“I am a daughter!”

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Several weeks ago, our 3 year old came home from school with a craft in hand. It is not at all unusual for her to come home with a craft. This day, however, it hit my wife and I a little more personally. She walked in the door that day and her and mommy were chatty with each other as usual. She approached me with a piece of paper scribbled all over with crayon with the words “I am a daughter!”

This may not seem significant to many but allow me to give you some background… For the first several months of her life, our girl went through more than most of us face in an entire lifetime. She was born much earlier than she was supposed to and was born with several physical setbacks. After surgeries and therapies early in her life that remain today and parents who were unable to care for her, she wound up in foster care. At this point, she has spent more years of her life without official “permanence” in a home than she has having a permanent place to officially call home.

I may be a little biased, but I often tell people that our little girl is one of the most humble, loving and accepting girls we have ever met. She has a contagious energy but at the same time has a spirit about her that is observant and graceful. She has been through so much and is daily in an environment where children of all walks of life are represented.

So, as the day slowly approaches that we step into a court room and are legally given the title of mommy and daddy to our little girl and her baby brother, we are especially aware of God’s grace in our lives. The words “I am a daughter” hit us deep in several ways.

Over and over in scripture, the position we see the people of God in prior to salvation is that of an orphan. We are wandering and fatherless. Spiritually, we are dead. We are removed from any sort of fellowship and community that benefits us in a spiritual way. Paul tells us that once we were far off but that now because of Jesus, we are His children.

In the same breath, Jesus in the book of John diagnoses us as orphans and cures us of fatherlessness. John 14:18 says: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

It is good news when a child is welcomed into a family. A family becomes aware of a need, then learns of a specific child and does all they can to prepare themselves and their home to welcome this child. What could be better than that? Let me tell you.

What is better than that is that long before we even knew we were lost… even before it ever sank in to us that we were spiritual orphans, God knew. Not only did He know, but He accomplished adoption for us, presented us with a grace so wonderful, and welcomed us in. Ephesians says this: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”(1:3-4 ESV)

We were wandering fatherless. With less eternal and earthly hope than those who find themselves removed from a home and Christ rescued us.

As overwhelming and exciting as it was for me to say “yes baby, you are a daughter indeed”, it cannot compare to the joy we take in being called the sons and daughters of the one true God.

Adoption is a beautiful picture and opportunity to see the Gospel played out while we live on this earth.

 

A Thought on Adoption: Friend of God

It has been three weeks since our kids moved into our home. I could not sufficiently explain the joy and fun that has filled our hearts and home over the last few weeks but joyful and fun it has been.

I remember hearing from countless people on the subject of the priority you lose upon welcoming children into your home. Whether through biological means or adoption, people love babies. You are no longer of any importance once grand-babies enter the scene. And for me, that’s fine! This is one of those “good problem” situations. I rejoice in that.

For instance: I show up at my wife’s school the day after they throw a shower for us and everyone meets the kids. Where I used to be welcomed with compliments of how sweet of a husband I was to make the drive to see her, I am now welcomed with an immediate “where’s the babies?!”

More seriously, the way that these two children have been welcomed and treated with love has got me thinking about my own adoption into the family of God.

For over a year, up to the last few weeks, these children were technically labelled as “homeless.” Now, they spent a great and rich amount of time in the home of a wonderful family who fostered them and gave such Christ-reflecting love and care to them. But by definition and variables of the situation, they were still floating around without a place to legally call home. They even possessed the name of a mom and dad who chose worldly pleasures over the well-being of their children. Putting it that way, it seems like an overall sad and heartbreaking situation.

And then something happened. Not only did they receive the love and welcoming embrace of me and my wife, but they have received the embrace of being part of a family. Not just a “mommy & daddy” family but a community of people close to us, acting as a family, who love them deeply. A family that would already do anything for them. A family that will remain and a family that will bear burdens, wipe tears, and ultimately one to belong to forever.

I have thought a lot about the way these two children have been welcomed into a family. I have thought about the reality of their hopeless condition prior to the intervention of, first, the foster family and now us and the multitude of people caring for them.

I have always been blown away by what Christ says in John 15:
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

We were orphans hopeless and alone. And then came the intervening, pre-determined, pre-planned miracle of our own adoption into the family of God. Just as our two kids now have this beautiful network of people that we have connected them with, we have been connected to the family of God through the gracious intervention of a perfect savior.

There are many rich theological truths to be drawn from John 15 yet the thought that overwhelms me and stops me in my tracks is that we are no longer referred to as servants, but as friends.

