Hands of Hope

The Offering

Why would Parkwood receive a Hands of Hope Offering? Parkwood supports Hands of Hope because the church loves God and because He has given the church a corresponding love for people. Consider the need just within Gaston County. With May being National Foster Care Awareness Month, a DHHS representative announced, “At the end of April we had 273 children in foster care but only 49 licensed homes.” A desperate need is clearly communicated in these numbers. Temporary foster homes and permanent adoptive homes are needed. Parkwood wants to help address this need through promoting adoption and giving to Hands of Hope because a love for God drives us to express His love toward His children, to love and help all people but especially children in need. If the church is comfortable defining her existence as the body and bride of Christ, then she must act in accordance with love in general and His love for the poor and helpless of the world in particular. Love for God cannot be expressionless; it must be expressed. The Hands of Hope is one way that Parkwood expresses her love in the midst of an otherwise hopeless situation. 

Adoption and the Gospel

The basic reality is that the church understands adoption with more depth than the world. Of course many in the world would be struck with the desperate need in the numbers shared above, and I certainly do not intend to insinuate that those outside the church would be without pity. Children in need often evoke compassion from Christians and nonChristians alike. The church, though, does not simply understand adoption in the context of empathy toward children. The church is comprised of those who have been adopted themselves. The redeemed see the fatherless in the context of the gospel and adoption in the context of those once far from the Heavenly Father being brought near. Every child of God has once been fatherless and known the excitement and joy of being made part of the family. 

Adoption Video

Application of the Truth

Members of Parkwood are encouraged to respond. Would you give to the Hands of Hope Offering? Give to adoption; give to spur others to adoption. Consider what you might give out of the resources the Father has given you. Your gift could make a difference in the lives of adoptive parents, and your gift could make a difference in the lives of children, once orphaned, who are now beloved sons and daughters in a loving family. 

Or you could respond in a much more tangible manner. You could adopt. No doubt this is the more drastic and life-altering option. Adoption is not for everyone, and it’s not for every place in life, but it might be for you. I would imagine that most people don’t adopt because most people don’t consider adopting. Would you at least consider adoption. You might consider adoption and conclude it’s not for you or not for you at this time, but you might consider it and find one of the greatest blessings of your life and one of the clearest demonstrations of the gospel. Whether you adopt or whether you give, let us be a people who live and proclaim the gospel with articulate words and winsome lives. 

Plan for Bible Study

While believers generally recognize the significance of God’s Word and many even understand that their study of the Bible is necessary for growth, the vast majority of Christians seem to be at a loss for how to study God’s Word. It’s not that they don’t want to study (sometimes it is); the problem is that they don’t know how. If they don’t know how to study, then regardless of how many times they set out to form study habits, those habits are often frustrated because they don’t know what to do or they don’t have a picture of what it looks like to do Bible study.

Howard and William Hendricks address this issue well in their work, Living by the Book. One of the highly influential books of many veteran expositors, these authors offer a superb yet simple plan for studying God’s Word. Bible study can be as simple or as complex as you like, but it is outlined in three actions: Observation, Interpretation, Application. You can use this outline to study the book of Genesis, Jonah, or John, even Romans or Revelation. All you must do is spend time in God’s Word answering questions of observation, interpretation, and application.

First, observation asks the question, ‘What do I see?’ Many of us can read the Bible, but it seems most of us do not read it well. When I read, ‘And Jesus left there and went to…,’ I should not continue reading blissfully ignorant of where ‘there’ was. What information is really in the text? Observe. What do I see? I should look at the previous paragraph and try to identify the ‘there.’ Answering this question basically amounts to reading a passage well or rereading a passage, rather than only reading over a passage.

