Dropping the coffee cup got my attention. What happened next got my respect.
“She looks just like you!”
I said that to someone I had recently started working with, about her daughter. Then she told me their daughter was adopted.
My sister was adopted. It was public and well known. Most adoptions are not that way, but this was different.
- They adopted when I was 10, my brothers were 13 and 12.
- When you show up for church one Sunday with a baby, it gets noticed.
- Everyone knew my parents didn’t have a baby girl.
- And she didn’t resemble either parent.
- She was from Viet Nam.
No, she obviously didn’t favor either parent. But when she learned to talk, she talked like us. Her mannerisms reflected those of our family. She ate what we ate, did what we did, and went where we went. She was ours and we were hers. We belonged to each another. We were the same, we were family.
How That Happened?
Here are some things that made her one of us:
- She had our name.
- She had our values.
- She was believed as we believed.
- She was loved equally and in the same way as her brothers.
- She was a Fyffe, through and through.
A Spiritual Adoption
Paul wrote in Ephesians that God adopted us into his family, 1:5. That we are the Father’s workmanship, the result of his divine will, 2:10. That we were given his name, 3:14. And that we grow to become like him, 5:1-2.
We were created in the image of God, but that wasn’t about appearance. My sister didn’t look like my parents, but they were her parents, she was our sister, and we were one.
Our spiritual identity comes from God. We wear his name, reflect his values, and share his purpose. We became one with him.
It all came from him, it all points to him.
We look different, but we were adopted and fitted into God’s family. It’s not about who you look like, but who you belong to.
I said to my friend, “She looks just like you!” Spiritually, we all look like the Father.
Last Sunday morning, in 2nd service, I was holding a basket for our children’s collection, to gather funds that bless our kids in Haiti.
A little boy, I think he is 3 and one of my favorites, came up to give his dollar. He stood with his hand poised over the basket but was having trouble letting go. Others were waiting so his mom coaxed him to drop it in. But he wouldn’t. Then he happened to glance at one of the screens and saw himself “on TV.” That was his moment!
It was then I noticed that he had folded his dollar into a kind of airplane. He wasn’t gripping it due to its monetary value, nope, he just wasn’t ready to let go of his plane. But finally, he gave it a safe landing, smiled, and walked off holding his mom’s hand. It was the sweetest thing ever!
I suppose we all hold on to something, to our…
- the past
- fears and anxieties
- old letters
- trust in the Lord
NOW: A FISHING STORY
Simon was preparing his nets for the next night of fishing, he was a commercial fisherman, and had just spent all night catching nothing. Then Jesus came by and asked him to take his boat to deep water and let his nets down. Simon didn’t want to. He knew successful fishing only happened at night. He argued a bit but reasoned that Jesus was an important rabbi, and so, he let them down and instantly they became full of fish. He shouted for his partners to bring their boat to help. When the nets were emptied both boats were overflowing with fish and looked as if they might sink.
When they returned to shore, Jesus invited Simon to go with him and become one of his disciples, and he did. Simon let go of the greatest catch of fish in the history of the Sea of Galilee, or so I’m saying. He walked away from a boat full of “dollars” to walk on with Jesus.
Jesus didn’t fill the nets so Simon could make a killing at the market. He filled them so Simon would know that the Messiah had come, that Emanuel had arrived, that the long awaited Anointed One had appeared.
Simon could see that there was something more important than fish or money.
We know that Simon was Simon Peter, the Apostle who preached on the Day of Pentecost and helped thousands to get saved. Peter demonstrated that a connection with Jesus was worth all he had.
And the little boy and his airplane? Well, he demonstrated an innocence and wide eyed wonder that made children the all time favorite of Jesus our Lord. Jesus loves the little children indeed.
Last night we had an All Church Skate Party at Fun-City SK8 & Play. It was a blast. Mind you we didn’t get the whole church; I don’t think 445 families would have fit. But we had a lovely group and it was fun.
I didn’t skate. I can skate. I know how to skate but I didn’t. Mostly, I didn’t want to fall down a lot. There, I said it. It’s possible that I could have gone around without falling but it wouldn’t have been probable. What would have been probable is that I’d fall and couldn’t get up,
“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
People would have helped me, at least the kids would have. There is nothing more kind, more sweet, or more reassuring than a pod of five year olds assisting you to your feet. Bless their skating little hearts.
Children of various ages asked why I wasn’t skating. Within the following responses is one honest answer. Can you discern which one?
- “I accidentally brought my ice skates instead of my roller skates.”
- “My skates have metal wheels and those aren’t permitted.”
- “My rollerskating skills would have intimidated you kids.”
- “I was a professional Roller Derby skater and now I have bad knees.”
