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Adoption Seen Through Jesus’ Eyes

with | October 13, 2011

Do you love me? That’s the question Jesus posed to Peter, and His question to us is the same. If we do, Russell Moore says we’ll act differently when it comes to how we interact with society’s most vulnerable members--the orphan and the widow. Hear Moore explain how our response to Jesus’ command to “feed my sheep” reveals how seriously we take the Gospel.

Do you love me? That’s the question Jesus posed to Peter, and His question to us is the same. If we do, Russell Moore says we’ll act differently when it comes to how we interact with society’s most vulnerable members--the orphan and the widow. Hear Moore explain how our response to Jesus’ command to “feed my sheep” reveals how seriously we take the Gospel.

Adoption Seen Through Jesus’ Eyes

With
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October 13, 2011
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Bob:  Why should we be concerned about the plight of orphans all around the world?  Dr. Russell Moore says one reason is because we were once orphans ourselves.

Dr. Moore:  “Remember,” the Scripture says, “You were fatherless. Remember you were orphans.  Remember you were alone and God in his adopting power through the cross of Jesus has brought you into the family with a new father, with new brothers and sisters, and therefore you receive others, even as you have been received.”

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today® for Thursday, October 13th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’ll hear from Russell Moore today about why all of us should be concerned about the plight of the orphan. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  I can always tell when there is kind of an automatic connection between you and another person.  As soon as the subject of the orphan comes up and you can tell that it’s on their heart, it’s like they’re your new best friend.  I watch it happen.

Dennis:  Well, you know when you care for the orphan, and there are a lot of people who do, and not all of them have adopted, not all of them are in foster care, not all of them are going on overseas trips to visit orphanages, but a lot of them give money, a lot of them pray, and many of them are very engaged around the needs of orphans worldwide. 

I just think it’s close to the heart of God, and it’s part of what God has done in our life.  He has brought us near to the orphan.  We adopted one of our six, and it remains one of the highest and holiest privileges Barbara and I have ever been entrusted with, the privilege of adopting and raising a child and giving her a forever family.

Bob:  Our Hope for Orphans® initiative is involved in the upcoming Cry of the Orphan® campaign that is taking place in November.  In fact, the DVD for that campaign is already produced and people are already starting to use it.  It features Eric Metaxas, who wrote the biography of Bonhoeffer.  He’s on the DVD.  It’s exciting to see how churches are starting to rally around this issue and individuals are catching a vision for caring for the needs of orphans.

Dennis:  The Cry of the Orphan, the campaign, was really a collaborative effort between Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth and their ministry, Show Hope®, and also Focus on the Family®.  We have teamed up with these music and media ministries to say together we stand on behalf of those who have no voice.  So the Cry of the Orphan calls the church to go near, to call out its people who have a passion for orphans, for foster care, for adoption, and begin to address it little bit by little bit.  It’s a massive humanitarian need today with over 140 million orphans globally.

Bob:  Well, we’re going to hear a message today that looks at the biblical case for adoption, really from a little different perspective than I think you’ve heard before, and an advocate, somebody who is kindred spirit with you on this subject, is who we’re going to hear from.

Dennis:  He’s a good man.  Dr. Russell Moore, who is the Dean of the School of Theology of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  Did I say that right?  Louisville?

Bob:  Louisville, that’s right.

Dennis:  You have to say it like that.  But he was speaking at the Summit®, the orphan Summit that we have on an annual basis, usually the end of April, first of May.  This time it was to a gathering of over 1500 people in Louisville.  He just did a great job of first of all sharing with us the needs of the orphan, and then biblically exhorting us to address their needs, really, (I hate to have a play on words) adopt the heart of God for those who have no family.

Bob:  And he used as his text in this message John 21, the familiar account of Jesus and Peter on the beach after the resurrection, where Jesus exhorts Peter to feed his sheep and to tend his lambs.  Here is Dr. Russell Moore with that message from the Orphan Summit last spring.

Dr. Moore:  Orphans are unpredictable.  Orphans come to us often with a background that’s a mystery.  And often when we see orphans we wonder what kind of genetic maladies, what kind of urges lie dormant somewhere within those genes.  We don’t know what the back story is. 

And often we also realize that in virtually every situation of fatherlessness, there is some kind of tragedy.  There is a divorce or a suicide or a rape or a drug overdose or a drought or a civil war, and on and on and on and on, and we would rather not think about such things, and we’re afraid of what kind of lasting mark that they leave upon their victims. 

And so when many people in our churches and many people in our families hear about the burden that God has given for the nations and about the passion that God has for the widow and the orphan, one of our first responses is a fear and a horror and it is a fear that I recognize here in this text that we just read a few moments ago.

Those of us who have been Christians for very long are very familiar with this passage.  This is, of course, after Simon Peter, the disciple of our Lord, has betrayed him, after he went running when Jesus was arrested and when Jesus was crucified.  And after Jesus is raised from the dead, he meets Peter and the other disciples right where he told them he would, on the shores of the Lake of Galilee.  And Jesus restores Peter back into the community, restores Peter back to the role that he had given to him. 