The thought has ran over and over in my head that, very soon, no longer will these children be labelled as something by the state but as bearers of my name. Officially, legally, and lovingly they will be Brewers. And not only will they be Brewers, they will fully enjoy every privilege that comes with being a Brewer.

As children of God and believers in the risen Christ, we partake in all that entails. We sleep with peace, and we live with purpose and joy. Ultimately and most excitingly, we are children of God and are members of the largest and most meaningful network of family and friends that one could ever enjoy. Through faith granted to us, we are now and forever connected with Christ.

This is just one of the many aspects of adoption that theologically relate to our relationship with God. I look forward to sharing more of those with you!

If you have questions about adoption or what it takes to become a home open for fostering, please contact me at ndbrewer@me.com.

Our Adoption Journey.. And more!

Over the last 14 months, I have become overwhelmingly aware of the sovereignty of God.. His sovereignty in my joy and His sovereignty in my pain. Because of what I believe about God, His sovereignty in my joy and pain are simultaneous and ultimately meant to lead to the fullest joy and happiness in Him. I am confident in this. I am confident in this because after what God has allowed us to face I have to be. I have to be for the simple reason that if I didn’t believe He was working all things out to draw me more into Himself and make me more like Christ, I would believe He was disgusted with me with all that He has allowed us to go through. 

That all being said, I’d like to share with you what life has looked like since March of 2013. 

Lynzie and I had been trying for over a year to start a family. We longed for that. We were young and somewhat newly married but it was a great desire for us. Several have been there and know the pain of living month to month waiting on that confirmation only to be disappointed. Out of kindness, we had several people tell us we should not be worried and that our visits to the doctor were premature and we should just wait. Well come to find out, there were issues there that the doctors, through God’s grace, were able to pinpoint for us. 

In March of 2013, we received a phone call from a friend of ours who is a lawyer in Ft. Smith. She had received word that a 21 year old girl was expecting a child she did not want to keep. Three months, a closet full of baby boy clothes and a newly painted blue room later, we were childless and heartbroken. After traveling the three hours to pick our little boy up, the mother decided to keep him and send us back home without a child in-tow. 

About two months later, we received a call from another friend that informed us of another opportunity to adopt. In May, we met with a grandmother who had custody of her drug abusing son’s baby girl. We built a relationship with this lady and her grand-baby over the entire Summer only to get to August and find out she had chosen another family to adopt her baby. Again, this left us empty and broken-hearted. 

It was September when we re-visited the doctor who told us there may be some issues worth looking into through an infertility specialist. We received our appointment and began meeting with the infertility specialist monthly. He prescribed a particular medication for us to try out and January rolled around and there was no baby. 

This idea of adoption has never been a “plan B” for Lynzie and I. We knew that it was something we longed for and wanted to see happen for our family. What wasn’t quite on our radar was becoming a foster home. 

One night in November, Lynzie and I came to a point that we mutually felt God was preparing our hearts for fostering. This was a difficult step for us. We wanted a family so badly and knew what the possibilities were of opening our homes and hearts up to a baby that might not stick around long. He gave us the peace and mercy to sign ourselves up for an intense, two weekend, 30+ hour training.

Through this training and some other avenues of communication, we met an incredible family. This family had a child that they had fostered for nearly 2 years and gave more love to than I could have ever imagined a foster family could give. This family would soon be saying goodbye to this child and we became interested. We looked into the possibility of adopting and finding out more information. 

Three weeks later, I came home with Lynzie sitting at the kitchen table in tears. I knew something was different that day and wasn’t sure how to feel walking into our house. Sitting on the counter was a little white wand with two pink lines. 

Uhhh..

Wut?

Ya. So here we were; becoming certified to become foster parents, looking forward to hearing more about the possibility of the adoption.. and pregnant. 

But that is most certainly not all. One week after we found out about being pregnant, we received news that the child’s birth mother gave birth to another child. We didn’t really think a whole lot about it until the day came that DHS made a decision that whichever home the first went to, the second would as well. Our jaws dropped. Honestly, we were scared at first. Even more honestly, we said no. 

Until God absolutely brought us to our knees. 

We couldn’t walk away. We couldn’t deny that in January(and for all of eternity leading up to), when we said “yes” to all of this, He was shaping our hearts and our home. We couldn’t deny that he knew that for the Brewers in 2014, He wanted to overwhelm us with 3 kids. Amidst the myriads of people who give us crazy looks and thoughts, we followed Christ into this journey.

