Category Archives: Father’s Heart

Providence

Village_ValleyBefore Sonia and I came to Nepal, we were praying for divine appointments. Because of the earthquake, half of our original agenda was undetermined even after we arrived. We trusted that the Lord would fill in the blanks and He certainly did! Over and over again! One of Sonia’s deepest desires was to aid those who had the greatest need with hands-on help. Every time I inquired about helping, we were told that only those who were connected with relief organizations or a local church outreach would be able to assist.

Village-Receiving-Rice

I don’t even know how to fully described what we experienced today. It was a totally God-appointed moment. We got to witness the Father’s heart and even participate in what He was doing. It’s a long story but through many providential meetings, we had the privilege of purchasing rice, lentils, salt and oil and delivering them to an entire village (125 households) that has been largely ignored. We traveled away from Kathmandu for nearly two hours in a 4 x 4 with a local pastor, the head of a Nepali Christian Relief organization and two journalists. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the entire village. We really didn’t want it to be a big deal and kept expressing that to the pastor who arranged everything. But they immediately placed homemade leis around our necks and had me, the pastor and the community leaders say a few words. It was overwhelming and extremely humbling. What a privileged place to be representing the hands and feet of so many believers back in the U.S. Many special thanks to AL, SM, K&KW, G&JL, J&SC, MN, MK, R&CT, K&FM, A&JJ for helping to contribute toward the total cost of the supplies. Know that your generosity put food in the stomachs and smiles on the faces of many people today.

Village-Teenager

The people in this village are “untouchables,” a part of the lowest caste, yet almost all are Christian. When I asked how the gospel reached this tiny village, a young man told me it all started when the “Jesus Film” was shown here many, many years ago. Since then a church building has been built (which was undamaged in the earthquake) and a local pastor now shepherds the flock. Remarkable to see God’s faithfulness in loving and saving all people especially those who are the most despised. I know our help is but temporary not only because the supplies will be consumed after a month but also because we will be soon heading home. I don’t pretend to be a savior. Not even a tiny, temporal one. Thanks be to God that our true and only Savior, Jesus Christ, has called real heroes of the faith who are committed to serving these people for the long haul. The local churches, the pastors, the foreign missionaries and the Nepali Christian community development leaders are the true hands and feet of Christ to those who are suffering in villages like these. May we continue to pray for them as they follow His lead to serve the least of theseVillage_Pan

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Wooed by the Father’s Heart

Seeta

Yesterday, we had the privilege of meeting Seeta. She is a faithful servant of Christ who serves in Nepal. Although she is very busy, Seeta was nice enough to meet with us over tea. Yes, tea. Everyone has tea here. She has a wealth of insight and experience in life and ministry within Nepal. We were so blessed by our time with Seeta but I was especially moved by her personal testimony.

Seeta was born in India but raised in Nepal. Her father passed away when she was very young. Obviously, this made life extremely difficult for her, her mom and her three sisters especially in a culture that is male-centric. Although her family were Buddhists, Seeta was sent to a school that was started and led by Christian missionaries. She learned about the God of the Bible through daily chapel times and Bible class. As a child, the one thing that stood out about this God was the way that He was described in Psalm 68:5,

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Seeta was fatherless and her mother was a widow. She wondered if this God genuinely had a heart for her and her family. As she grew older, she cried out to this God to prove himself as described in Psalm 68. And guess what?…He did. Over the years, she saw God answer her prayers and she came to fully know and trust Jesus as her Savior when she was in college. When she looked back on her life before faith, she also recognized the Father was watching out for her even before she came to know His name.

I was so moved by Seeta’s testimony. Partly because she lost her father around the same age I was when I lost mine. But mostly because her heart longed for the Father and it was His heart that initially drew her to Himself.

At one point, I asked her, “out of all of the millions of gods that the Hindus worship, have you ever heard of one that was specifically a provider of the fatherless or protector of widows?” She said, “Never.” I said, “Are you sure? Out of millions, there is not one?” She replied, “Not one.”

Wow!! That’s Seeta’s God! That’s her Father! He is so drastically unlike any other god of this world! There is none like Him. He sits high above all others and yet his heart beats for the fatherless and widows. That’s my God! That’s my Father! Before departing for this trip, I was praying that I would see the Father’s heart in Nepal. I definitely did through Seeta’s life yesterday!

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Bring Joylyn Home

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These are my friends, Gavin and Lorraine Kajikawa and their daughter, Brielle. After seven long years, they have been matched with their daughter, Joylyn and are preparing to adopt her from China in the very near future.

