Week 1: Getting Started
Day 2 – Lessons From A Man Who Eats Locusts
Mark 1:1-8; Luke 1:11-17, Malachi 4:5,6; Luke 7:18-35; Malachi 3:1; John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3
John the Baptist is an interesting fellow. I mean, anyone who would wear camel skin and eat locusts is going to be an attention grabber. But, I hadn’t really planned on writing anything more about him than what I wrote in yesterday’s blog… until I wrote yesterday’s blog. Some of the things that I had planned to write yesterday, I put aside to add to some new thoughts that came as I wrote. So, here goes.
John displayed two particular attitudes that are vital to successful ministry among the fatherless. The first, is found in one of the principle purposes God had for his life: To “turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their father.” (Malachi 4:5,6; Luke 1:13-17)
Often when we think of the fatherless or orphans we think in terms of adoption, children’s homes and foster care. By limiting our view to this type of ministry we miss an enormous group of these children.
From time to time, I have heard (and may have even said it myself ) that ministry to orphans should only be to those who have lost both parents. There are valid reasons for such a statement. Believe me, some very specific challenges arise when the children’s home is faced with raising the child under one set of principles and guidelines only to have the parent or guardian teach a completely different set when they periodically re-enter the child’s life. It can be frustrating to teach a child not to steal, only to send them home for few days where they are taught how to steal. But the “true orphan” mindset doesn’t fit Scripture.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament the words translated as “fatherless” do not require that both parents be deceased. The Old Testament word “yathom” means simply: “to be lonely, a bereaved person” (1) and is used of a child “bereaved only of his father.” (2) The New Testament word “orphanos” from which we get the English word “orphan”, simply means “bereft (of father or parents)”. (3)
While sometimes our limited resources, and even limited vision, may restrict the scope of our ministry – God’s Word does not limit the command to the “true orphan”.
This is where John’s purpose comes into play. God’s desire was that he would turn the hearts of the fathers to the their children and vice versa. The same need exists today. More than forty percent (40%) of American children are born to unwed mothers. One in three American children do not live with their biological fathers. We need to reach out to dads. We need to reach out to young men and teach them the importance of committing to be responsible for their children. We need to reach out to boys and teach them now, before they have made the same mistakes and committed the same sins as their fathers. This is an enormous part of ministry to the fatherless. Death is not the only cause of fatherlessness. Many children are fatherless (or motherless) because of abandonment, divorce and incarceration. Until our ministry to the fatherless addresses these issues the fatherless pandemic will only continue to grow.
The second attitude of John that caught my attention was his humble focus. I was recently reading through the comments on a news article dealing with adoption laws. More than one person noted the apparent “glamor” or “glory” or “prestige” of international adoption. Now, I must first say, that pretty much everything these people said was completely unfounded and off-base, but there was an ounce of truth to the fact that some people somehow read these things into adoption and/or orphan ministry in general. Somehow, this area seems to get romanticized a bit. The truth of the matter is – it’s hard work. Just like parenting your own children. So if you’re tempted to step into this arena because of its romantic appeal – Don’t. Don’t adopt, or go on a missions trip, or become a foster parent so that you can enjoy the limelight. Do it because God has called you to it, and with the intent that HE will receive all the glory.
This was John’s attitude. As I read the verses in yesterday’s blog, I was struck by a few phrases that epitomize John’s perspective. John understood that his job was not to call attention to himself, even if he was the strange guy eating locust and honey. His job was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17) John was the warm up performance before the main attraction. His goal was to prepare hearts to receive Christ. That is our job as well. We are just the tools God is using to draw these children to Himself.
Which brings us to the second phrase that caught my eye, “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (John 1:23-27) John saw himself for what he was – a simple, sinful man making a road for the King of kings. This was the attitude that went with John throughout his ministry. In John 3:30, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He understood that his job was to magnify Christ, not himself.
This is the attitude with which we must approach ministry to the fatherless – and it has to be real! No fake stuff! Children see right through hypocrisy. Put away self; let Christ shine through you.
One day, many years ago, I was responsible for bringing a devotional with some of our children in Russia. I don’t remember what led to the verse that we used that morning, but I will never forget the object lesson that came out of it. The passage was Philippians 1:10,11:
“That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
The word sincere is a bit of a curious word. The note written into the margin of my Bible says that it means to be “judged by sunlight (heat), proven to be genuine, pure and sincere.” To illustrate this, I took the glass out of a picture frame (washed it) and laid it across the top of a lamp. When the lamp was on, the light shone up through the glass and the only thing that could be seen on the ceiling was the light and the shadow of the lamp shade’s supports. Then I tossed a handful of potting soil onto the glass. Guess what you could see on the ceiling then!
As we work with the fatherless it is important to set before us the goal of having a life through which the light of Christ shines with as little impediment as possible. The more dirt in our lives, the more shadows on the ceiling.
Are we genuine? Are we seeking only to glorify God by the work that Christ has done in our lives, or are we seeking to gain a measure of praise for ourselves?
He must increase, but I must decrease.
(1) Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
(2) Gesenius’s Lexicon, BlueLetterBible.com
(3) Thayer’s Lexicon, BlueLetterBible.com