But this is not just about the restoration of Peter.  Jesus told Peter from the very beginning.  “When you turn, strengthen your brothers.”  He has said to Peter that Peter is going to be a foundation stone in this church that He is creating, this church that He is putting together, this church that you and I now share in and belong in.  This is not just the story of Peter; this is our story too.  Jesus is doing this for us too, and Jesus is speaking to us, too.  And it has everything to do with what God has called us to do for the orphans. 

And the question is, do I really belong?  Peter, do you love me?  Peter, do you love me?  Peter, do you love me?  The issue is an issue of belonging.  The issue is an issue of acceptance, an issue of grace.  One of the primary reasons that people in our churches and in our communities are reluctant to adopt or to foster or to care for orphans in various ways is because there is a deep-seated fear that there is really nothing more to family, there is nothing more to belonging, than bloodlines and DNA. 

Just a few weeks ago my wife and I discovered to our great surprise and delight that she is pregnant now with our fifth child.

(Audience applauds)

When I told some people that in our community, a lady said to us, knowing about our adoption situation and various things that have happened in our life, she said, “Now let me ask you a question.  Is this one yours?  I mean, are you adopting, or is this just going to be an adopted child, or is this really going to be your child?”

Now after having lived with that for these many years, I didn’t have the sense of stifled rage that I had at the very beginning.  It was more of a sense, as those of us from South Mississippi would say, “Well, bless your heart.”  You know.

(laughter)

But that’s always the issue.  There is a fear that somehow when we bring into our families those who are other, that there will not really be a belonging at all.  The way that we as the Church of Jesus Christ are to combat this, we do not combat this simply with slogans, and we certainly do not combat this simply with a sense of obligation.  We combat this with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Remember,” the Scripture says, “You were fatherless. Remember you were orphans.  Remember you were alone, and God in his adopting power through the cross of Jesus has brought you into the family with a new father, with new brothers and sisters, and therefore you receive others, even as you have been received.”

Why does Jesus make such a point of taking Peter to the side and bringing him back into the family?  Why does Jesus make such an issue when he talks about Peter’s love of saying, “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep?”  Because Jesus is going to send Peter where Peter does not want to go, to those other sheep who are not of this fold, those sheep who don’t share the bloodline, those sheep who don’t share the DNA, those sheep who don’t share the back story, and he is showing and demonstrating to Peter, “You are not here by some kind of natural right.  You are not here because of some type of personal prerogative.  You are not here by anything other than the merciful and gracious adopting power of the gospel.  Therefore you receive; therefore you love.”

If we take on the cause of orphans as messiahs who are seeking to save them, we will never be able to address the crisis.  The only way that we can reach orphans with the love of Jesus Christ is to do so as ex-orphans ourselves.  Jesus shows this to Peter, and he drives away the fear.

Secondly, it’s not just a fear and the gospel, it’s also a fear here of the mission.  Jesus stands and says, “Peter, do you love me?”  “Yes.”  “Do you love me?”  “Yes.”  “Do you love me?” “Yes.”  And Peter becomes really frustrated.  It doesn’t end the way that you would think it would end.  He has all of this background of a betrayal and all of this background of humiliation, and Jesus doesn’t just grab him up and say, “Hey, we’re all right.  Who’s my special man?” 

(laughter)

He doesn’t do that.  Instead Jesus starts talking about bloody execution.  Jesus says, “Peter, there was a time when you went wherever you wanted to go.”  That sounds like freedom, and there are many people in our churches right now who are scared and fearful of where God will lead us in caring for the fatherless, precisely because we cling to this impoverished sense of freedom, of being able to go wherever I want to go, to be able to direct my life in whatever way that I want to direct my life. 

And of course, Peter had.  He had a successful commercial seafood business.  He was right back there doing the very same thing that he was doing when Jesus found him in the first place.  Jesus says, “You previously had your freedom, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and you will go where you do not want to go.” 

He points him in the direction of his own cross, the very thing that Peter so feared when Jesus was arrested.  What is the worst thing that could happen to him?  He could be arrested.  He could be beaten. He could be nailed to a cross, and Jesus says, “Your worst fear is going to be realized.  You follow me.”

When we embrace the mission that Jesus has given to us, we do not coat over the fear and the danger and the peril.  We do not help orphans by saying to families, “You are going to have a wonderful and an easy life by adopting children or fostering children or caring for children around the world.”  We do not do a service to churches by saying, “If you open your hearts and your doors to orphans and widows and the vulnerable, you will be able to continue on just as peacefully as you have been going right now.”

Instead we need to recognize that as we move into the dangerous places and as we crucify our own freedom and our own expectations of our lives, we are empowering that Sunday school teacher to bear with that little boy with fetal alcohol syndrome.  When we embrace the danger and we embrace the peril and we go in a place that is going to do to us what we previously would have thought was a wrecking of our lives, we are going to be able to bear with that little girl who flinches every time an adult comes by because she’s been so brutally abused. 

Right now there is a crisis of fatherlessness in our world and in your community.  Chances are, just a mile or two from your house right now the foster care system in your community is bulging with children moving from home to home with no rootedness or permanence in sight.  Right now while we’re gathered here in this room, there are children who are aging out of orphanages all around the world, and many of them are going to spiral downward into the hopelessness of drug addiction or prostitution or suicide. 

