My daughter Annabelle is in the middle of speech and debate season as a high schooler. Early this season, she crafted a speech about emotional purity among teenagers in their relationships with the opposite sex. Of course our teens need to be physically pure as Christians, but going deeper than that, is just physical purity enough? Or should we strive for something more? That is the subject of her speech. It’s a good one. But the other night, as she was practicing it, she told me that something was missing from it. So, I listened to it again. And then it hit me. YES, it was missing something.
Annabelle is a teenager, so she can be forgiven for not seeing a radical consequence of emotional purity, or a lack of it, in our teenage years and how that affects our adult lives. But as a pastor, I have witnessed it first hand dozens of times. The pattern begins simply enough. We get to the age where we can date members of the opposite sex and what happens? We go out with the people who we think are the prettiest, or the coolest, or maybe just the best we can get. Why? Because the goal seems to be emotional fulfillment, for us. We want to be loved, or liked, or noticed. When our boyfriend or girlfriend stops being exciting, or meeting our needs, we move on to the next dating relationship. This establishes a pattern that some of us are enmeshed in for more than a decade as we “decide” who will be the right one for us to marry, eventually. Little do we know that we are deepening a pattern behavior which will be VERY hard for us to break out of when we do get married. As a pastor, I have seen this cycle cause reckless damage and destroy marriages ALL over the place. I can’t tell you how many people I have had in my office telling me that “they just don’t love their spouse anymore” or that “Their spouse doesn’t fulfill them anymore” or “They don’t have any FEELINGS for their spouse any longer.” This is the dating cycle played out in spades.
As we grow up, our view of our relationships with the opposite sex is vital to our own growth and well being in Christ. If we continue to see the opposite sex as a means to fulfill our emotional needs, we will likely head down the wedding isle with that same thinking. We don’t just automatically become different people simply because we meet our future spouse. Here is what I mean. If we view the opposite sex as a means of inner fulfillment instead of an avenue for serving them, then when we finally do meet “the One”, we will view him/her the same way. We will run headlong down the isle without realizing that they were not made for out ultimate consumption, and eventually, when they do not fulfill our expectations, we will become disillusioned about our marriage. More than one half of all the marriages that end in divorce do so within the first two years, the majority of them because one or both of the partners was unable to move through the adolescent view that their spouse could not meet their emotional desires.
As Christians, it is so important that we master this idea NOW, so that we do not carry these infantile views of romantic love into our marriages, where we will be harming our spouse and possibly, our children. We must also teach this idea to our children and help them avoid a very dangerous cycle.
A wise Christian of ages past, Bernard of Clairvaux, reflected on the stages of love. Here is what he found:
1. We love because of how the other makes me feel. I love for my own sake.
2. We love because of how the other helps my life. I love for the benefits it brings me.
3. We love because the other for who they are in themselves. We love others for their own sake.
In the first two stages of love, we love because of what the other brings into our lives. It is selfish at the core, loving because of what we receive. Only in the third stage do we move into a view of love that loves the other based on other motives. It is important that we move from a childish and selfish view of love into a more mature view of love in order to ready ourselves for life in real marriage. I am not saying that romance and a fluttering heart is of the devil. Of course you should be attracted to your spouse, but what mindset do we want to cultivate among ourselves and our children? One that is hopelessly romantic and considers how others can satisfy us? Or one that takes the attitude of Christ and considers what is best for those we interact with? It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that the husband should love his wife as Christ lived the church and laid down his life for her. The wife is to submit to her husband as the church loves Christ and submits to him. Paul did not say that we are to emotionally use our spouse for how they make us feel or for what benefit they bring to us. Paul’s words are words of selflessness, not selfishness. Which attitude are we cultivating?
