"Wrestling with an Angel" The Book

Endorsed by Joni Eareckson Tada, Noel Piper, Russell Moore and others, Wrestling with an Angel is available in print, audiobook, and a variety of ebook formats. Learn more about the bookhere.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Difference Between An Answer to Prayer and The Answer to Prayer

“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

One of the longest, most reoccurring prayers I have ever prayed is for my son to be able to speak. If I could heal just one aspect of his condition, if I could give him just one gift for his physical ailment, it would be the gift of speech. For years I prayed to God to give my son a voice, to allow him to be able to communicate.

To have a conversation with Jake is perhaps one of my greatest desires on earth, and just one of the things for me that will make heaven especially sweet. I have so many things I want to tell him and, more importantly, so many things I want to hear from his heart.

God has given me an answer to that prayer, but He has yet to give me the answer. Let me explain.

Here are some of the ways God has granted me an answer to my prayer:

Some Important words: Jake can say “Momma”, “Dad-da”, “Maw-maw”, “Grand-dad” and “Ho-ho-ho” (Santa Clause). These are some of the words he uses on a daily basis. Yes, we hear about Santa Clause all year round.

Some necessary signs: He can sign words like, “Jesus”, “Bible”, “shoes”, “play”, “please”, “sorry”, “candy”, “drink” and “eat”.

Some beautiful singing: He loves to stand in church, or anywhere for that matter, with an open hymnal in hand and sing. His singing is one long baritone note that he can hold and repeat for a much extended period of time.

Some powerful preaching: He also loves to carry a Bible with him (everywhere). He likes to stand with Bible open and pretend he is reading. Because he is standing, I assume he is preaching.

There are other “nonverbal” forms of communication Jake has developed over the years, like:

• The folding of the arms and the shaking of the head and the looking over his glasses for, “No way—not in this lifetime”.

• The raising of his arms in the air, jumping up and down and yelling loudly with a celebratory smile for, “YES! I really approve of this moment”.

• The hug, kiss and or the blowing a kiss for, “I love you” or “Goodbye”

Finally, there is God’s gift of computers. Jake uses a handheld computer with a picture touch screen that communicates just about any phrase you could think of. When talking on the phone with him you might hear a mechanical voice saying:

“I love you”
• “I miss you”
• “I want to go to Maw-maw’s house”


This is the difference between AN answer to prayer and THE answer to prayer:

Our sovereign Lord has the ability to grant everything we ask for. But like any loving Father, He has more in store for us than what we could ever think to ask for. (Ephesian 3:20)

In His infinite wisdom, God answers our prayers with glimpses of the greatness to come. He allows us a foretaste of His glory by revealing a shadow of His blessings.

The full answers to our prayers and the full glory of His blessings will only come in eternity—but they will be there for an eternity. This loving anticipation keeps us from trusting in the temporal things by keeping us longing for the eternal things.

Now I will communicate with my son nonverbally, through sign language, a hand full of words and a computer. Then I will sit, talk, laugh and discover in deep, meaningful, God-glorifying conversation for an eternity.

The former is an answer to prayer; the latter is the answer to prayer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Payday for Those Who Go Broke for The Broken

In Luke 14, Jesus gives this savvy investment advice, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid."

I read that and I say to myself, “But that’s the very people I want to invite—the people that are an investment. My friends—who will compliment my house; my relatives—who will fill the party with love and closeness; and of course my rich neighbor—who will now be associated with me thus increasing my reputation and possibly putting me in close proximity to more successful investors.”

But could it be that Jesus has even a better deal for those who would be courageous enough to invest in the high risk stock option? Read on.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

They cannot repay you? What kind of an investment is this?

That is a question I admittedly struggle with from time to time while caring for my son. Most times he gives little in return. Many times he gives nothing. Sometimes he takes everything. And I find myself empty and broke.

And so one of the promises that keeps me investing day after day is the assurance of the most glorious payday ever. I’m not talking about a heavenly status reward, a doubling of my talents, a bigger mansion or even an “atta boy” from God.

