Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From One Man

Racism is stupid. There, that's putting it bluntly. It's also evil. But it IS stupid. One simple sentence in Scripture puts the lie to it.
     "From one man (God) made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." (Acts 17:26)
     Paul said these words during his address to the "eggheads" on Mars Hill in Athens. Granted, he was seeking to reach them more by philosophical thought than by Old Testament Scripture which would not connect with these educated Greeks. But in this one sentence, Paul upholds the reality of a historical Adam and plainly states that all human beings descend from him. We could also say that all human beings descend from one set of parents, since the name "Eve" means "mother of all living."
     I like a page on Facebook called "The Poached Egg," which deals with Christian apologetics. I highly recommend it. A few days ago, an author and speaker named Dr. Richard Belcher made a defense of the historical Adam. In that post, he said that without this, the whole Pauline argument of original sin through one man falls apart.  I think the argument against racism might also be weakened, if we just began as a group of beings all over the earth. Let's see, Jesus and Paul believed in a historical Adam, Many modern scholars, including those in the evangelical camp, do not. Who will I go with? No contest. I stand with Jesus and Paul.
     In the final analysis, there really is only one race. Now I know that, anthropologically, there are said to be three - CAUCASIAN (Aryans, Hamites, Semites) MONGOLIAN (northern Mongolian, Chinese, IndoChinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Malayan, Polynesian, Maori, Micronesian, Eskimo, Native American) and  NEGROID (African, Hottentots, Melanesians/Papua, "Negrito", Australian Aborigine, Dravidians, Sinhalese) - but, biblically, there is one: the HUMAN race. I say this because the nations were divided in Genesis 10-11, following the Tower of Babel incident. Still, all peoples come from either Shem, Ham, or Japheth, all of whom came from one man, Noah, who also came from one set of parents, Adam and Eve. There is just no way around it. We belong to the human race - that strange mixture of nobility and evil. We carry Adam's genes in us. Unfortunately, we also carry Adam's sin nature (which is why we ALL need a Savior, no matter what our ethnicity or skin color is).
     It would be far more accurate to speak in terms of ETHNICITIES or NATIONALITIES than of races. I believe there is one race (maybe three sub-races, but I'm not sure I'm even ready to concede that. There might be a better term.), with a multitude of ethnicities within it. And God has determined these. He has chosen who would be darker skinned, and who would be lighter skinned. And the old children's song is spot on.
     "Red and yellow, black and white, (all) are precious in his sight."
     An argument simply cannot be made for the superiority or inferiority of any ethnicity or nationality. (More on that in the next blog).
     We have one human father and mother (Adam and Eve), one Creator (God), and if we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, one heavenly Father. To share these in common is all we need to be one people of God.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Whence the Imagery?

For my second post, I wanted to explore where I came up with the imagery for the wording I am using for my ministry and my blog address. It all comes out of Ephesians Chapter 3.
     There Paul begins to pray for the church at Ephesus in verse 1, but something takes his train of thought in a different direction. He will return to the prayer in verse 14. From verses 2 to 13, Paul takes the church cosmic in his vision. It's a wonderful text.
     In verses 2-6, Paul writes about the revelation of God which had been hidden to previous generations but which is now revealed through the New Testament apostles and prophets. This revelation is simply that it had always been God's plan to have a multi-ethnic, multi-national people. Verse 6 says, "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (NIV) The original Greek is more concise. It says that the Gentiles were destined to be "co-heirs" (synkleronoma), "co-members" or "co-parts of the body" (syssoma), and "co-sharers" (symmetocha) in the church. Note the Greek prefix syn (pronounced sun to us) on all three words. In other words, God's eternal plan was that Gentile and Jewish believers now be fellow heirs of the same blessing (see also Galatians 3:26-29), fellow members of the same body (see also 1 Corinthians 12), and fellow partakers of the same promise. (John Stott, "Ephesians", The Bible Speaks Today Commentary, page 117)
     Israel was never designed to be the one and only permanent people of God. God chose them because they were lowly and weak as a people so that He could receive glory through them. Part of their mission and purpose was to be a "light to the nations" (Isaiah 49:6). They failed, overall, in that purpose, first of all by becoming too much like the other nations, and then, after the Exile and Return, isolating themselves in self-righteousness from the other nations. God would therefore send the Messiah to create a new Jewish remnant which would become the catalyst for launching this, as Dr. John R. W. Stott calls it, "third race," made up of Jew and Gentile together, the barriers having been removed through the cross.
     That's the divine revelation to Paul. Then in verses 7-13, we read about the divine commission to Paul, or his ministry - to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to explain the mystery to all of his hearers. In this paragraph, Paul makes a most astounding claim - that God's intent, ultimately, is that the church of Jesus Christ be on display, not only in the world, but in the entire cosmos - particularly to the "rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (i.e. angels). This third race, this church, this new people of God is described as God's "manifold wisdom." But that is not the literal translation of the word "manifold." The Greek term is polupoikilos - many-colored. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the root word poikilos, is used in Genesis 37:3 to describe none other than Joseph's coat of many colors.
     That idea excites me. God's design is that the church be multi-colored (in flesh tones). loving each other in spite of their differences of color, culture, and class. This, in turn, is put on display to the angels, who see these redeemed, transformed people of God, and say, "Whoa! Now that's wisdom. Glory be to God!"  Hence, my blog address,
     This is reality in heaven right now, for all the saints who have gone before. And it's the daily reality of the areas in which most of us today live. Therefore, the church should be intentional about reflecting those realities and be "heaven's mirrror." And not only heaven's mirror, but "Miami's (insert your own community here) mirror." What an exciting prospect! After 30 years or so of ministry in, pretty much, white rural churches (no dismissal of that at all), I came here to find what God really has in mind for us all. I challenge us to let this be our intention as we move on into the 21st Century. Let's show our communities, our world, our universe, what God intended us to look like all along - a multi-colred people who love each other and reach out with the Good News to everyone.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Goal of This New Ministry

     Mark Deymaz of Mosaic Ministries was a speaker at Exponential, a national church planting conference that I attended in Orlando in 2013. I sat in on his special track of workshops and was greatly blessed as well as challenged. Two statistics he shared stood out to me above all the others. Churches as a whole in the United States are 10 times more segregated than their neighborhoods and 20 times more segregated than their nearby public schools. Mark then asked, "If the Kingdom of Heaven is not segregated, how can the churches be?"
     That is why I am starting this new ministry. I am "semi-retired" at this point. I have retired from full-time pastoring, but I have no intention of retiring from ministry. I am excited about what God may yet use me to do.
     Since moving to Miami, Florida in 2005, my life has undergone a number of changes, many good, a few not so much. But one thing that has changed is that my horizons have been broadened in two specific areas - multi-ethnic churches (I served one for nine years), and church planting (my District got me interested in this, and it is now a passion of mine).
     I should add that I have also lived in several multi-ethnic apartment complexes, sung in a multi-ethnic community worship choir, got involved in our denomination's intercultural programming, and am now married to a lovely lady of another culture.
     My goal is to encourage the planting and multiplying of new churches and to push us toward being intentional about these new churches being multi-ethnic and intercultural. Of course, I also want to see our established churches become intentional in this area as well.
     Future blogs will give Scriptural support for these things and get us thinking about why and how we are to be doing this. From time to time, I may address other topics of a more devotional nature.
     I want to be available to the wider church to help in any way that I can to get us to where our churches more and more look like the communities in which we live right now and like the home to which we are going, if we trust Christ, in the near future. Your prayers and invitations will be appreciated.