Think about the movies you watch, the books you read, the music you listen to, the daydreams you have and then evaluate them by the words of Christ through the Apostle Paul in order to decide whether you are longing for your own fulfillment or for the good of others in Christ. Being fulfilled in marriage is not wrong. In a godly marriage, both partners die to themselves in order to serve their spouse and this creates a very beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. It can be joyful, fulfilling and deeply emotional. But, this comes as a by product of seeing love as a commitment that drives an attitude of service made tangible by actions of loving service toward the other. But if we fall prey to the culture’s idea of lustful, emotionally charged, hopelessly romantic love, we are bound to be hopelessly let down. No one was made to fulfill us from the inside out. God provides our ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, our culture has replaced fulfillment in Christ for romantic escapades that only leave us emptier than before we began. Learn to evaluate the message being sent by our culture in regards to romantic fulfillment. Remember that love is a commitment to someone through Christ, not a means to have our love tank filled up for the moment.
Adoption has changed my family in dramatic ways. Many families begin the adoption journey with radical hopes and dreams but the reality of adoption soon hits them. This is true whether they adopt internationally or from the U.S. foster care system. Children need to be adopted because they come from backgrounds that are at best, very emotionally unhealthy, and at worst, complete horrific in all imaginable categories. Children who have been traumatized take their trauma out on their new families without even knowing it. It can be a painful cycle, but it is the reality of adoption. That being said, it is not the totality of adoption.
In this documentary, my daughter Annabelle sheds light on the painful side of what many adoptive families go through. But if you are considering adoption, take heart, the pain you experience is part of a process of redemption, the saving of a child from a life of brokenness and instead, opening them to a life of light and joy. I am so proud of how Annabelle was able to verbalize her feelings through this process in order to help others understand what adoption is like and how it affects families.
Watch the trailer. Be inspired for what God wants to do in your own life as you open yourself to loving others the way He has loved us. God can use you just like he is using Lee Jong-rak to make a difference.
January 21, 2013 Posted by matttague | Adoption, Christian Living, Parenting, Social and Cultural Issues | Adoption, God's love of orphans, Lee Jong-rak, loving others, South Korea, the drop box | Leave a Comment
I just completed a four week series on the Old Testament book of Ruth. It was a lot of fun with our congregation at Rancho del Rey Church. Enjoy!
David Brooks recently wrote an interesting op-ed piece for the New York Times about the changing demographic of families worldwide. It deserves notice and thought by those of us committed to reaching people for Jesus. You can read it here.
I recently completed a five week series on Marriage at Rancho del Rey Church. It was both encouraging and humbling to talk about the Biblical principles of marriage for five Sundays in a row. We covered God’s original plan for marriage, how sin radically altered our interaction with one another, how to paint a portrait of Jesus in our marriages, our roles in marriage and lastly, how to achieve lasting greatness in our marriages. Here are all 5 videos from the series.
Week #1: God’s Original Design for Marriage
Week #2: What Went Radically Wrong with Marriage
Week #3: Your Marriage is a Portrait
Week #4: Your Role in Marriage
Week #5: Lasting Greatness
My son is doing a research project regarding young men, ages 14-25, and the use of pornography. He is hoping to gather as many honest responses to this poll as possible. If you are a male in this age group, please click on the link below to take this anonymous, 4 question survey. If you know young men in this category, please take a second and send them the link and ask them to take the poll.
My oldest daughter Marli just wrote a guest column in a friend’s blog which deserves attention. She writes about fairy stories, myths and superhero’s and how they are all attached to the story of Jesus. It is an incredible read. Check it out here:
I came across an insightful article by Voddie Bauchum, a black pastor, who responds to the popular slogan, “Gay is the new black.” The Homosexual agenda has always tried to frame the discussion of its acceptability in terms of civil rights. As Christians, many of us don’t even want to enter into the discussion. We instead continue to hold our private views on the subject, but never engage publicly for fear that we will be labeled as backwards, or defending a position that is politically incorrect, especially as legal and cultural pressure mount from the very small, but extremely well-organized and well-funded gay and lesbian lobby machine. As Voddie’s article shows, there are some major holes in the argument that gay rights is inherently a civil rights struggle.