People literally have said to us that we should just enjoy our time together. I could go on a trail with that but I like to try to be level headed about the crazy things people say and do. I understand that we are not all in the same place. But I also know that carrying my cross may mean I get a few less hours of sleep a night to take care of the two souls God has now entrusted us with.. who previously had no home yet who to Him are image bearers. It was two weeks ago tomorrow that these children moved in with us and if all goes right, they will officially become part of the Brewer family by the end of 2014. 

Over the last year, I have learned something invaluable. It at times has been a heart-wrenching, temper tantrum throwing lesson. But this runs through my mind over and over and I wish I knew who to cite: “God will not protect us from anything that will make us more like Christ.” How true. How true that has become for me. How true that has become for my household. Whether that comes in the form of constant disappointment or overwhelming joy!

God is good in our heartbreak and in our rejoicing. God actually intends for us to see these two things with the same goal in mind: to make us more like Jesus. 

How do we respond to questions that just don’t matter?

When you’re around for 24 years, you learn some stuff… Don’t stick that metal think in the socket that looks like a happy face. Don’t touch a hot stove. Don’t associate with the wrong people. The bank might loan more than you can truly afford to pay back. Here’s a big one: I don’t know everything. I have come to learn this very well on my own. I have also come to learn it because anyone over a certain age likes to remind anyone under that certain age how naive they are. If I’m honest, being reminded of that has proved itself very helpful to me many times over the years. I am grateful for those who lovingly remind me that I am a fool in need of grace. Many people, however, aren’t so graceful and often the only thing revealed about them is their insecurity.

But what happens when an individual(despite age) has legitimate questions and needs someone older or wiser to invest energy in helping that person sort through things?

This post is meant to draw attention to two men who showed a great love by answering some difficult questions: Luke and John.

In the first section of the Gospel of Luke, he writes this in regards to a questioning audience: “..it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

The book of 1 John(written by John.. cool, huh?) comes to an end by saying this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.”

These men were faced with difficult questions. A response wasn’t fully necessary, much less an entire book! But these men walked with Christ. They knew Him. They were known by Him. More than likely, John was well over the age of 90 when he penned his gospel. Aren’t you glad John didn’t pull the age card with his younger readers?

Whether we run across someone looking for dialogue about even the most controversial topics of scripture or someone looking for answers after they tragically lose their child, we are called to respond in love. It’s popular to have the mindset of let’s just love ‘em! But, if we aren’t pointing people towards the life-giving Gospel of Jesus, are we loving? A hot meal, a cool drink, a nice gesture is kind and could do such good for the soul.. but our deepest need in our darkest hour is the Good news that Jesus has conquered death and offered us life.

Even in my search for all the answers to the worlds problems, I realize that sometimes the best answer truly is “I don’t know.” But sometimes answers aren’t too far out of reach. We end up hiding behind cliches: “we just will have to figure that out when we get to heaven” or “because He’s God!” I can rejoice in the answer “because He’s God”. There are many though who have no understanding of God’s sovereignty or goodness or mercy in our lives. That sort of answer may do more harm than good when it only comes as an excuse for our lack of knowledge or interest in God’s Word.

May we devote ourselves to studying God’s Word so that we might be prepared to serve people with what they need most, the truth of a Savior. Found in his Word. For his glory. Not our own.

A Biblical Model for “Student Ministry”

If you have been around student ministry long enough, you have heard negative remarks towards a ministry that focuses on teenagers.  Yes, I am aware of the rocking 80’s and 90’s model where the focus fell on how many we could bring in, squirt with paint, and then send home with very little focus on the Gospel and seeing it really take root in their lives. Many student ministries are blamed(and guilty) of not doing all they can to see families involved in the lives of their kids and a youth group taking the place of discipleship which should be going on in the home.  There are some also guilty of offering no opportunities of fun and fellowship among the students and their families which leads to a greater understanding of Biblical community and Worship of God through many aspects of life.

All of these are real issues.  I have been guilty of all of the above. I have never been brave enough to throw paint inside the church buildin’, but I have been guilty of placing my focus on areas that really aren’t that important when my focus could be on more of the important things.

I have reminded my students that they are expected to learn, study and apply many difficult things in school and that when they come to church and as they live their lives through studying God’s Word on their own, they should expect nothing less than that: to be challenged.  Remember that being challenged is not all about theological jargon or deep Biblical study. Biblical truths are taught and new words are introduced to our 9-12th graders, but if I want to give you a real peek inside what we do, we challenge our students in the areas of accountability, confession and repentance.  To many of our students who have grown up in environments that encourage them to make everything look good on the outside and not be truly known, this concept of confessing sin and accountability is brand new… but it’s the Gospel.  It’s good news that I don’t have to have everything put together to worship Christ. It’s good news that because of what Christ did on the cross, my identity isn’t found or discovered in how I perform or behave.  It has been a year-long message for us: that freedom is found when we are confident in Him and the way we do that is finding someone close to us to share the dark areas of our life. It’s easy for us to know what the word says, but the challenge is applying it.