I’m talking about the real payday for all those who live by faith in Christ and spend themselves on people who cannot give anything in return.

Your payday, Jesus says, will be at the resurrection of the righteous when those you guided in the darkness are now able to see for the first time; when those you strained to carry are now able to run; when those you pushed in wheelchairs are now walking beside you and leaping with joy; when those who could not speak, now have an eternity to tell you everything they always wanted you to hear.

“Although they cannot pay you (now), you will be repaid…” That’s the banquet I am looking forward to.

That’s my payday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Hope in Adoption

I'll be deviating just a little from my usual post about life with Jake in order to share with you just a glimpse of life with Hope; this being the 3rd anniversary of her “Gotcha Day” and the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

We have experienced the miracle of adoption in our diverse tribe four times over the past 16 years starting with Jake, then later with Noah and Aaron, and finally (maybe finally) with Hope.

Hope’s adoption was a little different than that of the boys. There was a large ransom to pay, a great journey to travel and a completely different culture to invade.

About half way through the two year process of our adoption, a little girl was born to a frightened mother in Beihai, Guangxi China. Because of China’s “one child law”, the baby girl was wrapped in a blanket and left abandoned in front of the Social Welfare Institute of Beihai. A policeman found her there and took her to the local orphanage where she was added to the long list of displaced children.

Thirteen months later my wife and I boarded a plane and flew to the other side of the world. With passports in hand, a briefcase full of government documentation, and $8000.00 in U.S currency (not including the $12,000.00 of additional fees that brought us to this point), we landed in Beijing, China to begin the in country process of bringing our daughter home.

We paid the orphanage and governmental fees, signed the legal documentation giving “Guo Jing Long” full rights as our daughter, gave her the new name of Hope, and brought her into our family.

What a personal, panoramic view God gave us of Ephesians 1:3-14.

Before Hope was born or even conceived, we began the process to bring her home as our daughter. She was ours before she existed, before she had anything to offer in return. At a specific point in time we traveled to the ends of the earth to effect her rescue, pay her ransom and bind the covenant that would give her our name and with it, full rights as a citizen and a daughter.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “A fine red thread connects everyone who is destined (or predestined) to meet. That thread may tangle and it may stretch, but it will never break.”

That thread is stained red with the blood of the One who is a Defender of orphans and who, by His miracle of adoption, places the lonely in families.


Copy and paste this link to your browser for a video adventure of our China adoption

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3LpVCkN1ZY

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How Do I know? A Little Bird Told Me.

I had a difficult time sleeping last night. I think I finally dozed off around 1am after wrestling with a bout of anxiety over my lack of middle-aged accomplishments and my overabundance of failures. I thought of finances and the future and the fleeting aspects of life all in comparison to what I have had, have now, and will or will not have in the future. It was rather depressing and exhausting.

After a sleep deprived night, I woke up early this morning to a clean snow on the ground; the symbolism of purity, freshness and peace. I love getting up early when it snows. I like to see the snowfall completely undisturbed before footprints, dog pee, and car tires mess it all up.

But it was not the thought of snow that woke me up this morning before daylight. It was the sound of birds. The only time I hear birds singing on a winter morning is after a fresh snowfall.

Why? Because they are hungry. Actually they are starving to death. And since I have a large bird feeder outside my kitchen window that stays full all winter, they depend on that seed for survival, especially when the temperature drops below zero and the snow covers the ground.

While the cry of hungry birds woke me and the pristine fresh snow enticed me, neither was enough to get my tired and sleepy body out of bed after a rather restless night. It was cold outside, my bed was warm, I was finally getting drowsy and I wanted to sleep till 10.

Then I heard it...a small voice from the darkness of my bedroom, much like the voice of an angel. At first it sounded like a dream, but then it became real and present in the room with me, “The bird feeder is empty...the birds are hungry...they need some seed.”

I imagine it was similar to the still small voice that Elijah heard on Mount Horeb, after the whirlwind, fire and earthquake…maybe even a little softer, but nonetheless just as convincing.

