It was a joyful, tearful day in November of 2012. On this very big day, my wife and I, our son and daughter-in-law, and our three, soon to be, beautiful granddaughters—Destiny, Jewel, and Kahana—along with other precious family members and some close friends, were due to appeared in family court before a judge in Honolulu. This was the day we had all been waiting for; the day that the adoption was to be finalized and these three beautiful children would become ours, forever. But as we waited to be summoned into the court room, my head was spinning with memories of another such day, years earlier, when my wife and I, and a precious little girl named Rachel, entered a similar courtroom in California.
Rachel was only two years old. Her mother had been killed in a terrible auto accident. Rachel had been in the car at the time, but she miraculously survived with only minor injuries. At her grandmothers request, Rachel had been placed in our care and had been living with us for about 7 months. Of course we had fallen madly in love with this little girl and had made it our intention to try to adopt her.
We entered the courtroom that morning with Rachel in our arms and hope in our hearts; but we departed the courthouse an hour later in tears, with no Rachel, and our hope completely shattered. That morning some strange people, who we had never before seen, appeared in the courtroom. We were informed by the court that a man had emerged from the shadows claiming to be Rachel’s biological father; and the state mandated blood-tests indicated that he most likely was. Because we had no formal, binding, covenant in place—the adoption was not yet finalized—his desire to take custody of Rachel was all that was necessary for her to be taken from our arms and handed over to him. We went back home to face an empty room filled with Rachel’s toys, Rachel’s clothes, Rachel’s empty bed—but no Rachel. I remember running out into the woods behind our house and weeping before my God. I had only one pressing question raging in my broken heart—“Why?”
“But today would be different,” I told myself. Today, these three beautiful little girls would become forever ours. Still, I couldn’t help constantly looking over my shoulder, surveying the room, and wondering who all the people sitting around us really were. After what felt like hours, it was our turn to go before the judge. I was more than a little relieved to see that we were not followed into the courtroom by any strangers that we could not account for. After reviewing all the paperwork provided by the state social worker, the judge proceeded to question us as to our understanding of the situation and the intent of our hearts. He asked my son and daughter-in-law several questions regarding their desire to adopt the girls, making sure they completely understood the ramifications and possible consequences of their commitment. He queried each of the girls, allowing them to express their feelings about the matter. Surprisingly, he even asked me, the granddad, to comment on my feelings and my understanding of the obligations I was taking on as a grandparent. I remember the judge asking me what would occur should—God forbid—something tragic happen to my son and daughter-in-law. He wanted to make sure that my heart and my home would always be open to the girls. It was all very emotional and very beautiful; there were tears all around.
After securing the social worker’s recommendation, and seeing that all the paperwork was in order, and having satisfied himself as to the intent of our hearts—seeing our conviction as a family to make this thing work no matter what challenges may assail us—the judge pounded his gavel and pronounced the adoption finalized. That day, we entered into a beautiful covenant with one another. The hearing was the inauguration of our covenant and the adoption papers, certified by the State of Hawai‘i, became the tokens of our covenant; always there to remind us of, and to declare to the world, our life-long commitments to one another. We are now family by covenant; and nothing will ever change that.
A covenant is defined as, “a formal, solemn, and binding agreement: a compact,” or “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action” (Covenant, 2013). While a covenant is founded upon promises, it is much more than a promise. It is much more than a mere agreement, or even a contract. A covenant cannot be broken, except under the direst of circumstances; and not without incurring severe consequences.
When Ne’ and I fell in love with one another, many years ago, we knew that we wanted to make our relationship permanent. So, on one bright and beautiful morning in May, just as the sun was coming up over the distant mountain ridge, my bride made her way down the pathway as I played my guitar and sang to her a favorite love song. There, amid my grandfather’s roses, with the roosters crowing in the background, and surrounded by a hand full of people who loved us, we made promises to one another and took vows to keep those promises “till death do us part!” Our simple little wedding ceremony was the inauguration of our covenant and our wedding rings—now her name tattooed on my left ring-finger—became the tokens of our covenant; along with the marriage license issued by the State of New Mexico and our yearly anniversary remembrance. These precious tokens continually remind us of, and declare to the world, our life-long commitment to one another. We are now husband and wife—family—by covenant; and nothing will ever change that.