Adopt_Product_Shot_largeThe cost of adoption is steep. I can personally attest to that. But the Father loves to provide lavishly for the things near His heart. I can personally attest to that as well. One of the ways He provides is through the giving of His people. One of the ways that you can help is by purchasing a T-shirt. But not just any T-shirt. A cool-looking T-shirt with a great message on the front designed and produced by Zoe Clothing Co.

This is a rare fundraiser in which 100% of the donation for the T-shirt will go directly to helping the Kajikawas bring Joylyn home. This has been made possible by the owner of Zoe, a kingdom-minded friend of mine as well. If you would like to read more about the Kajikawas’ story and purchase a T-shirt (or two or three), you can click on their photo above.

What better way to celebrate the Father’s love in Christ’s resurrection this weekend than to support those who are seeking to be like Him through adoption!

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Near His Heart

It’s been almost a month since my last post. It was an unplanned hiatus, unintentional and unexpected. Busyness is to blame but it was more than that. Frankly, I was all blogged out. In light of the adoption, I had a lot to say. Now that I am home, there is still plenty to write but I felt unmotivated and uninspired. It’s hard for me to write just for the sake of writing. I not only need something to say but also a reason for saying it. Discipline focuses writing but passion fuels it.

I am passionate about adoption and this blog reflected it especially over the past three months. But now that Eden is home, adoption is no longer the focus, learning to be a family is. And while I am passionate about family, I realize I never started this blog to write about family or even about adoption. I originally started blogging because I was impassioned by the Father heart of God. Almost two years ago, I started praying two things: “Father, please show me your heart” and “Father, please give me your heart.” After three months of asking, new things started happening: I was sent to minister in Haiti, the fathering of my own children was challenged and transformed, we were called to adopt a child from China, I began to relate to God more freely and joyfully. So many things were happening in and around me that I just had to write it all down, partly for my own record but also for the sake of testifying to His greatness. So, the “Near His Heart” blog was started in February, 2010.

This month, I needed to remind myself why I write. I write because I love seeing the Father’s heart in action. I write because I want His heart as my own. So, today, I recommit myself to recording what I learn about the Father and to rambling all about it in this blog. Even if no one reads this blog, except my own mother (thanks Mom), I will continue to write simply for the joy of being near His heart.

His Heart to Provide

Sheri, Christine & a lot of paint!

It’s been a few weeks since our Both Hands project and we are still in awe of all that the Lord did. The perfectly timed opportunity to participate, the privilege of knowing and loving Lorene, the joy of living out Scripture with those you love – all combined to fill our hearts with praise. Besides all of this, one other thing that left everyone in awe was the Father’s lavish provision for everything and everyone. Personally, he met our original financial goal for funding the adoption through the generous donations of many, many people. The response was tremendous and his fingerprints were all over it. But, Both Hands was not just about bringing Eden home. It was also about serving Lorene and her house was in desperate need of patching and painting.

According to BH Foundation parameters, every dollar donated to sponsor the work must go toward the adoption costs. So, any costs for the painting materials must be donated by local merchants or sometimes by the widow herself. We wanted Lorene to truly experience grace, so “charging” her was not an option. But, we had no idea how to find donations from local businesses. Through the hard work of many on our team, we were able to get $250 worth of gift cards to purchase all the paint accessories (tape, plastic, sand paper, etc.) but no company was willing to donate the paint. The best deal we could get was 50% off retail.

So, on the day before the project, I was scheduled to purchase paint from a local merchant at half off. But that morning, I received a call telling me that our friend, Christine, got the Home Depot in Covina to donate all the paint! When I came home that afternoon, there was $1,200 worth of exterior flat and semi-gloss mixed in the Swiss Coffee color that Lorene wanted. Amazing. He is simply amazing! I know there were countless hours on the phone and in home improvement stores seeking donations yet that morning, it almost seemed too easy. When the Lord provides it is. The Father not only provided for the orphan, her new family and the widow but even for the team of twenty-seven who painted. Through my Auntie’s efforts, Starbucks provided an ocean of coffee and In-N-Out provided a third of the lunches. We were definitely well-caffeinated and well-fed!

In this journey toward the Father’s heart, I have come to firmly believe that the Father loves to allocate his resources for what and whom is dear to his heart. He is not only impassioned for orphans and widows but he delights in providing whatever is necessary to love and serve them. When we began this adoption adventure, parents who adopted in the past told us that the Lord would provide for our every need as we stepped out in faith. I understood what they said but it didn’t become a personal conviction until I witnessed it firsthand. This does not negate the need to count the costs and make personal sacrifices but the Lord always seems to stretch us beyond our own comfort so we depend on him for everything. That way, when all is provided, it’s clear that it’s him and not us. He gets all the glory and we are left in awe of Him. So, after an experience like Both Hands, there is no room to revel in what a great job we did but there is plenty of space left to marvel at what a great God we have.