Second, interpretation asks the question, ‘What does it mean?’ Opening the Bible to read a paragraph or chapter, closing it, and going on about our day is not Bible study but reading (and as we just observed, it’s really even reading). We should read God’s Word and seek to understand what it means. When Paul writes, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,’ what does that mean? What do the words mean? What is ‘condemnation’? Why ‘therefore’? Why ‘now’? What does it mean to be ‘in Christ Jesus’? Seek to understand meaning. Sometimes you may have to leave a question mark in the margin of your Bible. Sometimes you may have to ask others or look at a commentary (and may still have a question mark). Spurgeon, known as the ‘Prince of Preachers,’ talked of having question marks in his Bible. It’s ok if you have an unanswered question; just try not to have an unasked question, because you may find more answers than you think.

Finally, application asks the question, ‘What do I do?’ Having, as much as possible, read and understood the passage, we must apply it. In application, we are asking what we should do since we have heard God’s Word. How do we obey what we have read and understood? Every time God confronts us with His truth, we are challenged to align our lives accordingly. We cannot shift His Word to agree with us; instead we must change our minds, actions, or lifestyle to conform to His Word. This conforming of our minds and lives to God’s Word – sanctification – is, generally speaking, the practical application of Bible study. Sanctification is why we study the Bible. We spend time in His Word because we want to know Him and be changed by Him.

If you feel that you don’t know how to study the Bible, I hope this outline helps. It has helped many; I hope it helps you. Give it a try. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a helpful plan for how to study God’s Word. Observation, interpretation, and application is the broad plan. Our annotated steps of Bible study incorporated into the Growth Group material is a more specific step-by-step process that falls within this broader plan. Understanding the big picture is helpful for the experienced and inexperienced alike. Wherever you fall in that spectrum, make it your goal to know your heavenly Father by spending time in his Word.

When Helping Hurts

Interest in meeting social needs has increased among evangelicals in recent years. Much of this help is well-meaning but not all help has been beneficial. Sometimes helping hurts. For this reason, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert have written When Helping Hurts to focus on “appropriate ways for a North American congregation – and its missionaries – to participate in poverty alleviation at home and abroad, taking into account the God-ordained mission of the church and the typical church’s organizational capacity” (15). Corbett and Fikkert offer foundational concepts, general principles, and practical strategies for helping without hurting. 

When Helping Hurts
begins with understanding the solution and the problem, in that order. Understanding why Jesus came and recognizing the true problem help interpret all the other issues and options that might present as possible problems or solutions. Jesus came to announce, establish, and reveal the gospel in word and deed. Since the task of the church is rooted in the task of Jesus, then the church should preach the good news of the kingdom just as Jesus did. And just as he delighted in reaching the hurting, the weak, and the poor with his message, so the church should follow suit (37). The church, though, must determine how to minister in word and deed. Insufficient material provision is a consistent world-wide symptom, and “a sound diagnosis is absolutely critical for helping without hurting” (53). Corbett and Fikkert point out that the church can hurt by identifying the symptoms while missing the underlying illness or by misdiagnosing the illness. The answer begins with being convinced of the gospel’s solution and identifying the true problem in light of Christ and the good news. This understanding of solution and problem means the rich are as broken as the poor we seek to help.

Any action, then, should be informed by principles consistent with this mutual brokenness and should work toward meeting the true need with the right solution according to the gospel. Our authors suggest useful advice to this end. They offer a continuum of relief-rehabilitation-development that suggests what type of help to offer at the appropriate point along the continuum. “One of the biggest mistakes… is applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention” (101). Asset-based community development (ABCD) is particularly useful for projects and partnerships as the situation moves away from relief toward development, which is much of the North American congregation’s work among the poor. This ABCD principle moves our work away from giving and providing and toward facilitating and participating, with an eye to being reproducible and sustainable. Corbett and Fikkert expound on these principles and introduce others. And in the final sections of the book, they apply these principles in strategies for helping without hurting at home and abroad. They have even added a section to this updated edition that provides some wisdom and motivation for putting the ideas into practice.

Corbett and Fikkert have aided the church well in writing When Helping Hurts. I commend this book to you. Offered here is a brief highlight because the book is helpful and the authors have much to offer us. This resource should be widely used and considered prerequisite reading for those involved with partnerships among the poor of the world. We want to help – the gospel says we must – but we want to help without hurting.