Why We Are (Still) Adopting

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalms 127:3–5 ESV)

Ashleigh and I haven’t always wanted a large family. Early in our marriage she took birth control, and we figured we’d probably have two kids, three at most. We enjoyed our independence. Waking up when we wanted. Going where we wanted, whenever we wanted, for however long we wanted. We knew children were a blessing from God, and we would have a few…eventually. And so, after 5 years of marriage, along came JP.

JP.PNGjp.JPG
10848046_748961458523948_49359160819740871_n
Talk about change! In case you’re wondering, having a newborn is not easy…I remember many nights when Ash and I were beside ourselves. What do we do with this little person disrupting our sleep and schedules! I mean seriously, do you really need to eat every two hours?? And is it really necessary to scream if we we don’t get there fast enough? But all of these frustrations were outweighed by one simple fact: we both loved this little boy more than we could have ever imagined.

It wasn’t long before Ash and I began to try for another baby, but it didn’t happen. After a year, we decided to see what was wrong. We made an appointment with a fertility specialist and found that, thought it was still possible to have children, it was highly unlikely. Most likely this was do to the strong medications I was on at the time. It was at this time that we decided to move forward with something we had talked about doing at some point in our lives: adoption.

And so we did. We did the research, filled out the paperwork, picked Haiti as our adoptive country, and completed our home study. We have found that adoption is an expensive, time consuming, and difficult process. Yet the more we got into the process, the more we fell in love with the child God would give us. We do not yet know this little child, but God does.

Then something happened. Soon after we finished submitting our home study, Ashleigh comes home from work with an unexpected announcement. “I’m pregnant!”… ”wait, what..?! I wasn’t sure if I was entirely awake…perhaps I was dreaming. But I wasn’t. We are pregnant…and we are thrilled and thankful to God!

Upon sharing this news with others, certain appropriate questions began to arise. What about Matt’s health? Are you sure you can handle three kids? What does this mean for your adoption? These are important questions, and I’d like to address them.

I’ll start with the last one: what does this mean for your adoption? It only changes our adoption in that it makes the process that much more sweet! Instead of adding one to our little family, the Lord has seen fit to add two…and in a completely unexpected way! Some have suggested that perhaps we should not go through with the adoption. While we appreciate the concerns of those who certainly care for us and desire our well-being, and we welcome the thoughts and advice of friends and family, this thought has not crossed our minds. The child the Lord has for us in adoption is as much our child as the one growing Ashleigh’s womb, and unless the Lord closes the door permanently, we will continue to seek to adopt this child. Adoption is nothing less than a picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We who were once strangers and orphans were adopted into the family of God by the death of Christ. We don’t deserve or have the right to be sons and daughters of God, yet by faith we have received his gift of adoption. When we take care of orphans by adopting them into our family as true children, it is a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. We believe the Lord used our period of infertility to lead us to adoption…why would we back out when he graciously grants us the miracle of life? Wherever that little child is, we are so thankful to God for him or her, and we love him or her as our own, just as God loves us as his own.

Another question…are you sure you can handle three kids? Honestly, we’re not yet sure we can handle one! Especially the little Tasmanian devil living in our home right now! While there are certainly good intentions behind this question, I don’t really get it. Of course three will be more difficult, of course it will stretch us. Doesn’t God stretch his children? What if we found out Ash were having twins? It’s no different. You do the best you can, praying continually, and the Lord gives you the strength to handle those difficult seasons of life. But the blessing far outweighs the hardships, and as the Psalmist says, “blessed is the one who fills his quiver with children!”

A final, and more difficult question…what about Matt’s health? This one is hard in the sense that from our perspective there are so many unknowns. Will the current treatment continue to work? How long will my borrowed immune system hold up? What if I die soon…would Ash be left to fend for herself with her “quiver full” of children? Add to these the troubling fact that I couldn’t get life insurance to save my life! These are hard and serious questions; questions that Ash and I have wrestled with. Here are our thoughts. First, our family has been dealing with similar questions my whole life. When my brother was diagnosed with SCIDS in my mom’s womb, the doctor’s recommended abortion. The reasoning was simple…the future of your child is unknown, he could die young and it would be really hard on you. Abortion would make it so much easier. I’m glad my parents loved the Lord more than their own comfort. I couldn’t imagine life without my little brother…and I already can’t imagine life without the child we will adopt.