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I’m Back!

I’m back. After a two month hiatus, I’m back blogging once again. The prolonged interlude was unintentional. Just the snowballing results of busyness and laziness. The Christmas holidays, back problems, illnesses, a pastoral sabbatical, lots of traveling, blogger’s block – it all happened over the past two months and more. Yet, there is so much the Father has been teaching me about His heart since the New Year began. Over the next few weeks, I hope to process some of that out loud here. My passion to know and gain the Father’s heart continues to increase with anticipation and joy. Thus, this blog will continue to focus on the glory of the Father and all that is “near his heart.”

A Praying Life

On my shelves, I have dozens of books on prayer but, “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller has quickly risen to the top as my favorite. Books on prayer tend to lean toward two extremes: they either focus on methods to improve weak prayer habits or on the theology of how prayer works. These two extremes make prayer feel more like a production or a problem (as David Powlison says in the foreword). My lack of prayer production and endless problems have often left me feeling guilty and cynical. It is at this low place that “A Praying Life”(APL) has filled my prayer life with a renewed vigor and voice.

The overall premise of APL is that prayer is not an end in of itself but is instead a God-given means to building and enjoying a relationship with our Father. As Miller says,

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God…Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center (p. 20).

Prayer is the key to the Father’s heart and APL unfolds this key in five main parts:

  • Part 1: Learning to Pray Like a Child
  • Part 2: Learning to Trust Again
  • Part 3: Learning to Ask Your Father
  • Part 4: Living in Your Father’s Story
  • Part 5: Praying in Real Life

The first three parts focus on learning to re-relate to God the Father as his children through prayer. Children are not afraid to ask their parents for what’s on their hearts. They are not self-conscious about the proper way to say things. Nor do they doubt their parents’ trustworthiness to listen and respond. We, too, must learn to be real in our prayers not being afraid to ask our Father even if our thoughts and feelings are messy.

Miller does a great job addressing reasons why we fail to ask and trust like children. We fail to acknowledge our helplessness, give into the hopelessness of cynicism, disconnect personal prayer from the real world (Enlightenment-influenced) and fail to trust that God is both transcendent and immanent are just a few of the underlying problems that are tackled.

Part 4 places our personal prayers properly in the context of the greater redemptive stories that God is weaving all around us. Seemingly unanswered prayers are caught in the tension between the future hope in the Father’s promises and the unmatched reality of what we see in the present. This tension is what Miller calls the desert and it is in the desert where the children of God learn to pray. Personally, I found this section helpful in describing and processing our adoption process. So many of my frustrations in praying for our adoption were identified and addressed by Part 4 (esp. 181-183). If you are in the process of adopting, make this book a must-read before your child arrives.

Part 5 offers some suggestions for using prayer cards and journals as tools to help in the process of relating to the Father. I have found them to be beneficial without being restrictive in my own praying life. Part 5 also addresses some challenging issues when praying in real life. I found the section on how to listen to God through both his Word and the his Spirit very helpful. And the last chapter on what to do with prayer stories that seem to have unhappy, unanswered endings is nearly worth the price of the entire book.

Overall, APL is full of Scriptural exposition, godly wisdom and Miller’s personal testimonies of his failures and God’s victories. Obviously, I cannot recommend APL more highly. It is a great book for people at all different stages of faith. I am currently going through it with a men’s group as well as our church staff. I know one pastor who is reading through it with a non-Christian “seeker” who did not make it past the introduction because it spoke so deeply to how he felt.

When prayer becomes an invitation to involve God in everything, then “A Praying Life” becomes a great book on how to parent, how to do ministry, how to have a great marriage, how to play sports, how to cook meals and even how to adopt. If you want to learn how to “do” all of life through prayer, then buy and read what is soon to be a modern-day classic by Paul Miller.

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God the Father

Recently, it dawned on me that I have spent a lot of time mentioning the Father’s heart but not much time describing what he is like. Biblically, there is much to be said about the Father, but if I had to boil it all down, I would focus on three primary characteristics.

(1) The Father is Sovereign: Inherent in the name “Father” is an authority to originate and initiate his plan. While the Father is often mentioned as the first person of the Trinity, this doesn’t imply greater importance but a priority of order. As theologian John Frame says, “the Father has some sort of unique ‘originative’ role.” While Creation was carried out through the Son (Col. 1:15-16), it was originated and initiated by the Father (John 1:1-3). And while the Son gave his life as a ransom for sinners, it was the Father who sent the Son according to the his plan and timing (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:24, 28). And when the Son ascended to Heaven, it was the Father who sent the Spirit to take his place (John 16:12-15). Concerning the final consummation, only the Father knows the time because salvation history is conceived and concluded by him (Matt. 24:36). All of this goes to show that the Father has the sovereign power to originate and exact his plans for his glory.