- “Falling a lot would have been injurious to my ego and other parts.”
So, instead of skating I did what most of the adults did. I socialized while watching the kids, and some of their parents, go around and around and they did great. Hardly anyone fell. Well, one dad repeatedly fell and we tried not to laugh but we did.
Here are but a few of the conversations I enjoyed:
- Talked with a new family that’s been coming to church for a few weeks.
- Talked with a school teacher about her class and how it’s going.
- Chatted with a grandfather who was there to take pictures of his grandkids.
- Had some discussion with a couple of Dads who are in men’s group with me.
- Had conversation with some of our ministers who were there.
I left a little early. Went home to watch the Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Cowboys lost 12-10.
I should have stayed at the party.
It was fun and I’ll go again. Probably won’t skate, again. Probably will stand and socialize with parents and interact with the skaters, the kids going around and around and stopping to tease me for not skating.
It was a sweet time with some of my brothers and sisters and some very fun moments with those to whom Jesus has pledged his kingdom.
Maybe I need to invest in a new pair of skates.
The mail comes about the same time each day, it’s rarely early and occasionally late, but about the same time. Getting the mail was once a big deal but now, not so much.
It’s not unusual for us to forget to check the mail and when we do to discover its packed.
USED TO BE
The mail used to be about letters from loved ones and good friends. It’s how people stayed in touch, but not anymore. In this era the cell phone has become our connection point. It makes calls, can email and text and facilitates all kinds of social media.
The Mail Box is less about personal correspondence and more about:
- unwanted catalogues selling every kind of thing
- flyers and shopping guides
- promotions, political stuff and propaganda
The mail box has become a wasteland of useless junk destined for the local land fill. How many trees in my lifetime have been sacrificed to produce the tons of junk-mail I didn’t request or want to receive?
A man named Tertius once wrote a letter that needed to be delivered. It was an important letter, the kind that made it into the cannon of scripture, and we know it as the book of Romans. In those days such letters were delivered by a brave and trusted messenger for the delivery was fraught with peril.
I know, Tertius didn’t write Romans, it was authored by the Apostle Paul. Actually, Paul verbalized the letter and Tertius wrote it down. In fact, he said so in Romans 16:22
“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”
PAUL’S DELIVERY PERSON
But how did Paul get his important letter to the church in Rome? The letter probably originated in Corinth, a trip of nearly 1400 miles. The person delivering the letter would need to be extraordinary.
- unimpeachable character
- completely trustworthy
The person Paul selected to deliver his mail was a Christian, which makes sense. Also, the person was a deacon, a special servant of the church known for being dedicated to the Christian community and committed to advancing the gospel.
Who did Paul choose? Who had earned Pauls’ respect to compete such a long and dangerous journey? Who did he ask to deliver his letter to Rome?
It was a woman named Phoebe.
I love the book of Romans. It’s easily one of two or three of the most important writings in the New Testament.
The mail at my house is nothing to get excited about. Imagine going to the mail box and finding a letter from Paul.
Thank you Phoebe.
Sunday evening we hosted some 5th-6th graders for a pool and pizza party, and twenty-three kids attended. It was a great event and we had a really good time.
Here are some of their questions that I found amusing:
- “Has anyone ever died in your pool?”
- “Does your house have anything to drink?”
- “What should I do with my money while I swim?”
- “Can you hold my towel so it doesn’t get dirty?”
- “Can I have more than one brownie?”
And there were others.
They were sweet kids and I knew most of them but not all so was glad to get better connected. Our church calls them the CROSSOVER KIDS because they are too old for Children’s Ministry and too young for Youth Ministry, they are in the process of crossing over from preteens to teens. Each month they have a fellowship event and last night was the first of the new school year.
At the beginning I was in the pool and holding my own, but then the kids got in. I did okay with the first ten or twelve, but by the time fifteen or more got in they just sort of beached me like a big sad whale.
- 5th and 6th grade boys live somewhere between wanton destructiveness and shyly asking for a second brownie.
- They used the pool “noodles” for sword fighting and for whacking each other and found all manner of other unimagined uses.
- At no time did the genders interact. The boys populated the deep end while the girls frolicked in the shallow end.
- As a rule, the girls manifested a more mature behavior than the boys.
- They boys were showing off for each other, and for the girls, while the girls pretended not to notice. I think they were doing a little showing off too.
After swimming for 90 minutes and devouring nine large pizzas and a big tray of brownies their parents arrived to pick them up. Before leaving they each came and thanked us for having them to our home.
They were well mannered and delightful kids. I’m proud to be their Preacher.
I think we will have them over next year!
