Michael B Linton

Sunday, February 14, 2016

An Unexpected Love for Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day 2016. Significant others have been flowered, chocolated, and ballooned, all at the behest of florists, chocolatiers, and balloonists. My lovely bride has no real concern for Valentine's Day. Should I get her something, she'll be pleased, but it isn't expected in my home. She prefers the thoughtfulness and surprise of flowers when I've been gone on a trip to the manufactured and planned presentation every February. However, this isn't a post about the uselessness of this made-up holiday, though I believe I could produce one so compelling, you'd never again deign to spend your evenings of February 13th skedaddling from one Walmart to another in search of the last crappy card.

Nor will I Jesus-juke the holiday. Certainly, the only true love is that offered by God in the person of Jesus Christ. Absolutely, the church father for which the non-holiday is named would cringe at the sappy sentimentalism for which his name has been used. But why would I want to steal food from the mouths of Hallmark's president's children? Enjoy your fun, if you see fit to participate.

However, one can't approach this holiday without at least the thought of love crossing one's mind. And the love that crossed my mind is one that truly surprised me, though I don't know why. It's my love for our adopted beauties, the Twinadoes.

J3's adoption was final in July of 2014 and J4's was final in August of 2015, so this is the first Valentine's Day with both of them fully ours. Etta and I regularly look at them, marvel at their beauty, and wonder aloud how we got them. We question whether they could truly be ours and if no one will come to get them to take them to their "real" parents. It's all part of the marvel of adoption, I suppose. We have no true fears of any of this, but it boggles the mind some days that they are actually ours.

Then, in the midst of all that, I'm struck by how much love I have for them. I'm a fairly nice guy, mind you, working on loving people and all that. I also knew coming into this that I would probably love them. What I don't think I was prepared for was how quickly and completely I could love them. I know this isn't the case for all adoptive parents, that some find it more difficult than others, but this has been my experience. And it has blown me away.

I can't imagine life without them, but that's not even the half of it. They are my son and daughter, as surely as J1 and J2 are. Other than a slight difference in skin tone, I don't see any distinction between the four of them. My love is complete, as much as a human father's love can be, and I am floored by it.

The fact is, I loved them before they were ours, and I don't just mean when they were foster children in our home with an uncertain future. I mean before I knew them, I loved them. It was a decision we made when we entered the process - we didn't wait until children had been placed with us. It was a willful decision on our part.

But it was much more than that. This was divinely orchestrated. I don't think I can take too much credit for loving them. This is the calling God placed on our lives and, when he placed the calling, he placed the love. God told us to foster and adopt children, but what we didn't understand is that God told us to foster and adopt 'our' children. That's what we did. That's why we love them so.

They're ours and they always have been. And we can't believe how much we love them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why I Will Not Be Voting for Donald Trump

This is not the most flattering picture of Donald Trump, but it is representative of the image I get when I think of him. This is one of the many reasons I can't vote for Donald Trump.

Let me say that I am angry about the direction of our country. The legalization of gay marriage; the failure and fiasco that is Obamacare; the disdain that President Obama has for our country; the fact that Planned Parenthood is not indicted for selling baby parts, but the man who showed that they were IS indicted; Christian refugees are turned away; and a myriad other issues. However, there is a big difference between allowing that anger to motivate a calculated, Christian response and allowing that anger to motivate an irrational, violent reaction. I'm afraid, given his comments over the past year, we can expect more of the latter, rather than the former, from Mr. Trump.

Here is a man that uses Twitter as a font of venom. Just a quick perusal shows tweets calling people stupid or dumb. He regularly uses such mature tactics as calling people ugly. He often will say something rude or crass (plain-spoken, right?), but then have to backtrack the next day, saying he didn't mean what he said. Megyn Kelley knows about that one. The sort of garbage that has come from him is unbecoming of a human, much less a president.

Then there is his ego. I'm thoroughly convinced that he thinks he should be president simply because he is Donald Trump. Why else would most of campaign promises end with "because I'll make them"? We currently have a president with more ego than ability, and that hasn't worked so well for the country. To run for president, one admittedly has to have an extreme amount of confidence, but even with confidence there can be humility. Trump can't spell humility.

