Categories
Life

Five Reasons We Want to Be Foster Parents

My wife wrote earlier this week that we are starting the process to become foster parents. She said, “We are both well aware of the children out there who are abused and neglected, and in need of good, loving homes who can teach them about Jesus as well as care for and protect their little hearts and minds.” I love this woman, and I love her passion for Jesus and the “least of these” in our city and world.

Why would a husband and wife in their mid to upper 20s, with a two-and-a-half month old daughter want to be foster parents? Here are five reasons:

  1. The gospel has invaded our life and Jesus reigns over us. We have tasted what God has done for us in Christ and so we cannot help but show that same grace, mercy, kindness, and love to others. Foster care will be a small, but significant way to “point” to what God has done for us: he loved us while we were unlovable, wounded, broken, and alone.
  2. We want to adopt, not just because it’s the hip thing for Christians to do, but because God, in Christ, has adopted us into his family (Hos. 14:3; Eph.1:5). This is the only reason adoption on earth exists. Foster care will serve as a prologue to adoption, but not a “trial run.” It is something we can do now while adoption is not a possible.
  3. We are commanded in Scripture to seek the welfare of widows and orphans (James 1:27; 2:14-26). We aren’t doing this to “get God on our side,” for we are already perfectly accepted by in the gospel based on Jesus’ obedience, death, and resurrection. Rather, the gospel compels us to obedience. We are called to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves (Isa. 1:17; 58:6). Foster children are some of the most underrepresented people in society. Obviously, we cannot do everything and help every foster child. But we can do something.
  4. Foster care will give us close relationship with non-Christians. We will rub shoulders with biological parents, therapists, case workers, foster care specialists, lawyers, judges, and scores of others, most of whom will not know Jesus. We will be able to share the gospel, and our biblical worldview. Furthermore, we will be able to provide spiritual insight for a child to families and professionals who regularly neglect this aspect of a person’s life, in favor of the behavioral and mental aspects.
  5. I so often preach about doing hard things for the Lord, forsaking middle class comfort in pursuit of true discipleship. This is practicing what I preach. Carly and I want to be an example to other Christians, our church, our family, and our friends of what a gospel-shaped life looks like.
I want to thank my wife, Carly, for pursuing this so gracefully and with passion, determination, and zeal. You are my crown, and beside Christ, you are the treasure of my life. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”

When you think of us, or stop by this blog, would you pray for us on this adventure? We would appreciate it.

Categories
Ministry Theology

Foster Kids, Joseph, and Jesus

Before I was a pastoral intern at my church, I worked for the Department of Health and Human Services in Omaha. Though the work was not always a delight, God grew my heart for abused and neglected children. He grew my heart to help these kids–not to help them overcome past hurts with therapy or rehab–but to help them overcome through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is a huge mission field, even in Nebraska. To give you an idea, there are usually well over 6,000 calls a month to the abuse and neglect hotline…in Omaha. Not all of those are “substantiated” abuse/neglect cases, mind you, but it is alarming nonetheless. A foster child battles emotional, psychological, physical, and, above all, spiritual issues (and I would add those spiritual issues are often magnified by demonic influence). A foster child’s road is arduous, burdensome, and confusing.

But there is hope for the foster child (or “orphan” or “fatherless” as the Bible calls them).  The Jesus we see in Scriptures who reveals the perfect heavenly Father  is the only solution for these kids. Despite all the obstacles for one of these precious ones coming to Jesus, God overcomes. I know a foster boy at my church who was baptized this year.  He declared that he has a new life in Jesus: he’s been forgiven of the sin he’s committed against God and that he’s been cleansed of all the sin committed against him. He still has fits of rage and sadness. But God is in the process of changing this boy.

I believe Jesus wants to do this very thing in the lives of thousands of other foster kids in Nebraska, and around the country.

One small way for me to be a part of God’s work with foster kids is that this summer I will be the camp speaker at Teen Reach Adventure Camp for the boys camp.  This camp provides an alternative, Christ-centered setting for foster kids who might not thrive at other summer camps.

I will be speaking on the life of Joseph. What a privilege to preach the gospel through this story! Joseph was a man who was abused and abandoned by his brothers, was falsely convicted and sent to prison, practically saved the region when famine came, and eventually had mercy on his abusive brothers.

Ultimately, this story finds fulfillment in Jesus, the true and better Joseph. Jesus was abused and abandoned by a nation, his family, and closest friends; he was falsely accused, unjustly condemned, and crucified despite being sinless; he saved the world through his death on the cross; and he had mercy and grace on his worst enemies when he made them friends by purchasing their lives with his blood. He came on the ultimate rescue mission, sent by the Father, to bring unworthy orphans into his family by grace through faith. This is the good news, and oh what news it is for foster children who are in desperate need of a true family.

Would you begin to pray with me that God would soften hearts, break down barriers to resistance, and anoint me to preach the gospel so it is truly embraced. O Lord, would you change these young lives by your resurrecting power? Bring into existence the things that do not exist and raise dead hearts up to life. Preach your gospel, make Jesus plain, and draw these boys to yourself. 

