Thoroughly Equipped: Your God will be My God

Today’s reading includes Ruth 2:1-4:22, John 4:43-54, Psalm 105:16-36, Proverbs 14:26-27.

Today, we continue the story of Naomi and Ruth.  And I am going to go ahead and spoil the ending.  In the end, Ruth had the great privilege of being in the lineage of Jesus. As you know, Ruth was a daughter-in-law of Naomi, who adopted Ruth as her own when both of her sons and her husband died.  Did you know that in biblical times under Jewish law, if you adopted a child, you could never disown them, unlike a biological child?  Naomi gave Ruth the chance to walk away from the family and stay with her own foreign family, but Ruth chose to go with Naomi.  She is known for her loyalty in action and in words.  She boldly said, “I will go where you go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God.”  This foreign, adopted daughter became the wife of Boaz and the great, great grandmother of King David, all in the family line of the Savior of the world.  What a precious story of redemption.  Naomi and Ruth’s very survival depended on finding a kinsman-redeemer–a relative who would allow Ruth to marry into the family, so that their heritage remained intact.  A kinsman-redeemer would protect the widows, provide for them, and give them back their family name.  A kinsman-redeemer would allow them to adhere to God’s covenantal instruction, namely “Be fruitful and multiply.”  A kinsman-redeemer would help make everything right and whole again, and bring comfort, healing, and hope.  It is interesting to note that Naomi and Ruth found their kinsman-redeemer in Bethlehem, where centuries later the Redeemer of the world would be born.  And how beautiful that God wove within the story and within the sacred lineage an adopted foreigner as a key player.

My heart is very moved by adoption stories, as it is a vital part of my own story.  We adopted a precious baby girl–and then an adorable son–from China.  We call our daughter Sally. She was born with a medical condition–a meningocele, which is a spinal cord issue.  Thankfully, a surgery after we brought her home has taken care of her issues.

When I saw the picture of this beautiful baby girl, the file simply said she had a tumor on the back of her neck.  I showed the picture to my husband, Mont, and jokingly said, “Well, honey, you ARE a head and neck surgeon.”  He told me to just send an email to them and ask for more information about her and her condition.  Within a couple of hours I had gotten a response back.  They sent all of her records and said that if we were serious about this, we should have one form back to them by late afternoon because they were going to match her with parents THAT DAY. If you know anything about adoption, you know that this does not happen.  What usually takes miles of paperwork and months or years of waiting, took us 12 hours and a couple of emails. Of course, then we had to go through all the normal miles of paperwork and the “hurry up and wait” process of adoption.  But finally, the day came and we were able to bring home our beautiful little girl.  Sally is now 7 and is happy and healthy and such a great joy to all of us.  Sally sat with me as I prepared this lesson.  She said she wanted to teach, too.  I ask her what she would say.  This is word for word what she wanted say:

“Hi, my name is Sally Berry.  And we are the Berry’s.  And we are all about Jesus, and we obey Jesus.  And I want to tell you this:  Jesus is the most important thing and He takes care of us.  And here is my mom and she is a Berry, too, and I really love my whole family.”

Recently, Sally had to dress up as a biblical character for a school program. Sally brought home her assignment and I discovered that she had chosen to be Ruth.  This fact was supposed to remain a secret to the rest of the class.  We prepared a costume and a riddle, so the other children could guess her character.   This was her riddle:

I came from a foreign land.

I have a new family.

I told my new family, “I will go where you go, your people will be my people,                               your God will be my God.”

Who am I?

As I watched her ask this riddle in front of the class, my eyes filled with tears.  Yes, my people are her people, and more importantly, even at age 7 she has already chosen my God to be her God.  I praise him each day for this indescribable gift!  Oh, and by the way, my Sally’s full name is Sara Ruth Berry.

I believe the heart of God adores orphans.  (James 1:27) He adores adoption, for he said that He will adopt us into his family, and we can call him Abba Father.  (Romans 8:15) The more accurate translation of the word Abba is Daddy.  We can call the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords–Daddy!

I am thankful for the heart of God.  Thankful that He wanted to include a foreign, adopted daughter to be apart of bringing the greatest Redeemer to a dying world.

Walking and Leaping and Praising God

Before we went to China to get my sweet Charlie, I felt the Lord whispering to me.  I kept thinking of the story of the crippled man who was healed through the Name of Jesus Christ.  We find that he immediately went “walking and leaping and praising God.”  The whispers that I heard about my Charlie was this:  “Walking and leaping and praising God—that is Charlie’s story.”  I didn’t know what that meant or what that would look like specifically.  We knew that he could not walk due to a birth defect.  Would God heal him?  Would he walk physically?  Or would he simply “walk with God”, as it was said of Noah?  You probably know by now that God did miraculously heal him.  He walks (and runs!) and leaps!  We are so thankful.  But what about the praising part?  I want to tell you about my little Charlie and his heart for praising God.

The first time we took him to church we kept him in the service with us.  We were late (as usual) and the worship music had already begun.  We found seats and began to sing along.  Though our church is contemporary, there was no one around us raising their hands in praise, nor was any one in my family—except Charlie.  He immediately raised his right hand high in the air and kept it raised high through the song.  And the next song. And the next.  Do I need to remind you that he came from China?  He had never heard worship music, he had never been to church, he had only recently even heard of Jesus, after we had adopted him.  God has placed in his heart a spirit of praise.  And it inspires me to praise.

When we had been home for a few months, Charlie had learned a few songs which he asked for over and over throughout the day.  Which ones did he want?  Worship songs.  His favorite was 10,000 Reasons.  And though his English was still lacking, he could loudly sing along:

Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name

Now, I admit that his taste in music has expanded and he loves a good country tune (which is a bit fun to watch—cute Asian boy singing a country song!)  But if I play a worship song, he will stop what he is doing and come sit quietly beside me.  God has placed in his heart a spirit of worship. And it inspires me to worship.

A few months ago, Sally (age 5 and also adopted from China), Charlie (age 3), and I were all sitting on the floor working on a craft project.  As we worked we listened to music.  When In Christ Alone began, I stopped what I was doing and began to sing along, eyes closed, hands raised.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

It was a holy moment.  I felt Charlie crawl in my lap and when I looked down, he was crying.  I stopped singing to ask, “Charlie, what’s wrong?”  He just leaned his head against me and wiped his tears.  Sally, the older and wiser big sis, immediately said, “Don’t worry, Mom.  It’s just happy tears.”  God has placed in his heart a spirit of understanding.  He may not understand it all, but he understands enough to know that God is good and we should be moved by that.  Charlie inspires me to remember and be moved.

So, do I still think that “walking, leaping, and praising God” is his story?  Absolutely.  And I am beyond grateful.

Abundant Life–Gifts of the Good Shepherd, Day 28

I believe everyone longs to know their calling. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was such a phenomenal and inspiring read and was embraced by millions of people. Why? Because deep down we all want to believe that we were born for a reason.

That we will leave this earth having made a difference.

That we will leave a mark on others, which will cause them to remember us.

We long for meaning in our lives and many times we waste a lot of time, money, energy, and relationships trying to find that meaning.

As Christians, we refer to this as the Call of God.

Sounds really formal doesn’t it? But it’s not really.

Think about your mother’s voice calling you in to dinner when you were a child.

Or a call from a dear friend with whom you haven’t spoken in a while.

Or what about the call of your child in the middle of the night, wanting to just be reassured that you are still close by.

These calls are familiar and dear to us, as should be the call of God to our souls.

Sometimes the call of God is a reproof—a call to attention. When Adam and Eve ate the apple, God called to them saying, “Where are you?” God, of course, knew where they were, but they needed to be aware of where they had ended up.

The Lord Himself made clothes for them to cover their shame. This was foreshadowing of the ultimate covering that would come … the covering of the Blood of Jesus. It is because of that covering we can be called and used by God.

