Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lessons in Faith

When Dawn and I decided to adopt a little girl from China, it was a very easy decision to make. But it wasn't one that was entered into lightly; it was a decision based on faith.

We have faith in God's Word. We believe that "children are a heritage from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3). We believe that Christians are to reach out to orphans (James 1:27). We believe that all Christians are adopted (Romans 8:15). And, as we enter into parenthood, we believe that God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34).

In my opinion, it is very easy to "have faith" in something. It is quite another thing entirely to put that faith into action, and I am continually amazed at the faith exemplified in the lives of strong believers.

One such person is my friend Dr. Dave Black. Dave is a teacher in every sense of the word. Whether he realizes it or not, he continues to be a source of inspiration for me and countless others who have gotten to know him through his online writings. One of the things I have learned from him is the importance of living a life of faith.

He and his wife, Becky, have been ministering in Ethiopia and are headed back there again. Here is an excerpt from the December 8 entry on his blog:
In 6 days we leave for Ethiopia, even as a border war with Eritrea looks more and more likely. Understandably, our friends are concerned about our safety. One of the most important things happening in our life as a married couple is learning to be completely dependent upon God and to face whatever comes our way—good or bad—as from His loving hand. As Hebrews 11 says, whether people are delivered or not delivered, in every situation they stand in a position of faith toward the outcome. Sometimes Christians are delivered, and sometimes they are not. Still they tell the king, as did Daniel, "We're not going to bow." The man of faith does not bow. He does not bow to the world, he does not bow to the government when it usurps the role of God, and he does not even bow to the church (or to its traditions) when it is on the opposite side of the Bible.

Our day is no different from Daniel's. We too are confronted by our own fiery furnaces, and we face one of two outcomes. We can say, "Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Via email I hear from people the world over that they are being convicted by the Lord Jesus more and more not to bow the knee.

I don't have sophisticated tracking services like some websites do, but I do know that our reading audience includes people from Africa, Europe, and Asia. More and more of them are telling Becky and me how God has been leading them to move forward in their lives toward a simpler, more biblical, and more obedient way of living. Sometimes that has brought misunderstanding and opposition, even from those who are closest to them.

Which comes first, material things or spiritual things? This question is, perhaps, the one most frequently asked. The gross materialism that characterizes our modern culture—even our church culture—is becoming more and more repugnant to these pilgrims. Do not misunderstand me. I do not deny the necessity of material things. The problem is when the "natural" things of life (or whatever terminology you prefer) become first place. I have to smile when I read of those Christians who, in the face of the evidence contrariwise, want to continue participating in the gross materialism of "the holidays" because they cannot give up their attachment to the "innocent" things of the season.

All of us should always have a burning heart for the spiritual over the material, for truth over tradition. We all need the Lord's forgiveness for this—I more than anyone. So, what does God require of Becky and me? Is it enough to say certain words? Is it enough to affiliate with a certain group? No. God wants us to affirm the exclusiveness He has revealed.

And He has revealed these things to us in a way we can comprehend and implement among the children of men. To say "Christ" does not help anyone. Jesus taught that many "christs" would come. The word must contain the content of who God is, what He has done in Christ, and therefore what the Gospel is. Nothing short of this is enough. While a student in Basel I heard the term christophoros. It means "one who bears Christ." It was used by the church fathers in distinction to another term, christologos—"one who speaks about Christ." The true Christian is one who does not merely talk about Christ. He is one who bears Christ far and wide. Cross-bearing and Christ-bearing. That is our task as we leave for the great unknown.
It is my prayer that Dawn and I can set that kind of Godly example for Olivia, whenever she comes home. I pray that we will strive toward a simpler, more biblical, and more obedient way of living. May we learn to forsake the false comforts and securities of this temporal world and rest in the eternal promises of our Heavenly Father.

* Itinerary and Prayer Guide for the Blacks' Trip to Ethiopia


Jeremy Weaver said...

I think it is great that you guys are adopting.
I will pray for you as your family adapts to the new situation.
Are there any specific prayer requests that you would like to share?

Jeremy Weaver said...

BTW, Do you know Brian and Hank Fritsch?
Someone told me you used to go to church with them.

Lee Shelton said...

Thank you! My wife posted some prayer requests on our family blog here.

As for Brian and Hank Fritsch, those names don't ring a bell. We had been going to Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., but are now attending Bethlehem Baptist (John Piper's church) in Minneapolis.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Thanks for the link.
Must have been another Lee Shelton. There are several of you, right?

Lee Shelton said...

Well, I'm the fourth, so I'm used to the confusion!

My grandfather, L. R. Shelton Jr., who passed away in 2003, started Mt. Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, Fla.

Lee Shelton said...

I should also mention that my father, Lee Shelton III, was pastor at Lake Jennie Covenant Church in Dassel, Minn., for many years and still preaches three times a month at a small church in French Lake. He knows more people than I could ever hope to meet in my lifetime.

Jeremy Weaver said...

This would have been in Maryville, TN. Could possibly be a different set of 'Sheltons'. (shudder)

Lee Shelton said...

My maternal grandparents lived in Sevierville, TN, for many years and my parents lived there from 2001 to 2003. (They're back here in MN now. And yes, I've been to Dollywood!)

I called my dad and asked him about Hank and Brian and he remembers them from Grace Community Church. Man, until this Internet thing came along, I never realized just how small this world really is!

Jeremy Weaver said...

You can thank Al Gore, a Tennessean, for the internet. And anything else you want, too.

Sevierville? I lived there for a year when I was six years old!

We live about an hour away now, in Lenoir City, which is sort of my home town. (missionary/pastor kid)

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