My life has been full of question marks, and it is a miracle I am living and breathing today. In college I became deathly ill and spent 4 years in a wheelchair. My Junior year I weighed 92 lbs and could barely function. Yet the Lord brought me through and gave me the gift of marriage and children in the process!  Recently I was diagnosed with severe lung disease and have had a 2 year long struggle against the pneumonia causing CMV virus. This struggle is still going on, and while current treatments are working, the problem is not gone and the future is uncertain. But there is one constant in both mine and Ashleigh’s life: the faithfulness of our God. This faithfulness will continue no matter what comes of my health…weather I am healed or not. This faithfulness will continue if Ashleigh is left raising children without me around. God’s faithfulness never changes and His mercies are knew EVERY SINGLE DAY! All we can do is obey Him today, and trust Him with the future.

We have some dear friends, Tim and Jaime Gray. They have one sweet adoptive child, and are in the process of adopting another. The thing is, Tim has Cystic Fibrosis and is 10 years post double lung transplant. Tim is well passed the life expectancy of those who have undergone such a transplant. Their decision to adopt two children in the midst of such uncertainty is certainly foolishness to the watching world, but to those who have Christ as an anchor for the sole, it is a wonderful example of faith and trust in our Savior who holds us all in His firm grip. What shall separate us from his love? Nothing. At what point should we cease to trust Him and rely on our own wisdom? Never.

We are very grateful for our families, and those who care enough to ask difficult questions. We are certainly not saying that such questions should not be asked and prayerfully considered. What we are saying is that we have prayed through them, and believe it is God’s will for us to move forward in faith and trust in His provision. And so we will adopt, we will have as many children as the Lord grants us, filling our quiver with little blessings from God. Our Lord is sovereign and his providence governs all things. We will love and serve him no matter what our future holds, because all our days are already numbered by the ruler of the earth, who always does right.

Related Articles:

Football with JP

2012 in Retrospect: Family

Blessings Highlighted by a Rough Day

Advertisements

My Mom’s Eulogy

Here is the eulogy I gave at my mom’s funeral.

At the time of writing this, I have repeatedly pulled out my computer and stared a blank screen, not able to write anything, until I finally give up and write nothing. I suppose this is because my mom has meant so much to me over the years, the majority of my memories involve her, and she did and said so many things worth sharing. I could definitely recall many funny memories of the outrageous things my mom would do. One that comes to mind involves my mom and sister, Jeannie. They had been practicing for quite some time for a duet they were going to sing at a yearly mother daughter banquet. And when they finally got up on stage and my sister began to sing the first verse, my mom started pinching her rear while she was singing. And of course all the mothers and the daughters in the room began to laugh hysterically . Then, at the climax of the song, when the daughter is singing about how the mom is her hero and and causes her to “fly so high she touches the sky” my mom begins flapping her arms around on stage like an elegant bird. My sister is cracking up by now, as well as the whole room. Needless to say, what was no doubt intended to be a very serious and moving song became something our family and many others would always look back and laugh about. My mom had such a gift to make people smile, and her own smile would always light up the room.

But I guess the best way for me to summarize what I know about my mom is that she loved God and she loved others. When Jesus was asked the first and greatest commandment, he responded, “you shall love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second one is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

My mom’s love for God was seen so clearly seen in her desire to share the love of Jesus with others. I remember her telling a story about when her and my dad went out to visit a dying man in his home, and as they were leaving, my mom asked my dad to turn the car around because she hadn’t shared Christ with him, and if she didn’t, who would? She went back in and shared with this man the truth of the gospel. I can recount many other stories of my mom sharing God’s good news of Jesus Christ with those with whom she came into contact. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.

My mom also loved and cared for others, not only by sharing the gospel with them, but simply by loving them and listening to them and pointing them to Christ. Back when she taught in the youth group at fbc Seminole, I remember several occasions when she would have her class over for Bible study, or she would go over to their homes simply to talk and hang out…and they wanted her there. I remember thinking that it is not so common for teenagers in the youth group to trust and confide in an adult Sunday school teacher the way they would with my mom. This was confirmed just the other day, after I had learned of my mom’s death. I was in her and my dad’s home and I was looking at her ipad. Her facebook was still visible and I noticed a message she had received in the last week or so. It was from a girl formerly in her youth group, and out of curiosity I read it. She told my mom she was praying for her, and that she will always be grateful for the time my mom spent with her, and the advice that she gave her. She will always remember how my mom showed her that Christ’s love was the only love she truly needed. She thanked her for being a friend to her and she said that if it weren’t for my mom, she wasn’t sure if she’d be where she was today.

My mom also loved and cared for her kids. I remember every year in elementary school most of my classmates would miss a week of school to go to camp. My mom, knowing we would want to go, would always promise to take us out of school that week and we could do whatever we wanted. We would go to the mall, to movies and wherever else. This was of course to keep us away from all the germ infested lakes and other life threatening situations such camps entailed. If you knew my mom well you would probably agree that she had the gift of always seeing the worst case scenario when it came to the health of her kids. But now I am beginning to see that such was not a bad thing with two immune deficient boys. In such a household as ours the worst case scenario was probably the most likley! and there is no doubt in my mind that God used my mom’s sometimes overactive imagination to keep us alive much longer than we would have been otherwise. If it weren’t for the loving care of my mom, I certainly would not be standing before you today.

It is hard to describe my emotions over the last few days. I certainly grieve the loss of my mom. But this grief is not for my mom, but for myself and my family, who have lost someone so important to us and who we cannot imagine living without. But as the apostle Paul says, as believers “we do not grieve like those who have no hope.” For even stronger than my grief in this hour is an overwhelming sense of joy. Joy that my mom is no longer suffering; joy that she remained faithful to the very end; joy that she was greeted in heaven by her grandson Toby and her dad, whom she missed greatly; joy that I will soon see her again; but most of all, joy that she has now seen her Savior face to face, the one whom she lived for and who called her to salvation through is death on the cross for her sins. My mom could not be in a better place, and her joy we cannot begin to fathom, and so I rejoice with her. I leave you with the words of the apostle Paul that my mom treasured in her last days,

“Rom. 8:18-25 ¶ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it as we patiently endure.”

My mom patiently endured much suffering, and now her hope has given way to the glorious presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

20130828-104413.jpg

Blessings Highlighted by a Rough Day

I hate to call today a rough day. I think about the many people in my life who are suffering. My mom’s battle with cancer, my two nephews who are in the hospital for bone marrow transplants, and the toll that these difficulties are taking on my dad and my sisters and their husbands. They have been having some really rough days…I shouldn’t be able to claim the term for myself. Still, there are those days when discouragement sets in and you are not quite sure why. Today was one of those days, and when I learned that a paper I have been working on will for the most part need to be redone, I left campus feeling pretty down. 

Then I come home to this…

As you can imagine…it’s quite impossible to remain discouraged when brought face to face with such blessings. Further, the blessings in my life shine all the brighter in the face of doubt and discouragement. Trials work like a highlighter in our lives which illumine the good gifts from God that we sometimes forget or take for granted. And of course, when we are reminded of the good gifts of God, we remember the greatest gift of all…Jesus Christ. We who were once dead in our sins have been made alive because Jesus took upon himself the punishment we deserve. God’s kindness should astound us…it should take our breath away each day. 

I came home today and played with my son, who laughed and smiled and filled me with so much joy. And I had a nice birthday dinner with my wife, who cooked me a meal and prayed for me. She is often an anchor for me and I love her so much. I am blessed and thankful. Not only for the things I enjoy, but for those difficult days that highlight God’s blessings in my life and point me to Christ. 

I don’t know what trials you may be facing. They may be really huge, or they may be as simple as a rough day. It may be poor health, physical suffering, financial struggle, the suffering of a loved one, or any number of things. Take some time to count the good gifts of God. Let your trials point you to Christ, and his suffering on your behalf. This world is full of tribulation, but Christ has overcome the world. This world is filled with death, but Christ has conquered death. In this world there will be tears, but Christ will wipe them all away. This world is temporary, but in Christ there is eternal joy. Look to him, be saved, and rest.

2012 In Retrospect: Family

It’s hard to know where to begin with this blog post. A lot has happened with my family this past year. In both joy and hardship God has proven himself faithful over and over again.

I blogged months ago about the death of the patriarch of our family, my grandpa, Robert N. Hammons. He died in September 2012 after about a six month battle with pancreatic cancer. He did not spend his final months in the hospital, but chose to spend them at home with my grandma, the wife of his youth. Despite a slow and painful process, my granddad remained faithful to the God whom he loved, the God who first loved him. His life, and his death, was a testimony to the grace and mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I can only smile when I think about what he’s doing now (Phil 1:23)!
My grandpa’s battle is not the only one which has taken place in our family. My mom continues to battle cancer; a battle which started with breast cancer years ago, and has since moved to other parts of her body. It has been hard on her, and some seasons of this fight have been worse than others, yet my mom too remains faithful to her Maker. She was formed by her Savior in her mother’s womb, and he is in control of everything that she is facing now (Psalm 139:13). Her life and struggle is also a clear testimony to God’s faithfulness and grace.

The Scriptures are clear that in this fallen world Christians will experience tribulation and hardship, yet Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33)! If God is for us, who can be against us? For nothing is able to separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:34-39). Yet in the midst of trials our family is overjoyed at God’s gift of life.

Three women in the McMains family have been blessed to bring life into this world. My older sister, Jeannie, has a boy due early this year. His name is Toby Robert Stewart. In the midst of this wonderful celebration, their faith will be tested. Little Toby will be born without an immune system (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and will have to have a bonemarrow transplant down in Dallas. While there are a lot of unknowns, our God is faithful and we praise him for the gift of life, and for the opportunity to trust him when we experience hardship. My brother Daniel and his wife Cristen just recently welcomed little Brooks McMains into the world. Weighing in at a whompin 8lbs 14oz, this one is sure to cause just as much ruccus as his daddy once did (and still does)!

Ashleigh gave birth to little John Paul McMains. If you read this blog then you’ve no doubt seen hundreds of pictures on facebook already, but hey, he’s a looker!

Ready for church! via thegoodfight82

Ready for church! via thegoodfight82

JP has brought so much joy into our lives. Sometimes I look over and see him and am again caught of guard at such a wonderful blessing from God. JP was born on 10/11/12 (cool i know!), and since then Ashleigh has gone back to work 3 days a week as a nurse. The first 12 weeks Ashleigh was off on maternity leave and had some time to adjust and face the wonderful challenges that come with a new baby. Now that she is back to work, another challenge is an inexperienced daddy (me) watching him 3 days a week from about 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. It has truly been a blessing to spend so much time with my son, and I am reminded every time I look at him of God’s kindness and the precious gift of new life. We have adjusted well, and I am quickly becoming an expert in the arts of diaper change and playtime. I am also improving in putting him to sleep, which is not always easy! I am so thankful to God for this little reminder that life isn’t all about me!!

Not only this, but Ashleigh’s brother Ryan and his wife Sarah are in the process of adopting two sweet boys from Ethiopia, Daniel and Josiah! It has been a long process, but as I type this they are with them in Ethiopia preparing to bring them home. Ryan and Sarah are an example of what it looks like to have a heart for the nations. They are serving full-time in South Asia and are now the proud parents of two previously abandoned Ethiopian baby boys. We can’t wait to meet the little guys. To talk about the beauty of adoption would require a whole other blog post (Check out Dr. Russell Moore’s blog). It truly is a picture of the gospel of Christ and his love for his children, whom he adopted as his own sons and daughters.

My oldest sister Emily and her husband Jeremy have been experiencing their own trials. Their youngest son (6 yrs old), Trey, was also born without an immune system and recently had to go back to Dallas and start over, meaning they used chemotherapy to undo his previous bonemarrow transplant received when he was born, and gave him another bonemarrow transplant just recently. It has been a hard journey the past few months with many tears and unknowns, but long story short the transplant went well and Trey came home today, weeks before expected! They are rejoicing now at God’s faithfullness during this time.

Here is his welcome home video:

One other unexpected blessing was Ashleigh’s and I’s opportunity to host a foreign exchange student. Clora has been with us since September and has been a joy to have in our home. She is 16 and is attending a local private high school here in Louisville. We have basically been asked to treat her as our own, and it has been a great experience. Clora had no previous encounter with Christianity, and we have been praying for opportunities to introduce her to the Savior. She has been attending church with us and enjoys that. She asks a lot of questions and I can tell she is really listening and grappling with what she is hearing. We have had many conversations with her and have been able to present the gospel clearly. Pray for continued opportunities and that God would open her heart to his word, as only he can do.

Much more could be said, but the theme that rings true over and again is God’s kindness. He is kind both in joy and hardship, in blessings and pain. We trust in his sovereign goodness, always mindful that he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to HIS purpose (Romans 8:28).

Enhanced by Zemanta

2012 in Retrospect Part 1: Seminary and Church

Family Xmas

2012 has been an exciting year for both Ashleigh and I. We have experienced God’s blessings through several important changes in our lives, as well as steady progress in the places and activities in which God has placed us. In this post I would like to talk about what has been going on with seminary and about our new church home.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

SEMINARY

In May I graduated with a ThM degree. When we moved to Louisville, had just received my Masters of Divinity (MDiv) from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I then applied to the ThM at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and completed that in two semesters (which is the normal pace for someone with an MDiv). Late last year I had applied to the PhD program in new testament, and we found out around April that I had been accepted into the program and would be studying under Dr. Tom Schreiner, which was a wonderful surprise. Dr. Schreiner is also one of the preaching pastors at the church we attend, Clifton Baptist, and a man whom I greatly respect. I am grateful to be studying under him. I finished my first semester of the PhD program intact (despite being surprised with a little one!) and am set to begin my second semester January 29th. If all goes well I will finish my classwork in the next year or so and begin writing my dissertation, which I hope to be on the book of Revelation. I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from my classes so far, which I would like to list and briefly describe.

Fall 2010 (ThM):

Pauling Literature: Romans with Dr. Schreiner. This class was one of the PhD Seminars I was allowed to take as a first semester ThM student. It involved the presentation of papers on certain texts of Romans, along with the reading of different commentaries for each student and class dialogue on the papers presented. It also involved a book review, and the book I reviewed was The Purpose of Romans, by Ann Jervis. As a ThM student, I wrote a paper and a book review, but was not required to present anything. The class also consisted of a test on the Greek text of Romans the first day we met. If a 70% was not made on the test you were required to drop the class. I was able to squeeze by that hurdle, but not by much! All in all the class was very beneficial. You can read my paper on Romans 9:6-18, titled “God’s Freedom in Election”, here.

An Exegesis of the Gospel of Matthew with Dr. Johnathan Pennington. This class was extremely beneficial. It was an MDiv class, but as a ThM student I was assigned extra work, which included a longer paper (30 pgs) and an extra book review. In the class we discussed the theology of Matthew as well as important aspects of the Greek text of Matthew. I came out of that class feeling like I had read Matthew’s gospel for the first time! My paper was on Cosmic Conflict in Matthew’s gospel, which can be read here.

Theology of the New Testament with Dr. Tom Schreiner. Another very beneficial class which is pretty self explanatory. Basically it was an overview of the theology of the New Testament, divided up by themes. Dr. Schreiner is the author of New Testament Theology, which I read for the class, and needless to say the class was extremely helpful for my understanding of the overall theology of the New Testament. The class also involved 2 tests and a 35 page paper which I wrote on Cosmic Conflict in the Gospels and Revelation (read here.)

Spring 2011 (ThM)

Old Testament Theology with Dr. Jim Hamilton. This was another PhD Seminar similar to my Romans Seminar with Dr. Schreiner. Likewise, it involved a book review and a paper on an Old Testament theological issue. I reviewed Stephen Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty, which was an excellent book, and I wrote my paper on Leviathan in the Old Testament, focusing on Isiah 27.1-2 (read here). We also read Dr. Hamilton’s excellent work, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. I received some pretty stiff criticism on both my book review and my paper. I learned a lot about how to fairly and accurately critique a book, which was very helpful. Dr. Hamilton liked my paper, but we got into a pretty staunch debate on some millennial issues that came up. I lost, but learned a lot! (Check out Dr. Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation)

Eschatology Seminar with Dr. Russell Moore. This was a seminar that dealt exclusively with issues relating to eschatology. We read several books and wrote a paper. My paper was on the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 (read). I also reviewed Left Behind by Tim LaHaye.

Advanced Greek Grammar with Dr. Peter Gentry. This is perhaps the most helpful Greek course I have ever participated in. It involved reading a text with very advanced Greek, the Epistle to Diognetus. My extra work as a ThM student was to read text from 2 Maccabees as well, which was very difficult. Dr. Gentry is an expert in Greek and Hebrew, and is a world-renowned linguist. Each week we translated portions of the text, and were required to translate aloud in class as well. It was pretty intimidating, especially if you weren’t prepared. I may have learned how to better understand and translate Greek this one semester than all my others combined.

Fall 2012 (PhD)

Non-Pauline Literature: Hebrews with Dr. Tom Schreiner. Another PhD seminar with Dr. Schreiner, only this time as a PhD student. The format was similar to Romans. It involved a book review and a paper on a certain passage in Hebrews. I reviewed Cosmology and Eschatology in Hebrews and I wrote on Hebrews 12:22-29 (read). I also read FF Bruce’s commentary on Hebrews and greatly benefited from everyone’s papers and the class dialogue.

Intro to New Testament Language with Dr. Robert Plummer. Another excellent Greek class. In this PhD Seminar we translated from various Greek texts, ranging from New Testament passage, to church fathers to Greek historians (Josephus and Eusebius). We also read and presented several articles for discussion and took a final exam on any Greek texts Dr. Plummer chose. No helps and no clue what we would be translating. It was fun!

New Testament Colloquium with Dr. Johnathan Pennington. Colloquia are confined to the PhD program. They basically consist of whatever the colloquium leader for that particular semester decides. In this colloquium, we read articles from a broad range of New Testament topics representing the most recent and important scholarship on each topic. Each student was required to lead one of the discussions.

German with Dr. Mark Seifrid. Each PhD student is required to complete two research languages, choosing between German, French and Latin. This course involved learning the basics of German, and translating some texts from Bonhoeffer. It concluded with a final lengthy take home translation from Bonhoeffer. These classes are pass/fail, and I passed!

So there we go! I am thoroughly enjoying and appreciating my time here at Southern and am blessed to be a part of a God-honoring institution bent on teaching the word of God, unashamed and unadulterated. My upcoming seminars include: Textual Criticism and Translation Theory with Dr. Pennington, Hermeneutics with Dr. Seifrid, and Colloquium with Dr. Plummer.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 8.59.49 PMCHURCH

Ashleigh and I have been attending Clifton Baptist Church most of our time here. It has been a huge blessing in many ways. It’s congregation is made up of elders/pastors, deacons and lay people. The elders’ primary responsibility is to shepherd the flock through biblical teaching and leadership. We have two preaching elders, Tom Schreiner and John Kimbell. Tom is preaching through Romans and John is preaching through Luke on an alternating schedule. We meet on Sunday mornings for Sunday School and a corporate service, and on Wednesday nights for a time of prayer, accompanied by a brief message. We meet in small groups on the first, third and fifth Sunday nights of each month. I’d like to briefly outline some of the aspects of our church we really love.

Biblical Preaching: first and foremost, we appreciate the expositional nature of the preaching at Clifton. They preach the Bible and nothing else. There is a focus on the words of God as contained in Scripture, book by book, passage by passage. There is no picking and choosing or watering down. If the passage is difficult, our pastors study careful and preach with humility, trusting that the Spirit of God speaks through his Word and is not reliant upon the skill of men. Thus, the sermons are always Christ centered, God honoring and faithful to the texts being preached.