(2) The Father is Compassionate: The majority of OT references reveal the Father’s deep feelings of compassion toward those who are weak. God’s desire to protect and provide was evident as he faithfully carried his helpless people out of slavery until they entered into the Promised Land. The people of Israel were not carelessly “plucked” out of Egypt. Scripture says, “the Lord your God carried (them), as a father carries his son, all the way you went until your reached this place” (Deut. 1:30-31). Although the Father is tender, his compassion must not be mistaken as a light and momentary feeling. The prophet, Isaiah, begged for God’s mercy by appealing to the Fatherly passion and zeal that he had shown the people in the past (Isaiah 63:15-16; 64:10). The Hebrew word for “passion” literally means “roaring from the guts.” The Father’s heart is full of deep and explosive loving kindness that is drawn to the weak and least deserving. As often as the Israelites deserve reproof, the Father’s heart still yearns to extend mercy toward his children (Jeremiah 31:20).

(3) The Father is Responsive: God the Father is not apathetic or distant but is instead very responsive to his children and their needs. If he provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields, certainly he is aware and responsive to the needs of his children who ask (Matt. 6:25-34). Our greatest need is to be reconciled to the Father. Thus, his will is “that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life…” (John 6:40). Rather than leave us in our hapless state of sin, the Father responded to our need for salvation by sending his Son to bring us to himself (John 14:6). The Father is not only concerned with his children’s needs for salvation but also their needs for growth in that salvation. A great illustration of this is when Jesus compared his father to a vinedresser (John 15:1). While we are the branches and Jesus is the vine, an often overlooked detail is that the Father is the “vinedresser” or “farmer.” God the Father is diligent in removing the branches that are not bearing fruit and pruning the ones that are being hindered. The Father also responds to everything that his children do. Not just the bad things but also the secret things that we do to please him that he might reward us (Matt. 6:4-6).

All this is to say that our Father is powerful, tender and involved. Thus, we can trust that he is not only able and willing to respond to our prayers but that he will do so according to his sovereign wisdom and compassionate heart.

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My Real Dad

With the recent passing of Apple co-founder and legendary CEO, Steve Jobs, there has inevitably been a proliferation of information about his life and legacy. The internet is flooded with articles that retell the stories of how Jobs dropped out of Reed College, worked to perfect Atari’s “Breakout” with future Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, created the first Apple II series and later the first Macintosh and mouse controller as well.

Surprisingly, one of the biographical details that is some times overlooked is that Jobs was adopted. His biological mother was an American graduate student and his father was a Syrian immigrant but neither was able keep Steve as their own. The first potential adoptive family changed their mind at the last minute because they wanted a daughter and that’s when Paul and Clara Jobs committed to adopting the future techno titan. Interestingly, Jobs didn’t like to speak about his biological parents because he considered Paul and Clara his “real” ones. I believe this is true.

Adoptive parents are “real” parents, not only in the eyes of the State but also in the eyes of God. How do we know this? Because Jesus was adopted. Since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a young virgin, we often neglect the importance of Joseph’s decision to adopt him. Joseph planned to quietly divorce Mary but God instructed him not to do so. His obedience not only preserved their marriage but also initiated an adoption as well. Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father but God recognized him as Jesus’ “real” father. This is no small detail. As theologian Russell Moore writes,

And, perhaps most significantly, if Joseph is not ‘really’ the father of Jesus, you and I are going to hell.

Why does Moore say this? Because the Messiah must come through the lineage of David so Jesus would not be a direct descendent if his adoption was not meaningful in the eyes of God. In the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:1-16), Joseph is Jesus’ “real” dad because in God’s economy, adoption is a real and binding connection. If it were not, Jesus would not be the Davidic Messiah and our faith would be in vain. I am thankfully in awe that adoption is at the center of God’s redemptive plan. Because Joseph is Jesus’s real dad, then by grace, God the Father is my real dad as well.

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Delight in the Father

Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have a deep yearning to be reunited with the one who created us. Tragically, sin has destined all of us to be cosmic orphans separated from our heavenly Father. But by God’s grace, we can be reconciled to him through faith in his son, Jesus. This reconciliation is no small occassion. It provides ultimate fulfillment for our deepest longings and ignites sheer delight in the pleasure of seeing and knowing him. I was reminded of this kind of “delight” when I saw the reunion video posted below. Take special notice of the son’s reaction after he sees his father. It’s but a small glimpse of our hearts’ joy in being reconciled to Abba.

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