Categories
Life

Terry Harrington spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit

A gripping story from Sports Illustrated about an Omaha man who unjustly spent 25 years in the Iowa State Pen for murder.  Here was an eye-opening paragraph:

Harrington recalls the prison experience with a string of “de” words: demoralizing, degrading, dehumanizing. He has stories of gang fights and riots and inmates throwing feces on guards. He says that by the end of his first week, two inmates had been killed, one of them “cut up and put in a laundry bag.” Still in possession of his faith, Harrington went to church services. He soon quit when he saw the chaplain, also a prison guard, clutching a rifle, threatening to blow an inmate’s head off. “This guy’s going to teach us about morals and forgiveness?” says Harrington. “No, thanks.”

The story is quite long, but it is well worth it. You will not be disappointed. It is a tale of an man seeking justice and needing an outside advocate to provide it for him. The parallels to the gospel fall drastically short; however, the story makes me thankful for Jesus, who was innocent and took our death sentence for us. It also makes me long for his return when he will make all things right and bring justice to all those who have been unjustly tried and treated.

Read the whole thing.

Categories
Life

How the Texas Longhorns Taught Me About Life

Sports can be awful for spiritual development.  But they can be beneficial (and fun!) if you enjoy them in perspective. They have the potential of being especially sanctifying for a young man who lives and dies with his team, for God uses sports to humble and teach. Anyone who has played golf knows this.

The video highlights below are of two different football games between Nebraska and Texas.  The first is from 1996. Sorry that there are actually no Nebraska highlights! Nebraska lost that game, and I about lost my religion. James Brown (no, not that James Brown) broke my heart on 4th and inches, with his infamous “roll left” for a 61-yard gain.

You see, I was spoiled.  Nebraska had lost a total of two games from the beginning of the ’93 season to that fateful December day in ’96.  Two.  I didn’t know what losing was when it came to being a Husker football fan.  This game against Texas rocked my 12 year-old world.  But thankfully, God used this game to teach me a valuable lesson. I distinctly remember my dad telling me something I will never forget. He looked me in my tear-stained eyes and said, “James, you can never put your hope in people. If you do, they will always let you down.”

The second video is from 1998. We (Nebraska) lost that one, too. Ricky Williams and Major Applewhite chewed up my Husker heart. Then they spit it out and stomped on it. I don’t remember how I reacted initially, but what I do remember was that it was Halloween. After the game, I dressed up, grabbed my plastic bag and headed out to divide and conquer the neighborhood. I came back with record-breaking candy poundage. I’d like to think my dad’s wise words were somewhere in the back of my head that night, helping me put life in perspective (because Halloween candy is so much more important than football).

This week Nebraska plays Texas again. I will enjoy watching the game, and I hope the Huskers come out on top. But if they don’t, my weekend won’t be ruined.  Sports are fun, but they aren’t life. Jesus is life, and when you finally realize that, things like 4th and inches won’t break your heart. Dad, thanks for teaching me that.

1996, Texas vs. Nebraska, Big 12 Championship Game, St. Louis, Missouri (click here to watch highlights)

1998, Texas vs. Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska

Categories
Life

Is this week the greatest week in the history of college sports/football?

Today was big. I mean, really big.  This week could possibly go down as one of the greatest days in college athletics. And if you, like me, are a Nebraska athletics fan, then you will probably agree.

Today, the University of Colorado Buffaloes announced they will be joining the Pacific 10 conference. This will get the ball rolling on the dismantling of the hapless Big 12.  Boulder, where CU is located, fits a lot better with L.A., Berkley, Seattle, and Eugene than it does with Lincoln, Ames, Manhattan, and Stillwater, mainly due to cultural leanings.  I wish the Buffs the best and I won’t miss Nebraska playing them after Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents is expected to announce that the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Cornhuskers will apply to become a member of the 114 year-old, prestigious Big Ten conference.  Nebraska — the so-called “linchpin” of the conference — will finish the dismantling of the Big 12 to the Little 10. Nebraska will not only get millions of dollars for athletics because of the Big Ten Network, but they will receive millions more for research and academics. All around, Nebraska is getting a once-in-a-lifetime deal. When the Big Ten comes a calling, you can’t say, “No, thanks, but we like being in the Big Tex…uh, I mean, Big 12.”

If you want to relive some old Big 8/12 moments, the Omaha World Herald has put together a montage.  Consider it like an illustrated eulogy for Nebraska.

Finally (and maybe the best), today it was announced by the NCAA that the University of Southern California will face sanctions because of improper benefits given to athletes Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. They will be forced to forgo two postseason bowl appearances, and might even have to forfeit their 2004-2005 National Championship. More answers will come soon. Former USC coach Pete Carroll made this YouTube video.  He said he was never aware of anything illegal going on while he was at USC: