Sunday was a great day.
In six worship services at Johnson Ferry I was privileged to be a part of an amazing presentation of the truth found in James 1:27. That verse says that "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Obviously, the focus of the day was on God's heartbeat for widows and orphans.
There was great worship. There were several excellent testimonies. There was a great video that showed quick snapshots of just a handful of the miracle adoption stories being lived out by members of Johnson Ferry. And there was the message.
My pastor, Bryant Wright, hit the ball out of the ballpark. If you compliment him on it, he will give all the glory to God. And while some pastors put on false humility and say things like that, Bryant lives it every day. He is a man submitted to the Holy Spirit's leadership in his life and ministry. Moments like Sunday morning remind me why God has called him to serve as president of the S.B.C. and why I am honored to serve God alongside him. (I'm not sure if my pastor can actually beat up your pastor, but you get the idea.)
Bryant preached via video from Open Baptist Church in Botswana, Africa, a church we have partnered with in many ministries. While I was concerned about how he could pull off one sermon to two radically different cultures, I realized this morning that all my fears were unfounded. He simply spoke the Truth from God's Word. The Holy Spirit took over from there. And I am praying that the Spirit continues to move in people's lives on this subject.
During his message (which I know well since I heard it three times) I was reminded that the command to "visit" orphans implies that we are to look after them; to see after their well-being. This may mean adoption, foster care, or simply providing a home for someone who is fatherless.
I was reminded that adoption is the perfect (and quite Biblical) picture of God's love for us. Just as we have received the blessing of adoption into God's family, we are called to extend God's love to the marginalized in our world.
I was also reminded of the Truth about adoption I encountered three and a half years ago when we began to pray through our adoption of Maddie Kate: that God has a compassionate heart for the fatherless. And if God cares about them, then I should care about them. That is simply a basic implication of my Christian faith. And if my heart isn't moved by the plight of the fatherless, then there is something wrong with my faith.
So how about you? What is your personal response to the Truth found in James 1:27? What are you doing to live out "pure and undefiled religion?" As Diane Kopf shared in her testimony on Sunday, if God is speaking to you on this subject, you shouldn't ignore Him.
In the coming weeks, we will be offering several different opportunities to find out more information about ministering to orphans. Among those include...
*Safe Families for Children. Informational Meeting on Wednesday, October 20. This is a compassion-based program which offers volunteer families an opportunity to reach out by temporarily caring for children whose parents are facing challenges/in a state of crisis. Process includes an application, on line trainings, and home visit from a Safe Families case worker. This program provides services to biological and adoptive parents who voluntarily seek assistance for temporary care from Bethany while resolving their crisis situation/challenges. Children who are placed in volunteer family homes are NOT in state custody.
*Foster Care Training. We have the opportunity to have the complete IMPACT study (required foster care training) at Johnson Ferry. If you are interested in this, please call my office at 770-795-4254.
*Adoption Discovery Class for families who are considering or have questions about adoption. This 8-week class will start on Sunday October 31 and will meet at 9:50 a.m. Advance registration is required. Contact my office for this one, as well.
Whatever you do, just don't do nothing. Step up and respond in some way to God's call to care for the fatherless and the widow. This is one obvious way that we can change our world for the better, one person at a time.