Here is what is written about Jesus as a teenager, following his time in the temple: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”(Luke 2:52 ESV)

This is not a verse created for youth pastors. It’s not one that makes a case for youth groups but so much more importantly is a verse that is applicable to every area and age of our life.  We are to constantly be growing in Christ and honoring Him with our actions so that they may point to Him and bring Him Glory.  The solution is not to find a better plan for student ministry, but to find a Biblical model for students’ spiritual development.

We do remind parents of our secondary role in the lives of their students, while their’s should be primary in discipleship.  But frankly, there are many homes that either don’t understand this, or simply don’t have the resources for it.

I hope you have fun with your students.  I hope you are crazy funny and can relate with your students well.  I hope you take every opportunity to connect with students on their turf.  I pray you will model God’s command of having people in your life to confess in to so that your students will rid themselves of one of the greatest lies society has to offer in that our worth is wrapped in what others think of us.  I am thankful for the youth group I grew up in and I believe God sovereignly used it to impact my life in many ways, including fostering the desire to enter the ministry. Provide your students with opportunities to grow, both in wisdom and stature.  Wisdom: in the study of God’s Word and teaching them to apply their lives to what it says; learning from mistakes; finding rest in Him and confessing sin one to another.  Stature: giving them opportunities to serve one another, the community, their families; helping them build a positive reputation and lifestyle and confessing sin one to another.

May we be focused on the right things.

Emptiness found in Social Media. (wookin pa nub)

Today, students are more connected to the world than they have ever been.  More information, access and communication is available at their fingertips than anywhere else.  As a student pastor, this works out well in publicizing information that is important for the students I spend my days with.  That all being said, I have also discovered an aspect of loneliness, boredom and insecurity in many of the students I interact with.

I am astonished when I hear stories of the gossip and vulgarity that streams through the cultures most utilized social media outlets…. Even more astonished when it is 8th and 9th grade students telling me these stories.  A year ago when I accepted the opportunity to serve in the church where I now minister to high school students, I thought “I got this… I’m just a few years older than these students.  If there’s anyone who could relate to them, it’s me!”  A year later, my response to these thoughts isn’t the typical cliche “boy was I wrong”…. it’s more of a humbling, heart-breaking realization of what it is that these students(as well as those who serve them) are truly in need of and our sinful default to try out all the other things but that one thing- Jesus.

Our deepest longing as individuals is to feel connected.  We connect through social media avenues and we connect with others and these things all make us feel a little bit better about who we are.  I find it interesting that amidst all of the world religions and groups, there are two things they share in common: community and worship. After trying everything there was to try and having all the resources needed to succeed, the writer of Ecclesiastes assures us that there is nothing of eternal value found in the things we attempt to fill our lives with.  Another spectacular truth he offers is that since we are all created by the Creator of all, that Creator has set within every human a sense of something more.  He has placed the concept of eternity into every persons wiring.  In Lehman’s terms, we all want more!  We all worship something.  We all spend our energy and effort chasing after something.  Before the fall, our hearts chased after God.  This is the thing that shifted after the fall, because of sin, we now chase after the wrong things.  Same instincts, different objects.

The loneliness students experience today among all of the blaring voices in their life is an evidence that they want more!  The loneliness that the most prominent and wealthy men and women are experiencing is a result of wanting more.

I work in a city where the economic spectrum is wide.  In my youth group, I have students who live with no wishes… their parents wealth beats them to the wishes they would have if they had nothing.  On the other side, I have students who live with very little.  I have found a richness of joy in those who live with not very much.  I am not saying that all of the wealthy students are worthless…. we have some incredibly faithful students who live with more than plenty.  What I am saying is that there is a confidence, security and joy found in those who trust Jesus with it all: in the excess and in the scarcity.

As children of God and student pastors, our lives serve a single purpose to glorify God in all we do.  Whether that is in the fellowship we have with students on their turf throughout the week or whether that is in our preaching, we owe them one thing: a genuine love and concern for them through proclaiming the transforming work the Gospel has done in our lives.  Not every moment with our students is one of exposition of Romans but every moment with them is an expounding on the joy we have found in Christ.

How will we be good stewards of this truth in the lives of our students?

What if we are the most consistent and relationally effective parts of their week?