A woman in our Life Group asked if someone could help with her Sunday morning Kindergarten Class. Her usual assistant was dropping off a kid at college.
So I responded, “Sure, I’ll help.”
My duties were basically crowd control. You know, help them stay seated, keep them from getting crazy with their neighbors and make sure nobody got hurt.
The teacher, who is a professional school teacher, was phenomenal. Her teaching skills were impressive. Her ability to engage each child with respect and dignity was effective. She could do a lot with just the sound and tone of her voice.
If I had been the teacher I would have been outwitted, outplayed and outlasted by a bunch of sweet little five year old kids. I was barely getting by with crowd control.
While making the first letter of their names with Play-Doh one kid asked another:
“Where does Play-Doh come from?” The kid shrugged and said, “I think it’s magic.”
When asked what they knew about God and his Son:
“I think God and Jesus are basically the same person.”
“Jesus went to the cross and there were fireworks.”
When asked, “Can you name something God made that we can see.”
“Kids riding bikes. I saw a picture of it on the wall.”
The Play-doh kid said, “Play-Doh.”
MY TAKE AWAY’S
They were adorable and smart. One child knew the days of creation, of what happened each day. One named four or five things she learned in school that week. One child wanted to talk and say all kinds of things. Some raised their hands when they wanted to speak or answer a question. I went away blessed to have been there.
I laughed, marveled and thanked God for such precious people. They were obviously from loving families who are talking about God in their homes. It was so sweet.
I think I’ll go back next week!
At this year’s Orange Conference in Atlanta I heard Kristen Ivey talk about the five questions a child needs an adult to answer in order to trust them.
- Do you know my name?
- Do you know where I live?
- Do you know what matters to me?
- Do you what I have done?
- Do you know what I can do?
It makes sense doesn’t it? Before extending trust to an adult a child needs to know the adult understands who they are, that the adult has a sense of what matters to them.
When I think about it, the five questions work pretty well for me too.
- I’m flattered when someone takes the trouble to learn my name.
- Not my home address, but aware of something that’s going on in my life.
- I instantly like a person who understands what’s important to me.
- The person who has some sense of my history will sooner earn my trust.
- The person aware of my abilities and achievements gets my attention.
These questions make it personal for the one who is asking and for the one who is answering. If a child asks and I know the answers, then the child will more readily view me as a friend. It isn’t easy because it’s a lot to know, and will take effort and intentional interest.
I like seeing Jesus reaching out to people. Take Zacchaeus for example, it’s Jesus making an effort with intentional interest. It’s Jesus getting personal.
DO YOU KNOW MY NAME? Jesus looked up and called him by name.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE I LIVE? He wanted to go to Zach’s house for the day.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT MATTERS TO ME? Jesus knew money was important to him.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVE DONE? Jesus knew he collected taxes for Rome.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I CAN DO? Jesus knew Zach would trade extraordinary greed with extraordinary generosity.
AND US TODAY?
How does Jesus get personal with us? Does he know who we are, does he know our name and what’s happening in our lives, a sense of “where we live” or “Where we are at?”
In my next blog I’ll write about some ways that God gets personal with us.
Jesus spent most of his time with huge crowds. But he often reached out to individuals and did something to change their lives. It’s how Jesus made it personal.
On his way to the cross to save everyone he often stopped to save someone.
There are several phrases used in church that I haven’t located in Scripture. It’s okay, they don’t have to be found in scripture to be used.
Here Are a Few of Them
- Have the communion trays been filled?
- Who has our opening prayer?
- Who’s officiating the Lord’s Supper?
- Are we singing old or new songs?
- Do we have announcements?
- Is it time for the children’s contribution?
- Don’t you think his sermons are too long!
These and others can be heard in my church on any given Sunday.
That’s because on any given Sunday we sing, pray, observe the Lord’s Meal, have a sermon and take up an offering. Sometimes we have a baby blessing, or a blessing for a mission trip, or for donated items to the less fortunate. Often there is a video, a testimonial or a baptism. It’s all pretty good.
Frankly, I find it reassuring that the Holy Spirit left “the worship service,” fairly vague. If a global, all time Order of Worship (another phrase not found in scripture) was important to the Spirit then it makes sense the Spirit would have given one. But he didn’t.
Clearly the early church sang, prayed, heard the word, shared the bread and wine and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Obviously they gave and they gave a lot.
Growing up in conservative churches our worship focus was about 40% on what we were doing and about 60% on doing it right. Doing it right was big in our church. Doing it right meant making sure we didn’t do it wrong. Doing it wrong might incur the wrath of God bringing judgment and condemnation on us and we sure didn’t want any of that.