Before you get to the article, one more word of wisdom: We Christians do not oppose the gay and lesbian agenda because we are American. If American culture chooses to continue to embrace the homosexual agenda, there may be only so much Christians in America can do about it. Rather, Christians oppose the homosexual agenda because Christians oppose every form of sexual encounter apart from the marriage of a man and a woman as defined in Genesis 2 and as articulated in Ephesians 5:21-33. Our stance on the matter is no different from our embracing a man who is living with a woman. Christians are bound by a moral code of ethics given in the New Testament which restricts the pleasures of sexual expression to heterosexual, married couples. If the homosexual agenda would like to cast us Christians as restrictive, they really don’t know half the matter! But we Christians must remember, our code of ethics applies only to people IN the church. Paul tells us explicitly in I Corinthians 5 that our code of conduct applies only to our own people, Christians. Therefore, as Christians, if we oppose the homosexual agenda, it is in truth not because we are American citizens, but because we are looking to the future. We know that if the homosexual agenda is cast and won as a civil rights struggle, then even our churches will not be immune from state legislation that will condemn our time-honored New Testament practice of heterosexual monogamy as limiting the rights of others. We American Christians will then be forced to comply with the state or be forced to pay legal fines, and then later prison for engaging in hate speech. At that time, we really won’t have said anything different from what we have always said, that for Christians, God has ordained the union of a man and a woman as the only sanctioned expression of our sexuality. And even though our rules only apply to our own conduct, that won’t be good enough. Since we can’t celebrate alternate expressions of sexuality, we will (are) labeled as bigots. The very fact that our scripture condemns all other sexual practices is enough to anger those who define freedom as the ability to engage in anything you want without argument from any. For the founders of our nation, many of whom came from a distinctly Christian worldview, the word “freedom” meant something else entirely.
Read Voddie Baucham’s article here.
My daughter Annabelle wrote an article recently for a California Fos-Adopt Agency, sharing her heart about the process, sorrows, joys and comfort that God gives through adoption. I thought I would share it here with you.
It was the eighth anniversary of 9/11-the day I met my little sisters. People had said it was supposed to be one of the most exciting days of my life-something I’ll never forget. It’s true, I’ll never forget it, but I must admit that at the time, I had different emotions mixing in my heart. Only a few days before, my life was perfect-I had a wonderful family and a peaceful, quiet home. Then, before I knew it, my old life began to slip through my fingers.
When we met my two beautiful, black sisters, they were sweet and outgoing, yet their story was painful. Although they were only 3 and 5-years-old, they had endured a lifetime of neglect, abuse, and rejection. Their biological parents lived dark lives, caught in addictions and enslavement to substance abuse. In the womb, my little sisters reaped the negative effects of their mother’s alcohol and drug abuse. When they were born, their mother rarely fed them, changed their diapers, or bathed them. The floor on which they learned to crawl was strewn with open drug baggies and other harmful objects. Their father’s severe, painful abuse was, sadly, a normal occurrence. They constantly lived between pain and hunger. Eventually, after two and a half years of this lifestyle, the Child Protective Services removed them from their parent’s care, or lack thereof, and placed them into the foster system.
Despite many foster families positive efforts, the large majority of Foster Care is made up of families whose sole purpose in taking in children is for the extra income it provides, a stipend from the state. My little sisters lived in one such home with several other children. They had no father figure in the home, or correct care and attention. Foster Care was simply a holding place until a family came to adopt them.
We were that family. We were the ones who had been appointed, not only to take them into our home as one of us, but to train, nurture, and help them develop into successful young women. In our inquiries leading up that day, no one had told us of the baggage they would bring with them. By baggage, I don’t mean physical luggage, but rather the deep subconscious battles they must fight daily fight a result of their past. We were called upon to help them fight those battles. Because of their background, and by no fault of their own, they were trapped by emotions and thought processes, which were absolutely false. They had been forced into survival mode at a young age, and eventually, it became a way of life.