God Glorifying Music: It is clear that our worship leader, Wesley Johnson, puts a lot of thought into the songs being sung. Each week we sing songs that are scripturally sound and honoring to God. From old hymns like Great is Thy Faithfulness to modern songs from Sovereign Grace Music, each song chosen accurately represents the God we worship as revealed in his word. This is the task of a worship leader and Clifton does an excellent job.

Small Groups: I know many are partial to corporate Sunday night services, and I think they are great; but I really appreciate Clifton’s small group ministry every other Sunday evening. It provides the opportunity to develop closer relationships within the body and the opportunity for in depth discussion and accountability.

Regenerate Church Membership: This simply means members are expected to be Christians! It seems obvious but is often not the case in churches today. In most churches you can simply come forward and join, without the church/pastor knowing much of your background or spiritual state. We see a different picture in the New Testament, where the goal of church is to build up the body of Christ and equip them for service. Thus, at Clifton there is a process for membership which allows the elders to better discern the spiritual state/maturity of those joining. Practically, in order for them to shepherd well, they need to know their flock. Also, this gets at the purpose of church. It is meant to be primarily a place of spiritual growth, preparation and nourishment for believers. Along with this comes better accountability of members to their leaders, as well as the biblical practice of church discipline when someone refuses to repent of open and clear sin. All of these things provide a place of growth and accountability that is essential to a healthy church.

There are other things that could be mentioned, but let it simply be said that Ashleigh and I have found a place that truly strives to care for its members, lead us spiritual and follow the biblical teachings concerning the purpose of church. We are very blessed to be there.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Reflections of a New Dad

Meet John Paul McMains

Three weeks ago today on Thursday, October 11, 2012 (10/11/12) my whole world changed. One minute I’m sleeping in on a lazy day, getting ready to work on my paper and translate some Josephus, the next minute I’m running around like a mad man throwing random stuff into a bag and speeding off to the hospital. Before I know it I am watching the most miraculous thing I have ever experienced. I am watching the birth of my beautiful son. They say that the realization that you’re a dad doesn’t hit you until they actually put the baby into your arms. It hit me the moment I saw the little guy, and nearly knocked me off my feet. I felt nearer to God in that moment than I had in a very long time, for the miracle of life was unfolding right before my eyes.

Just me and little guy till 4 a.m. while mommy...

Just me and little guy at 4 a.m.

The weeks to follow have been a blur, but as I reflect on what has taken place, a few things are forefront in my mind above all else.

1. I don’t deserve this. It’s true. I don’t. The grace and kindness of God hit me like a freight train when I met my wife, Ashleigh, who I have failed again and again. Now it hits me every time I look into my son’s eyes or watch him sleep. No one deserves God’s gracious kindness…especially this. I can only be thankful and seek to honor God and trust fully in him as I seek to raise my son.

Mommy and JP :)

2.  I have no idea what I’m doing! How can I raise this boy to be a godly young man, when I know my own heart? I am more aware now of my inadequacies as a man, a husband and now a father than I’ve ever been. This is a camel through the needle’s eye kind of task, and on my own, I would surely fail miserably. All I can do is start changing diapers like a madman, and pray that God will give me the grace and strength to be a godly father one more day, and then another, and another. Gratefully, I have the best wife/mother in the world at my side reminding me of God’s love and kindness and providing assurance that JP’s in good hands with her. I also had a wonderful example of fatherhood in my own dad, and my mom taught me what it truly was to sacrificially lay down your life daily for your own children. When all else fails, what would my parents do?!

3.  God, save my son. I am a strong believer in God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation. This gives me great comfort for two reasons. First, God is perfectly just and wise. He surely will do right, and JP is in his hands. There is no greater comfort than this. Second, my son’s salvation is not up to me. Again, very comforting, because if it were then he’d be in trouble! No, our God is mighty to save and he is drawing his people to himself. My role as a father is to pray every day for God to be merciful to my son, and to save him at a young age. And to preach the gospel to him constantly, knowing that God has ordained the means by which he will hear and believe.

Today JP was laying on the couch and I cuddled up next to him to watch him sleep. I will forever be in awe at the wonder of life, and the kindness God has shown to us through this little gift we named John Paul.

I don't deserve this

Enhanced by Zemanta