Right now there are children in the third world who are in group homes because both parents have died from disease or have been slaughtered in war.  When you and I see all of this around us, we are aware of exactly what the gospel has said to us.  There is a curse around us, and all creation groans, but we are prompted by that same Spirit to cry out, “Abba, Father.” 

As we empower the people in our churches and in our communities to stand against the curse when it comes to orphans and when it comes to widows, we must do so understanding that there is a cost here, as there is a cost in doing anything that Jesus sends us to do.  And what the cost is, Jesus says, is to the very point of your life, to the very point of a cross.

And when Peter hears this, he hears a word that is terrifying to him.  He looks and sees John, he sees this one who stayed with Jesus, who is a visible reminder of Peter’s own unfaithfulness, and Peter does exactly what I would have done in the same situation.  “Yeah, but what about him?” 

Jesus says, “What does that matter to you?  I have given you your path.  I have given you your cross.  I have given you your life.  Embrace the humiliation.  Embrace the uncertainty.  You follow me.  If you are scared of being embarrassed, if you are scared of having your life plan redirected, if you are scared of death, all of those things have already happened to you at the cross.  When we love those children that we fear may drive us all the way to the place that we do not want to go, we follow our Lord Jesus there.  We find a cross-shaped gospel.  We find a cross-shaped mission.

So why would we be fearful, then, to love the orphan?  Why would we be fearful to welcome the widow?  Why would we be fearful to visit the stranger, when the worst thing that could possibly happen to us has already happened to us in Christ? 

Let us eat, drink and be merry, for yesterday we were dead, and we rest in the realization that after we have poured all of our lives in feeding and loving the lambs that Jesus gives to us, in teaching and discipling and instructing and embracing, that whatever the end of your individual story might be, at the end of all of it is a table, is a household, is a family, is a kingdom for ex-orphans like us.

Bob:  Well, we have been listening today to a message from Dr. Russell Moore from the Christian Alliance for the Orphan Summit that was held back in May of this year.  It’s a great reminder that this is on the heart of God, this issue of the orphan.

Dennis:  Russell is a good man, and he is passionate about orphans because he and his wife have gone near as Barbara and I have.  I think the question for our listener is, “So what?”  Okay, so you hear this message.  What’s your action point out of this? 

I’m not talking about an impulsive, emotion-driven decision.  I’m speaking to the listeners who’ve heard us talk about the plight of the orphan repeatedly here on FamilyLife Today, and who God has been prompting to take a step of faith and do something in their local church. 

With the Cry of the Orphan campaign that is coming up in the month of November, this is the perfect opportunity for you to engage and to bring this emphasis and this teaching, bring the heart of God to your church.  Begin a dialogue of how can we begin to address the needs of orphans, whether they be in a foreign country or whether they’re just across town.  Because there are literally tens of thousands of children in the foster care system today that the church ought to be providing families for.

Bob:  This year it’s as simple as it’s really ever been, because there’s a DVD that has been produced to help support the Cry of the Orphan campaign.  It features Eric Metaxas who wrote the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer not long ago, and that DVD can be used in a small group setting, with an entire church.  You can take a Sunday evening service and watch the DVD together; you can watch it as a family. 

So everybody has an opportunity to gain better understanding about the needs of orphans all around the world, and to get some practical help on how individuals, families, churches, small groups can work together to help meet these needs of orphans around the world. 

If you’d like more information about the Cry of the Orphan campaign and about the DVD that is available, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you’ll find more information available there.  Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.  There’s also information on the website about Dr. Russell Moore’s book called Adopted for Life, and you can order a copy of the book from us as well, along with other resources that we have available from our Hope for Orphans initiative to help you and your church know how you can care for the needs of orphans all around the world.

Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information, or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY, that’s 1-800-358-6329, 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “Today.”

A quick word of thanks today for those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We are listener-supported.  In fact, about – I think the last number I saw – about 65% of what we need to operate our ministry each year is covered by donations from listeners to FamilyLife Today, who get in touch with us and let us know that they appreciate the program and they want to help support it.

This week, if you’re able to help support FamilyLife Today with a donation, we’d love to send you a copy of Barbara Rainey’s brand-new devotional for families.  It’s called Growing Together in Truth®, and it features seven short stories that can be read aloud to your family at the dinner table, after dinner is over, as a part of family devotions.  All of these stories are designed to reinforce the idea that truth matters, and that there is such a thing as absolute truth.

Again, if you make a donation this week, request a copy of Barbara’s new book.  Just type the title “TRUTH” into the key code box on the online donation form, or ask for the new devotional on truth from Barbara Rainey when you make a donation by phone.  And once again, thanks so much for your support of the ministry.  We appreciate those of you who donate each month, and are grateful as well for those of you who make a donation from time to time as you’re able to do that.

And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow.  Steve Chapman is going to join us.  He’s a deer hunter, just like Dennis is a deer hunter, so I may not even show up tomorrow, because I don’t know that I’ll even be needed for the program.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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