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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
Theology

Thunderstorms, Intense Heat, and Frigid Winter Nights

When I arrived in Omaha a few weeks back, the humidity was so high that it was literally hard for me to breathe.  I was coming out of a climate in South Africa that, in winter, is very, very dry.  Those first few days in Omaha were filled with extremely high temperatures, even reach a heat index of 110F a few days.

After a day of being home, Carly and I went to Aurora, Nebraska, about two hours west of Omaha, to visit her parents.  A day before we left, there was a massive tornado in Aurora that left a country house to shreds and ripped off some paneling from a building across the street.  During the first night in Aurora, lightning, loud claps of thunder, and heavy rain rolled through.

As I thought about these summer phenomenons, I couldn’t help but think about the polar opposite effects of winter: unbearable cold, numbing winds, ice showers, blizzards, early darkness and the like.

The weather — be it intense heat, frigid cold, white-hot lightning, or freezing snowstorms — is a whisper of God’s power.  We might be tempted to think there is nothing more frightening than a powerful tornado raging toward a farming community or a blizzard that is just waiting to strike a metropolitan area.

But there is something more frightening.  Imagine the intense heat of God’s judgment for those who do not believe in his Son Jesus.  Imagine the sound of God’s voice thundering in the heavens over an unrepentant sinner.  Imagine the lonely, frozen darkness he will experience in his heart for all eternity.

The good news is that there is hope for everyone who’s still alive.  The good news is that we do not have to be judged because Jesus, on the cross, became a curse for us, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  The invitation is for all those who are near and far off.  It is free for the taking, but if it is rejected, the worst summer and winter that could be imagined will shudder in comparison.

Categories
Life

Does God Love a Non-Christian’s Justice?

This question came from a blog of a pastor friend of mine.  He asked if we agreed or disagreed with this statement from an unnamed author:

Everyone who struggles for justice, everyone who makes just claims in unjust surroundings, is working for God’s reign, even though not a Christian.

Here was my short response:

Yes and no.

No because anything that is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23) and without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Anything not done for the glory of God is sin and therefore even Christians can do something that is “just” and have it be sinful because it was done with a stained motive or intention

Yes because Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.” So anything that is just is God’s creation. Certainly there are things non-Christians do that the Bible affirms are good and because justice and honesty and integrity are God’s design, it delights God. This is what the doctrine of common grace is all about. (Biblical example: Cyrus who didn’t know God (Isa. 45), but delivered God’s people from captivity.)

Categories
Life

Even After Sexual Sin, There is Hope

My good friend Marty Everding is going to be speaking at a local Nebraska men’s conference called the Ironman Conference. He’ll be speaking on pursuing Christ as in pursuing sexual purity.  In a recent update email on his preparations, he wrote:

I was reminded of something last night through The Pilgrim’s Progress in chapter four where Apollyon is hammering Christian, and the poor guy loses his sword; as he is about to get skewered he reaches once more for his sword, grips it and cuts Apollyon deeply.  Christian cries out, “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise” (Micah 7:8).

I am struck with the thought that for many men who fall, there is often little inclination to get back up. The attendant feelings of worthlessness and guilt often obscure the path out of the woods, and while confession, repentance and contrition might be embraced at some level, there is often a general malignancy that stays across a guy’s chest convincing him to stay down. It is almost as though he believes he is not forgiven and there are no brighter days ahead of him.

Truly sexual sin — in an eternal sense — is no different than any other.  There is redemption, freedom, and no condemnation in Christ (Rom. 6:14; 8:1; Col. 1:13-14; 2:13-14).

Also, if you are going to be in the Omaha/Lincoln area on April 18, I encourage you to consider attending the Freedom Nebraska men’s conference.  Tom Osborne and Nebraska running back Roy Helu will be among the speakers.