It’s different today, or maybe I’m just different. The last few Sundays we took time to bless two groups of kids. The first were children about to start Kindergarten, a big change for them and their parents. We prayed over the parents during Bible Class and then over the kids in the worship assembly. The next week we did the same with kids, and their parents, entering the 7th grade. Both are important milestones. I’m glad we do that kind of thing. It’s important for the families and for the church family.
I’m glad the Holy Spirit left us some wiggle room regarding what happens in worship. The wiggling is some of the best stuff we do to encourage and bless others. I think the Spirit would be happy about it, but that’s just me.
Our church has a Family Ministry. It’s an 18 year curriculum for parents that’s organized by the milestones of a child’s life. The goal is for the church to partner with each family to support and equip them in their quest to raise Godly children.
One of the early milestones is a child transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. It’s a big deal for the child and can be a really big deal for moms and dads. This year, we have thirteen children entering Kindergarten.
On Sunday we recognized this milestone with our Family Ministry Team meeting with the parents to encourage them and pray over them. It was a beautiful thing. Then in our 2nd service we brought the kids on stage to give them a special blessing. It was sweet.
MORE THAN SWEET
But referring to it as sweet doesn’t capture all that it meant. It’s always precious to see young children in the spotlight but it’s so much more when we consider the significance those kids have and the special future God has planned.
- Think about the amazing potential each one has
- Consider the generations they will bring into the world
- Imagine the impact they could have in their lifetimes
- Embrace the endless possibilities that exist within a child’s heart
- Rejoice that their young lives are being filled with Jesus Christ
I don’t remember kindergarten, I guess I went, but I don’t really remember. But one thing I know for sure, my church never brought me on stage or spoke words of blessing for a great future. They never prayed with my parents. I’m just grateful for those who have a better idea and are using their gifts and faith to help future generations.
They are adorable children, full of enthusiasm, unbridled energy, and souls as pure as new fallen snow. Jesus loves them. He loves all the little children. I think they are his favorite.
Have a great school year kids, you are loved and you are special!
This is the week. It’s the last BIG event of our summer. We call it CASE Camp which stands for Creative Art and Science Exploration. Doesn’t that sound like fun! It’s for elementary kids and we have 192 of them coming.
THIS IS COOL
The cool thing is that 71 of the kids are from our church and 121 are from the neighborhood. It’s the largest children’s event of our year that’s purposed at filling kids hearts with Jesus.
This week they will learn about:
- God the Great I Am
- Creation and creativity
- Art and artistry
- Jesus the Real Redeemer
It’s also four days of hanging with friends, making new friends, and having a sense of community. It’s four days of learning by exploration. It’s a massive camp to produce, the prep for materials is incredible and it daily requires 80 volunteers of adults and teens.
They didn’t have CASE camp when I was a kid. The closest I got to science was shaking a can of soda and spraying my friends. The closest I got to art involved a spray can of paint and a wall. Sorry mom, it’s true.
Well, the goal is to instill belief, to deepen faith and to help them understand more about God and his Son. It’s a great thing and it starts this morning.
I don’t know much about science and even less about art, so I’m not crucial to the success of the event. I’ll just write about it.
Thanks to our Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry for their constant effort to serve God by serving those to whom the Kingdom is given.
My heart is full this morning, or at least at near capacity. Last night, Wednesday night, we had an evening or praise. It was glorious.
To start, one of our worship leaders, with an eight person praise team, led us in songs of great meaning and of great praise. We also had two people share their testimony about the power and blessing of the camp last week.
The celebration was all the better because many who attended the camp were there last night. Their worship at camp was incredible because the campers were challenged to worship without boundaries, to let the walls come down and their self-consciousness to melt. They did and were able to give wholehearted praise to God.
Our worship center was lit up with energy and excitement, the people attending were of all ages and backgrounds but for an hour last night, we were one voice.
Afterwards, one of our Dad’s baptized his teenage son. Probably 200 people stayed to share in the moment. While standing in the water together, he shared his son’s faith journey and then shared a little of his own. They hugged each other and the tears were flowing. Finally, after a few minutes, he immersed him into Jesus. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever witnessed.
I know, mountain top experiences aren’t meant for every day, that’s why they’re called mountain top, and most of us don’t live on mountains. But I wouldn’t mind having some of that as often as I can get it.
As far as I know, today will be a normal day. I’ll be in my office at the church. I’ll put the finishing touches on the lesson for Sunday. I’ll check with staff members and review whatever needs reviewing. It’ll be a regular day, but my soul will be on fire and my heart filled with joy.
Thank you God for your Spirit. Thank you Holy Spirit for filling us. Thanks you Jesus for sending the Spirit so we could experience moments like last night.