made truly human by the Son with human hands, knowing that the way to my remedy rests in his own wounded hands.

The great Christmas hymn places before us this powerful resolution:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.(3)

The woundedness of humanity is serious: cries of injustice, the wounds of racism, despair and lament at cancers around us, the devastating marks of our own failings left shamefully upon others and ourselves. This cannot be bandaged as anything less than a mortal wound. But the threshold is now. Christ comes near. He weeps with us, ready to address the indications of our illness, imparting healing and kindness. In the coming of Christ, God offers a cure extending as far as the wound can ever fester.

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

(1) Jeremiah 8:6.
(2) Jeremiah 8:11.
(3) Isaac Watts, Joy to the World, 1719.

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

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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.

A Story I Won’t Stop Sharing

Hey TD!

Well, V4V is underway and it’s been a huge blessing for many of us already!  The energy is live! In that spirit, I wanted to share with you this riveting essay (and video), written by an adoptee from Holt International (the agency that we are working with to adopt our two girls). Once orphaned, her adoption changed her life … but she still was curious about her birth mother …   – Arthur

A Story I Won’t Stop Sharing

For most of her life, Holt adoptee Molly Martin viewed her adoption as something that just “happened.”  But after traveling to Thailand to meet her birth mom, she developed a completely different outlook — and a deeper understanding of how loved she truly is. Molly’s story was a finalist in Holt’s 2016 adoptee essay contest. 

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For someone who was adopted at a young age, being adopted seems, for lack of a better word, normal. For as long as I can remember, except for a few blurry memories, being adopted is all that I have known. I don’t really remember what it was like not to be adopted, so being adopted has always seemed somewhat natural and definitely not really anything worth talking about. However, at the same time, being adopted isn’t normal. While I can’t speak for all kids that have been adopted, I think a lot of us, at some point or another, have entertained the thought that our situations aren’t normal. Surely, not looking like my family wasn’t normal and the thought that my biological family did not want me was always in the back of my mind. But those aren’t exactly things that most kids want to talk about.

Because of the seeming normality of my adoption, it was never something that I felt compelled to talk about or share with others. It didn’t feel important or like it was a part of who I am. People would often ask me where I am from and I would instinctively respond, “Raleigh, NC” when the real answer they were looking for was “Bangkok, Thailand.” Telling people “Yeah, my parents are white” in response to questioning looks they gave me after meeting my parents became the norm and I would typically zone out when people found out I was adopted and gave me the, “Wow, that is so amazing!” spiel. Because honestly, to me, being adopted wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t great. It was just something that happened that I had no control over (don’t get me wrong, I am SO thankful to have been adopted by my amazing family!). It was just a part of my past that I did not care to talk about.

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However, recently, that has all changed. Over Christmas of 2014, my adoptive family and I traveled back to my homeland to meet my birth mother for the very first time. A few years prior, I told my parents that I wanted to meet my birth mother if at all possible. I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to make such a request; I think I was just curious to know more about my heritage and my background. My adoptive parents very graciously took my request in stride and contacted Holt to see if it were possible. After years of planning and being in touch with the social workers in Thailand, they had contacted my birth mother and set up a date for me to meet her. And before I knew it, I was boarding a flight to Bangkok, Thailand for what was going to be a life-changing experience.

Going into the meeting, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Meeting the woman who gave birth to you for the first time at 19 years old isn’t exactly a common experience. I couldn’t exactly go up to my friends and ask them, “So, what was it like meeting your birth mom?” And secretly, I thought my birth mother was selfish. I knew from my records that my birth mother had given me up for adoption because she was too poor to properly care for me. To me, that just meant that she was too selfish to work harder or to get a better paying job. While that sounds extremely harsh, I just couldn’t understand her reasoning for putting me up for adoption, and I definitely didn’t want to accept it.

 

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I don’t think anything could have properly prepared me for that experience. As I stood in a private room with my adoptive family, waiting for the Holt social workers to bring my birth mother into the room, I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. When they finally brought her in, I was shocked. The woman standing in front of me was the spitting image of me, only aged by a couple years, and crying. And she cried for what seemed like forever. It was extremely awkward, as I didn’t know whether to hug her or just stand there. One of the social workers prompted me to give her a hug and when I did, she clung onto me, with tears still streaming down her face.

Eventually, my birth mother was able to stop crying long enough to talk to me (through a translator). She told me that for the past 19 years she had carried with her so much guilt, hurt and sadness for putting me up for adoption. When I was born, she knew that she was too poor to give me a good life. She gave me up hoping that I would get adopted by a family that could give me the life that she would never be able to give me. It wasn’t a lack of love that made her put me up for adoption, but it was her abundance of love.

Meeting my birth mother completely changed my outlook on my adoption. Rather than being something that just ‘happened,’ it is something that has shaped every facet of my life and my identity. Instead of growing up without a father, I have an incredibly strong and loving father. Instead of growing up without an education, I am excited to say that I will be graduating in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. And instead of believing that I am unloved, I know that I am incredibly loved — by a birth mother who gave up being able to see me grow up and have me call her ‘mom,’ by my adoptive family that has loved me even when I’ve had nothing to offer them, and by an amazing adoption agency that worked so hard to give me a forever family. Adoption will forever be a part of who I am and a story that I won’t stop sharing.

Molly Martin | North Carolina

After meeting her birth mom, Molly created a video about the experience, which she gave us permission to share:

To learn about birth search assistance and other post-adoption services available to adoptees, visit Holt’s Post Adoption Services website!