Retraining minds is no small task, but loving is an even taller order. These little girls had become my younger sisters, and I must love them. Through their emotional struggles, my peaceful, quiet home, easy life, and joy disappeared. Despite my losses, I was to give them my unconditional devotion? No, that was the line. I simply could not love them. I began to put up a false font to give people around me, including my family, the impression that everything was fine. I could not let anyone know the real difficulties I was struggling with-I thought no one would understand.
Over two years went by, I was still bitter. Never in all that time, was I selflessly thinking about my family or, more specifically, my sisters. It was all about me and the new, uncomfortable lifestyle I had been given. My whole world had been flipped up-side-down, what else was I to do? I felt like my own home was foreign to me, because every time I walked through my front doors, I was hit in the face with the reality of what my new life was like. I lived in remembrance of the joy I had lost, wishing for peace I thought I could not have.
Then at the height of my pain, I was completely broken of all my bitterness. My hopelessness cracked in one word: Jesus. I was taught through God’s Word that I, in fact, was also lost, I was unlovable and totally undeserving of God’s love. No matter how many times I tried to say I was “good,” I realized that I was just like my sisters. Christ, who loved me despite my sin, was the perfect example of how I should treat my sisters. I thought no one would understand my pain, but really, I was the one who did not understand.
After this realization, my life did not become any easier, but my outlook changed. I was looking at my sisters through a different lens, one of love, not indignation. I began to understand that I was exactly like my sisters. I receive God’s love though I don’t deserve it, therefore I should do the same for my sisters.
Adoption is a beautiful process. It goes beyond the physical realm, and into the deepest parts of the spiritual realm. When we accept Jesus into our lives, we become sons and daughters of the Father-adopted into his kingdom. We are blessed with a love beyond all comprehension. Now that we have Christ’s perfect example, we are called to go and do likewise-to love like Christ has loved us.
My family and I have experienced great amounts of pain through this process, but ever greater is our joy. We have seen Christ literally changing lives. Because of his grace and mercy we adopted a two year old little boy from the Foster Care system in 2011. He is a blessing and joy to our home. Now, we are in the process of submitting paperwork for yet another fos-adoption.
Because of Christ’s love for me, an undeserving, unlovable sinner, I can now love others with passion beyond my own strength. Although I had to experience pain to realize that fact, I am now more appreciative of my adoptive place into Christ’s family, and am passionate to share it with others.
I encourage you to pray about foster adoption. It is a perfect picture of what the Father has done for us, and a perfect way to carry out his example. Each state has it’s own foster system. Adoption from Foster Care is simple and relatively inexpensive. The United States Department of Health and Human Services stated a few years ago, “On any given day, half a million children are in Foster Care in the United States.” Unfortunately, this large number is rapidly growing. The only way to overcome it is one child at a time. Each one of these children is a human life, waiting to be loved and cared for – waiting for a family. Maybe they are waiting for you. -Annabelle Tague
I am a 14-year-old student, daughter, sister and friend. I have been homeschooled in California my entire life thanks to the Lord and my wonderful parents. It’s through Christ alone that I live, move, and have my being.
Matt was born and raised in Carlsbad, Calif. Although he grew up in a devout Christian home, he struggled and rebelled against the Lord as a teenager. However, at eighteen, Matt gave in to God’s love and submitted to Jesus. Soon after, he met and married his wife Kelli. They now have six children and love the role that God has given them as parents.
In 1998, Matt graduated from Vanguard University with a degree in Ministry and Leadership. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Westminster Seminary, California. For the last eighteen years, he has worked for a variety of Christian ministries including Horizon Christian Fellowship, the Christian Research Institute, and Carlsbad Community Church.
In 2005, the Lord called Matt to plant Rancho del Rey Christian Church in Carlsbad, California. Matt’s heart desire is to help people see Jesus in all his glory. He and his wife are passionate about parenting, adoption, The Bible, missions, discipleship and helping people see Jesus in every aspect of life. His life’s calling is to present the Jesus of the Bible to people who don’t yet believe, and to encourage fellow Christ-followers to live in complete, life-altering obedience to God. He recently authored his first book, Read the Word: The Bible was written for you.