Do you realize that no matter what ordinary wrappings you have, God sees you as a chosen one?

You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—

fruit that will last.

John 15:16

 He chose you for a special appointment, just as he chose Moses for his special appointment.

Will you accept the appointment?

Will you choose your “chosen-ness”?

And then God says, “Go…Go and bear fruit”. Go bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

And only with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, will it be healthy fruit that will last. Yes, people can do good things—things that help our society. Humanitarian and social efforts can produce good changes. But true, lasting fruit can only be produced when someone starts to realize and act like a chosen one who has accepted an appointment. With that first step, with that surrender of our own will and feeble efforts, God is pleased. And when God is pleased, great things begin to happen! We step aside, and He steps in. He uses our ordinary status, and brings about His extraordinary work.

What is your calling from God at this particular time in your life? Ask Him. He will gladly show you! And then, you will experience a fuller measure of His abundant life. Praying for you today!


Abundant Life–Gifts of the Good Shepherd, Day 26

Abundant life yields rescue and redemption. We receive freedom in our own rescue and then we receive joy in being used of God in the rescue of others. Sometimes I hesitate to write about our adoptions. I never want anyone to think we have done something great. We haven’t. God has taken our lives and given us such abundant blessing through these adopted children, as well as our adored birth children. I often hesitate talking about our calling of adoption, because I don’t really like to tell others what to do. I don’t like the responsibility of encouraging others to step out in faith, though I know in my own experience this is the epitome of abundant living.

However, this whole idea of caring for orphans is not our idea—it is God’s. We are not here to put a guilt trip on anyone. But listen what the scripture teaches:

James 1:27– Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Helping orphans does not necessarily mean adoption. But we must all do something. Why? Because we were once orphans, too.

Romans 8:14-16– For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery [a]leading to fear again, but you have received [b]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…”

One of the things adoption has taught me is that it is a reflective representation of God’s love.  When you are in the midst of an adoption, especially a foreign  adoption, you love a child who has no idea who you are.  You would gladly sacrifice time, money, and invasion of your life in order to know this child.

That is a picture to me of what God has done for us. He knew me way before I ever knew Him. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, so that now I can be a part of His greater family. And while His family is so much greater than my earthly family, our family is complete because of what He has done in us and through us.

So my friends, I urge you to ask the Lord how He wants you to step out in faith. Whatever that looks like, just do it. And you will find a deeper measure of abundant life. Praying for you today.


Abundant Life–Gifts of the Good Shepherd, Day 25

Abundant life yields rescue and redemption. We receive freedom in our own rescue and then we receive joy in being used of God in the rescue of others. Our adopted children, Sally and Charlie, have had miraculously smooth transitions. And we are very thankful for that. But in some ways it took a while for them to understand that they are not orphans anymore. In some ways they still acted like orphans even after they had been adopted into our family.

Sally would hide food in the roof of her mouth for hours. We had to teach her that it was okay to let that last bite to go on down, there was more where that came from. We would not let her go hungry. She was no longer an orphan.

Charlie still has to be reassured that we are not leaving him. And when we do have to leave for a short amount of time, we have to assure him that we will be back soon. Whenever we walk back in the house, he comes running shouting, “You’re home!” as if it is a great surprise to him. Lately, though, he has started something new, which I believe shows progress. If he goes in the car with one of us, when he returns he runs in the house shouting, “I’m home!” He is learning that he is no longer an orphan.

Sometimes, even long after we are adopted into the family of God, we still act like orphans. We still are not confident that God will supply all of our needs. We still are worried that He will leave us stranded and forsake us. But what we need to know is the truth found in the Bible. God loves us as a Father loves his children.

Philippians 4:19– And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6– Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

My friends, are you still acting like orphans? If you are a Christian, you are no longer an orphan; you are a beloved child of the King of Kings. He adores you, He rejoices over you with singing, He will meet your every need out of His abundant riches. Indeed, He will give you abundant life. Trust Him today. I am praying for you!