Our Role

In reading the Genesis account of creation we see that man was given the privilege of naming all the animals (Gen 2:19,20) and was placed in a garden with the responsibility to “work it and watch over it” (Gen 2:15).  Man was commanded to:  “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground”. (Gen 1:28)

As men we have a responsibility to lead.  We are given the responsibility to take care of God’s creation and actually “subdue” it, to rule over all the living creatures of the earth.

In 1 Peter 2:9 as Christ followers we are called “royal priests” and a “holy nation”.

When I look at these passages I am moved to ask if I truly realize the role I play in God’s creation and the immensity of the responsibility and task.  I can only say that I will fulfill this role with God’s help.

I also realize that like a wealthy dad and mom who gives over an inheritance, something grand and immense to the children they love, God has given us this wonderful world to care for and enjoy.  This is an amazing act of love.

The Amazon jungle, Mt. Everest, plains of Africa, the Grand Canyon, the eagle to the penguin, lion to the squirrel, yes and even the mosquito!  All are made for us to rule over and care for.

What a gift and also what a responsibility we have to steward all that God has given us.  Yes and even our fellow brothers and sisters are our “responsibility” to some degree as they are also part of this grand creation.

However this hits you I hope that you enjoy the gift and take on some aspect of the responsibility for all that God has given to us as mankind, and us as men.

The Bread of Life

In John 6 Jesus invites the disciples to fully ingest him and see him for who he is, the bread of life.  Real life, life eternal.

Like we so often do, the disciples miss the point, and are looking for the correct religious practice that will provide this for them.  But Jesus informs them that it is he who will provide, and they just must believe in him (6:27-29).

Then they look for his validation, a miracle like when their ancestors provided food in the desert.  And Jesus reminds them that the manna in the desert came from God, not their forefathers (6:32).

Again, he refers to himself saying:  “the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.   This is the bread that came down from heaven…he who feeds this bread will live forever”.  (my emphasis)

Twice Jesus refers to himself as “the bread of life” (6:35, 48).  And then goes into a visceral description of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (6:53-56).  Of course he is speaking of the full intimate ingestion of his being, the incorporation, the ingestion of him into us.  He enters into us and we into him.

This is the bread of life.  The ”ingestion” of Jesus into us as a unique “food” that gets digested and incorporated into our bodies allowing us to function giving us life both physical and spiritual.

Do we get this?  Do we fully incorporate Jesus into ourselves from head to toe?  This is what the Jesus freely gives us (6:27).  We don’t work or earn this food, it is given.

Let’s fully take into our bodies, into our beings the bread of life, let’s truly be nourished and accept this free bread and live for him, for eternity.   

God’s Story – Betsey Stockton

Did you know that one of the first missionaries to leave America for a foreign land was a woman who was a freed black slave?  Yes, her name was Betsey Stockton.  She was granted her freedom in 1815 by her slave owner and given permission to attend evening classes.

February 1, 1823 — Betsey Stockton, in company with 13 white missionaries, was on board a ship rounding the southern tip of South America from New Haven, Connecticut in November, sent out by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions.

Betsey Stockton sailed to the Sandwich Islands, what is now Hawaii, with six couples and a single man, plus three Hawaiian men and a Tahitian. The trip took five months by sea with no stopovers. She joined the group partly as a servant to one of the couples who were expecting a child. However, Betsey’s contract with the American Board did make clear that she was not to be simply a servant but was also to share in the mission’s primary work.

She served and taught Hawaiian children at Lahaina, Maui, and later Native American children in Grape Island, Canada. Her schools became powerful platforms for evangelism and discipleship.

Praise the Lord that he can redeem any situation.  Think of it – a woman forcibly being removed from her home, brought to a foreign land as a slave. Later freed, then became a powerful spokesperson for the King of kings.  Who was able to become educated, and then voluntarily left the comforts of home and dedicated herself to be a missionary teacher of children in a foreign land.   

Praise the Lord for the story of Betsey Stockton.  Praise the Lord for who he is and what he can do to redeem any situation and any life circumstance for his glory and renown.

Ubuntu and Imago Dei

There is a norm in many African cultures called “ubuntu” which encapsulates the concept that “I am because we are.  And since we are, therefore I am”.  This is a group thinking concept that is very different than Western individualistic thinking.  The idea is that in terms of others does the individual become conscious of his own being.  I exist because I belong to a family.

Therefore, a wife belongs to a man, but she also belongs to the community and thus it cares for her and the same for children in a village.  Moral virtues are based on the well-being of the whole community.