I don't think Trump is good for families: up until a few months ago he supported Planned Parenthood. Suddenly he's very against it, but we have no real proof of that change. I don't think Trump is good for foreign policy. You can't dismiss a fellow world leader because you don't like her looks. Statecraft is about the art of the negotiation, in most instances. You can't just yell "you're fired" when you don't get your way. I don't think Trump is good for the economy. He supports government bailouts and his extremely liberal use of bankruptcies (read: business failures) is a source of great concern. I don't think Trump is good for religious liberty. America cannot turn against an entire religion because some, even many, of that religion use it for evil. If the government can spy on a mosque with no cause, they can spy on a church with no cause. And really, given our government's track-record under Obama, who is seen as more subversive, Christians or Muslims? Regardless, freedom of religion is unalienable, even if that religion says hateful things about others. I don't think Trump is good for immigration. Certainly, something needs to be done, but promising a wall and that Mexico will pay for it isn't a real plan.

And finally there's his complete lack of morals, shown often in his Twitter attacks and campaign promises, but even more glaring in his personal history. No, no person is perfect. Yes, I voted for a Mormon, someone I do not believe will go to heaven because they are a part of an non-Christian cult. But at least he had morals. Trump has been married three times. He owns strip clubs. He says he doesn't need forgiveness, because he's never done anything that bad. (Um, all have sinned and fall short of the glory or God. --Romans 8:28) He's crass. He's rude. He's crude. And I prefer a candidate like what the Southern Baptist Convention resolved we should support: one with moral character. When Bill Clinton was president, we said character mattered. Apparently, many Evangelicals have changed their mind. (I'm looking at you Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell, Jr.)

From my perspective, Donald Trump sees Money as god, and Donald Trump is its prophet. We can do much better, Christians. We have to, for our own credibility and the gospel we claim to represent.

**Spoiler alert: should my choice for president be between the Democrat candidate and Donald Trump, I'm very likely to vote third candidate. Because, based on their histories, what's the difference between the two anyway?

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Great Lesson for Pastors

Others May; You Cannot
by George D. Watson

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word. If you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My sermons online!

I'll be adding them as I get them formatted. All of my recorded sermons should be up in about 2 weeks, because I can only upload a certain amount per week.

Go here:

Monday, April 4, 2011

A New Beginning for Us and the End of Hope Fellowship

(This is a repost of what was put on our Hope Fellowship website on April 4th.)

Today I share with you the news that I had hoped to never have to share, but knew that it would always be possible: Hope Fellowship came to an end yesterday, one day short of the 1 year anniversary of our first preview service. This was a mutually agreed upon decision by our leadership team. It was an incredibly hard decision for me to make, but it was exactly what needed to happen.

There are many reasons why we made the decision, most of which I’ll process and blog about at http://www.mick-b.blogspot.com/, but I can briefly cover a couple here. We’ve been working at this for over four years now and we hadn’t seen the results we expected. More specifically, I’ve worked two jobs the whole time we’ve tried to start the church and, because of that, I just wasn’t able to give it the time I needed to. I had hoped that, as we progressed, the state convention and other churches would see our commitment and advancement and join us with financial support. When that didn’t happen, we knew it would be difficult to continue but we pressed ahead. We also know now that we are the third church to be unable to start up in that community. (We weren’t aware of this until after we had begun meeting as a church.)

It is, however, very difficult for us to refer to this as a “failure”. We know, without a doubt, that God called us to this mission in this location at this time. I can only assume that I misunderstood what the goal was. God was using this to teach, not build the next mega-church in Houston. There have been numerous times that we were ready to call it quits, but God would give us something that made us know we were to continue. The interesting thing is that, as Etta and I discussed ending it this time, no “divine rescue” came. It was clear that it was time to stop and see what God had next for us. Just so you know, I don’t know what that is yet. But He’ll tell us when He’s ready.

I can only begin to tell you all the things I have learned that I can take into my next ministry--I’ll cover more of it at my blog. I can say that one thing I’ve learned is that when God gives people in your church a vision and a calling, you get behind them. I’ve also learned things about planning, budgeting, vision-casting, outreach, and countless other things that I never would have learned in a traditional, established church setting. I have amassed a treasure trove of knowledge that I can’t wait to begin to unpack and see how God is going to put it to use.

Thank you, from the bottom of hearts, for all of you who prayed and gave to support our vision. You didn’t give to us, you gave to God, and He used that to change lives. That’s all you can ask for any time you give to Him. And your prayers kept us going when nothing else did.

This isn’t the end for us, just a page turn to the next chapter. We are eager to see where God takes us next. Pray with us as we seek to be right in the middle of His will.