As I opened my foggy eyes I caught a fleeting glimpse of the angel complete in soft flowing gown and glowing face. It was my four year old daughter, Hope. “Daddy, the birds are hungry. They are tweeting outside my window and I cannot sleep. You need to fill up the bird feeder.”

I rose from my bed as if summoned by the Lord Himself, put on my sweatshirt and hiking boots, went to the garage, got the ladder and the bag of seed and went outside in the snow to fill the feeder.

I poured the seed in, spilling some onto the untouched snow intentionally for the ground feeders, and I thought to myself, “These birds really depend on this seed to live. Without it many of them would perish in the cold snow and instead of waking up to the beauty of a pristine, undisturbed snowfall, I would have woke to a cold, white blanket dotted with tiny little feathered corpses.”

As I finished pouring the bird buffet, I could hear the sound of thanksgiving whistling from the leafless trees all around the perimeter of my yard. “Your welcome,” I said out loud, rather sarcastically, hoping my neighbors didnt see me in my underwear and hiking boots standing in the snow talking to birds.

I put the ladder and the seed back in the garage, knocked the snow off my boots, fixed me some coffee and grabbed my Bible. The little messenger angel had already gone back to her heavenly abode and, except for the bird choir worshipping at my kitchen window, all was peaceful in my warm house.

A comfortable chair embraced my sore back and I placed my feet by the fire still feeling the weary effects of last nights sleep-wrestling tournament. I then turned to Matthew chapter 6 and read these words,

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

And thus my paraphrase,

“Stop worrying and losing sleep over stuff you have no control over. I have bigger plans for you than what you could ever imagine. Want proof? I sent a bird to your daughter’s window with a message. I sent your daughter to your bedside with a revelation. I sent you to the bird feeder, in your underwear, in the freezing snow, with life-giving sustenance all for a small flock of feathered Parus Carolinensis (scientific name for the particularly small birds at my feeder). I love you more than I love these birds and will take care of you accordingly. Got it?”

Got it Lord, I think I’ll go back to sleep now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Sovereign Solution to a Cold Case Crime

“…according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…” Ephesians 1:11

Many times over the past 16 years or so, probably due to my investigative nature and police mentality, I have returned in my mind to the possible source of my son’s handicap. Like an unsolved, cold case, murder mystery I pour over the evidence and attempt to solve this heinous crime.

Before we adopted Jake, he was born to a drug abusing mother and a biological father who had an extensive criminal and drug history. Was the drug use to blame? His biological mother received no prenatal care during her pregnancy. Was the mother’s negligence to blame? Jake was born almost two months premature. Was his premature birth to blame? He had severe seizures for almost a year as a baby. Were the seizures to blame?

I get angry when I think of all the negligence, stupidity, ignorance, sickness and sin that may have contributed to the mental and physical state my son lives in today. I want to avenge. I desire justice for my son.

Then I read Ephesians 1, and right around verse 11, I stand in awe of a much bigger picture.
I know there is a lot more going on in the first chapter of Ephesians, but in the lines of this inspired letter I discover some case breaking truths.

Before my son’s seizures God had a purpose. Before the premature birth, He had a plan. Before the drug abuse, the negligence, the criminal history there was intention in the design of the Creator of the universe on behalf of one broken little boy.


“Before the foundations of the world” verse 4 tells us, the predestined purpose of my son, and millions like him, was being worked out “according to the counsel of God’s will.”

I don’t pretend to fully understand that. But this weighty passage serves as a heavy anchor that keeps me steady in the most violent of opposing storms.

This anchor is not the security of a useless cliché that falls from the lips of well meaning Christians, “God knows what you’re going through.” Of course He does, He’s God. Instead it is the promise that God has an intentional plan for what you are going through. A plan that works all things according to the counsel of His will...a plan that precedes time and supersedes circumstances.

Ephesians 1 completes my investigation. My son is not a pitiful tragedy blamed on negligence or ignorance. He is a mysterious element of a divine plan. A predestined purpose of God’s will to the praise of His glorious grace. A display of the immeasurable greatness of God’s power according to the working of His great might.

Case closed.