Now obviously there are situations in Africa that don’t illustrate this: Boko Haran, Lost Boys of Sudan, Jihadist activity just to name a few. But this is not the norm in terms of the ideals of much of African culture.

An African pastor is promoting this ideal and linking it to the biblical concept of Imago Dei.  That ubuntu is rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the bible.  We are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27), therefore we are all infinitely valuable and the same.  We are all one family (Acts 17:26), and we all need forgiveness and need to work towards reconciliation (Dan 9, Neh 1) because we bear the name of God.

Do you feel disconnected with any one group of people with whom you differ?  Democrat/Republican, Gay/Straight, Transgenders, child molesters, abortionists, people from a particular race or religion, etc….  the list goes on.

Can you fathom that God’s image is in “them” as it is in you?  That you share the same lineage and 99% of the same DNA?  It’s not easy.

God made many from the one and he is working to restore our fractured broken world.  If we can see the world through ubuntu and Imago Dei perhaps we can work towards reconciliation, as if he was making his appeal through us (2 Cor 5:14-20).

Not of this World

As I was winding down after Christmas in this gap before New Years I reflected back on the Christmas story after a prompting from a message I heard.  The characters in the Christmas story are actually not very tidy like we see in nativity scenes.

Joseph and Mary are young, on a long journey, and facing disgrace. Mary is 9 months pregnant and riding a donkey.  Typically there would be family around when one delivered a baby, but they were alone in a dirty stable birthing the Savior.  Shepherds were the lowliest of people, dirty and outside of much of society yet they were the ones first alerted about the baby Savior and were the spokespeople that the Savior was born.

Herod a powerful ruler wants the baby killed.  And wise men total outsiders from the chosen people of Israel are compelled to follow a star to go and see this baby savior.  And when these outsiders see the baby they bow down and worship him and give him gifts.

This Savior is not “normal”!  His conception is miraculous, he enters the world outside of all human constructs of high religiosity, he can thwart the evil intent of a powerful man, and this baby can be worshipped by total outsiders, and his spokespeople are from one of the least revered sociological strata of the day.

The birth of Jesus provides a backdrop for the hope of the world.  He comes to us against all that seemingly would be expected of a king, a savior, God himself. 

As we go into 2021 we have this hope that is beyond the natural things of this world.  We can overcome, we can endure not because of blind faith,  but rather because our savior came in a manner showing us he is supernatural.  Or faith is based on something personal yet: “out of this world”.  And he uses us – broken vessels – to further be his spokesmen. 

You may be facing a lot, or you may be rejoicing for all you have.  Either way there is a man who is God that you can rely on, trust and depend on because he came to us showing he is not of this world.  And thus your hope is the same.

The Widow in the Christmas Story

Amidst the familiar Christmas story in Luke 2 is Anna, a prophetess.  Do you know her story?

In Luke 2 we learn that she was 84 years old.  Let’s say she was a typical girl and got married at 14.  Her husband died after 7 years making her a widow at 21 and in the story we learn she was 84.  Thus she lived 63 years as a widow at the time of Jesus’ birth.

In biblical times widows were very vulnerable.  They were excluded from inheritance laws so their concerns would be for their basic day to day existence.  Lacking the protection of a husband they were put in the same category as orphans, the poor, and aliens in the bible.

Anna was a woman of faith in spite of living 63 years in very challenging sociological and cultural circumstances.  She prayed and fasted and worshiped day and night in the temple.  I was thinking that we have been living with COVID for 9+ months and we are all facing challenges in some way.  But 63 years as a widow in biblical times?  I’m not sure I would be worshiping daily.  

In Hebrew the word for widow carries the meaning of one who is silent.  A person with no voice in society, who no one hears.

But in this story when she meets the baby Jesus she becomes God’s spokes person.  In Luke 2: 38-40 Luke writes that: “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  God used this woman of low stature, but who had great faith, to tell others about his son’s entrance into the world.

Whatever you are facing this year I hope this story of Anna will encourage you.  And I hope Anna’s story will encourage us all to have stronger faith and boldness to be powerful spokesmen for God.  Amen and Merry Christmas!

You Got Beautiful Feet!

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,
   who proclaim peace,
   who bring good tidings,
   who proclaim salvation,
   who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”

This is from Isaiah 52, written to Israelites who were sold for nothing, enslaved first by Egyptians then the Assyrians who blasphemed God. 

They are told “my people will know my name”.  They are given assurance of their salvation and told they will:  “see it with their own eyes”. They will: “burst into songs of joy together” and be comforted, and “all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God”.