So, now you’ve become a Christian. You understand that, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB). You also understand that a living faith goes far beyond merely believing in something. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:19-20, NASB). An authentic, living faith is active; it moves us and prompts us to respond to the will of God.
And so, because of your faith in Christ and what He accomplished for you, and because you love Him, you’ve surrendered your heart and life to God. You have “died to sin” [repentance] and, like the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts, chapter 8, who cried, “Look water! What prevents me from being baptized?” you, too, have been to the water for the “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). You have expressed your faith in Christ’s life giving sacrifice by being “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “into His death” (Romans 6:2-3, NASB) “for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, NASB). Trusting not in your own works, but only in His saving grace, you were “buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12, NASB).
Now you, like me, have become one of God’s children by covenant—a “covenant child.” And I want you to know that there is great power and much beauty in that fact because it means that your place, and mine, in God’s forever family is no accident. It didn’t come about because of our physical heritage, our bloodlines, our ethnicity, our nationality, or any other incidental, natural process. Rather, because God loves you and me dearly, and because He knew the faith and love in our hearts, even before either one of us was born, we have each been singled out, selected, and chosen to become His own child. The Apostle Paul says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4, NASB).
Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44, NASB). Think about all the people and influences that God has used in your life to draw you to Him. Here we were, both you and I, at one time in our lives just living for ourselves. Paul says, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12, NASB). But God made the first move: “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NASB). Knowing our hearts, God went to work on us and, over the course of our lives, He used one person then another, one experience then another, one situation after another—some tragic, some joyful—to, somehow, someway, make sure we heard the beautiful story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what He has done for us; He called us through the message of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul says:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NASB)
Although Jesus said, “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14, NASB), God knew, already, that you and I would be among those who would respond to the Gospel and answer His calling. And so, He chose you and me to become His own children; and He has made us His children by calling us into a covenant with Him.
What that means is that, because God delights in us and desires an intimate relationship with us, and has even chosen us, He has made certain promises to you and me. He has also acted upon those promises by making certain provisions whereby such a relationship with Him can actually become possible. In response, we, by faith, have reached out to claim those promises and provisions and have, thereby, entered into a formal and binding relationship with Him—a covenant—and have become “God’s own possession” (I Peter 2:9, NASB).
But there is something more that you and I share, now that we have become His children; we are both now on a spiritual journey, a sojourn, a voyage of discovery, a quest for an authentic life in Christ that pleases God and brings Him glory. We seek that full and radiant life that Jesus promised when He said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NASB); the life that will one day issue into eternal life with God in the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13, NASB).
I would like to believe that neither you, nor I, are interested in just following the religious doctrines and traditions of man. This quest that we are on means much more to us than that. We have not surrendered our hearts and lives to the Lord just to perpetuate manmade religious hierarchies; or to allow ourselves to be used as pawns to facilitate human political and social power structures. The mission our Lord has set before us is far too important for us to settle for the artificial imitations of man. Our calling and our mission is, in fact, of eternal, heavenly significance. Therefore, we seek only those things that we know are real, those things that are of Him, those things that, as Jesus said, can only be found “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NASB).
Jesus one time asked the question of His disciples, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, NASB). Now, two thousand years later, if today should be the day that our Lord returns, the answer to His question would be, “yes,” because “we [you and I] walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NASB).
We embarked upon this beautiful and holy quest the day we were “buried with Him through baptism into death,” then raised up from that watery grave of baptism to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4, NASB). Now, you and I continue this same faith-walk initiated by Jesus so many years ago. It is a quest for understanding, enlightenment, and for authentic Christianity as we seek to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NASB); and to discover how God’s love continues to reveal itself and play out in our hearts and lives each day in this, the dawn of a new, third millennium.
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