They are told their servant will: “act wisely”, “be raised up and highly exalted”.  But that “his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness”.  They are given a description of the good news to come,  and that it would be different than their idea of a conquering king.

As followers of Jesus and on this end of the story we can be those people with beautiful feet! 

We can be the ones who bring the good news that God reigns!  He reigns over disease, politics, race relations, family disagreements, whatever your challenges are.  And he reigns over even death itself.

We know this and we can pass it on and bring peace, good tidings, and proclaim salvation. 

We can assure people that: “God reigns and together burst into songs of joy together you ruins of Jerusalem”.  Yes even as “ruined” people we know the end of the story and can walk with others in their pain and suffering and disappointments to point them to the God of Israel.

Look down at your beautiful feet and realize that this is us!  Let’s go over the mountains, overcome the challenges, and share the Good News! There is a world out there that desperately needs to hear and receive it.

Singing in a Dry and Weary Land

I was reading Psalm 63 and felt it was written to us today as we enter into December having to deal with COVID since March.

The stresses of sheltering in place, wearing masks, limiting meeting with friends and family, upended routines, controversies in how to handle the spread of the virus as well as the elections and racial tensions have resulted in “a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

In this Psalm David says: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you.” 

David remembers: “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands.”

As we enter into the time we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world let’s truly remember him.  His “power and glory”, his “love that is better than life”.  When David reflected on this the dry and weary land drifted into the background.  He remembered that he had seen God’s power and glory which was better than life itself.

This Christmas let’s remember, let’s focus on the Lord.  David says: “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”  And goes on to say: “Because you are my help I sing in the shadow of your wings”.

Let’s remember the Lord is our help and protection and sing!

Kingdom People Building Bridges

In Luke 17 the Pharisees are asking Jesus when the kingdom of God would come and he replies: “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have this as: “the kingdom of God is in your midst”, some say it is “at hand”. 

The idea is that God’s Kingdom is here, it has arrived in the person of Jesus and we are living in these times now.  Cynthia Bourgeault says: “The kingdom is not a place to go but a place you come from.  It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place”, she says: “you don’t die into it: you awaken into it…” 

Bourgeault also writes: “The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation – not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans”.  With Jesus, the kingdom is here and as his followers we are one with him and one another.  Or we should be living this way.

In this world that seems so divisive let’s live in the reality of the kingdom being here now.  Let’s be kingdom people and build bridges, even with those different than us.  Jesus urges us to leave the 99 to go after the one the stray (Mt 18:12),  he purposefully goes to the people the “religious” ones avoid (Mk 2:15).  Let’s be people who expand God’s kingdom.

We must stand for truth but let’s do it in a kingdom way, a way that can be received.  You can’t “get to” the other side without a bridge.

Waiting and Writhing

Our organization is in the midst of great change.  Mission statement, vision statement, structure, and many of the operations are all changing now because of some untended issues of the past, and because we, and the world, are different than when we were founded 45 years ago.

We have leaned on Psalm 37 to help us with our “posture” as we enter into this time.  To help us with our psyche, emotions, approach.  Much of this Psalm is about evil men.  We are not focusing on this.  But we are focusing on the Psalmist who is anxious, angry, quite possibly frustrated and wanting change.

We are told to not “fret” twice, we are told to “trust in the Lord and do good”, “commit your way to the Lord: trust in him and he will do this”, where the “this” is to give us the “desires of our heart”.  These words were encouraging to me as we are in the midst of this upheaval.

The challenging directive is in verse 7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”  The translation of “Be Still” is to be silent, to wait, to be dumb- that is not able to talk.  And “wait patiently” is to dance, writhe, whirl about, made to bear or bring forth, writhe in pain.  This doesn’t sound like patient to me!

So we are in effect to be silent and at the same time actively writhe about, and dance in anticipation of what God will do.  The comfort for me in this is that waiting in silence makes me writhe about.  To sit and wait is challenging and makes me squirm in my chair. 

In this Psalm the outcome is assured, and we are given the directive in verse 4 to “delight in the Lord”, and promised that: “he will give you the desires of our heart”.  

And we are told: “he will do this” in verse 5.  And we are told to “trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” in verse 3. God will act and accomplish his purposes, we are to trust in this and enjoy the journey and outcome.

In our impatient society today, and in our desire to “get ‘er done” we are told to slow down, engage physically with the living God and in so doing we will delight in him and receive a good outcome. So this is our posture and approach to this time of great change.