Monday, November 24, 2014


     My life changed dramatically in 2005 when, after 33 years of pastoring or assisting in mostly small town and rural northeastern and midwestern churches, I moved to Miami, Florida to begin an exciting new pastorate.
     Since then, I have served an intercultural church for nine years within an intercultural district, lived in apartment buildings with intercultural neighbors, sang in an interdenominational community choir that also happened to be intercultural, have been part of an intercultural local pastors' association, currently assist with an intercultural choir of young adults with disabilities. and now, have married into a family of another culture.
     Now while I can't celebrate that a previous divorce led to this new marriage (not a messy divorce, yet one brought about mostly by my mistakes), still I find myself in a very sweet spot in my life.
     I am thankful for the "wonderful grace of Jesus" that has forgiven my sins and turned the ashes of the past into new beauty and has given me the oil of joy to replace my mourning, (Isaiah 61, the theme of our recent wedding).
     I am thankful for my lovely and incredibly large-hearted new wife, Graciela, who was born and raised in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and who only moved to Florida a few years before I did.
     I am thankful for my two adult children, who continue to love me and accept Graciela (Grace), even as they continue to love and accept their mother, as they should. I am thankful for my three beautiful little granddaughters, Rebecca (Becca), Hannah, and Sarah, that my son, Mike and his wife, Stacy, have presented to us. I am thankful that both of my children, Leah and Mike, are highly gifted by the Lord and are serving the Lord in set-apart ministry.
     I am thankful for my sister, Linda, also in ministry, serving as chaplain at our Brethren Home in Windber, PA, and for her husband, Jim, and for my two nieces, my nephew, and all of my great nieces and nephews, all of whom are seeking to follow Jesus.
     I am thankful that my ex-wife and I can still be friends.
     I am thankful for my new family that I have gained - all of Grace's nieces and nephews who call me "tio" and for her sisters who call me "cunado," and for the family I haven't met yet, some here in the states, some in the D.R.
     I am thankful for new grandchildren, little Samantha, and 11-year-old Natalie, who told me she loves me (caused me to tear up a little).
     I am thankful for the passion for Intercultural ministry and church planting which the Lord put on my heart when I came here. I am thankful for having the opportunity, through my District, to assist the Haitian Churches in Florida and to share with our churches in Puerto Rico. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Haiti and to be going again in February to teach Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians in person to the Haitian Brethren pastors there.
     I am thankful that next month, one of our pastors from the D.R. will be coming to visit for a few days to explore the possibility of starting a new Brethren Hispanic project in our area that I will be able to assist with.
     I could go on, but you get the idea. I am blessed, I am thankful, and I will be reflecting on these things this week, as we enjoy our turkey and other fixings and prepare to move into the season of Advent.
     I hope you have many things to celebrate this week as well. If you don't, I will pray that God will soon give you an Isaiah 61 experience as well and will lead you into some new and exciting ministry opportunities for the gospel.
     This new ministry and this page are designed to reflect my passion for new churches and for intercultural churches. I look forward already, to the coming year and what it may bring. And I would love to share with your church or your District about these passions. Please contact me. May God grant you many blessings in Christ.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Curse of Whom?

     As I said last time, racism is stupid. Please read that blog to see my reasoning. This time I want to restate this proposition and expose one of the worst misinterpretations of Scripture in the history of the church - namely, that because God cursed Ham, the son of Noah, it means that people of black skin are inferior. As little as 150-200 years ago, this was still being propogated from pulpits in parts of our land. It would be hard to believe that anyone still accepts this premise today, but it is likely that a few still do.
     Overall, I know that I am preaching to the choir here, but just in case you run into someone who still holds this inane view, maybe I can provide you with some ways to answer them. I am indebted, in part, to Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, for some of these thoughts.
     The curse-of-Ham argument may have begun as a way for the religious world to explain the reality of racial differences, but it soon became an attempt to justify racial prejudice. This "doctrine" dominated the church during the era of slavery, and, unbelievably, it is still taught in some isolated pockets of the church today. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was used to give permission for the reality of the slave trade in West Africa and the practice of slavery here in the west.
     We find the story of Ham in Genesis 9, following the great flood. We recall that Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japeth. Some time after the flood, Noah got drunk on wine made from grapes in a vineyard he himself had planted. He took off his clothes inside his tent. Ham saw his father and told his brothers, supposedly in a mocking tone. Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, quickly covered their father up with their faces turned from him. Noah awoke later and had some understanding of what had happened. Thus came the curse given to his middle son. "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers." Because of these words, the reasoning has been that since Ham moved south into what is now Africa and became the ancestor of the more dark-skinned people, then black people are and always have been under a divine curse of servitude. Black people should accept their place and white people should not feel guilty for enslaving them.
     "Wait," you say, "I thought Noah cursed Ham." No, the Bible never says that. Noah cursed his grandson,. the son of Ham. Why?
     Yes, Ham should have covered Noah up himself instead of going to his brothers and saying, "You should see our father. He's pathetic!" He dishonored his father, a capital offense under the Torah. Shem and Japheth restored their father's honor. After Babel, it is true that Ham became father to dark skinned peoples of Africa, Shem became father to Semitic, brown skinned people of the Middle East, and Japheth migrated north and became father to the more Aryan and Asian peoples.
     But to even speak of a curse of Ham is to misread Scripture. The curse was clearly on his son. Ham had four sons, but Noah did not curse them all, only Canaan. Ham was punished for dishonoring his father by having a son who would bring dishonor to him.
     The curse was on Canaan and his descendants. and these were - the Canaanites: evil, pagan, totally godless and violent people who were in the Promised Land when Israel entered to conquer it. The issue of God's curse was never skin color, it was sin! This is natural, becaue only sin brings about the curse of God. Israel was told to eradicate them.. They did not do a complete job, but those who were not killed became servants to the Israelites, and eventually, in a reasonably short time, ceased to exist as a nation.
     So why did the slave trade even become a reality, when a simple reading of the text would dispel the theory that was being proclaimed? Sadly, it was a chance for profit. In all likelihood, even the preachers knew the truth, but their parishioners (and some of them) were benefiting too much and just could not face the truth.
     By the way, why did God curse Ham's son and not Ham, when it was Ham who did the dishonoring deed? Because God had already blessed Ham (Genesis 9:1), and He does not take back His blessings. So God provided another way for Ham to regret his actions.
     Now quickly, let's balance this out with two other facts. First, the biblical truth: throughout the Old and New Testaments, black people are used of God to bless and benefit and become part of His people, both Israel and the Church. There is no time here to break that down, but in future posts, we will mention some of the black heroes of the Bible. There are more than you think.
     Second, the historical truth: While some pastors and Christians (or at least, professed ones, though we cannot judge their hearts), promoted slavery from this passage, many other Christians like William Wilberforce in England, and Henry Ward Beecher here led the fight to end slavery, finally succeeding in their efforts. And of course, more and more pastors and leaders of all colors are leading His church today and influencing the church and the culture for good.
     The bottom line is this: We are all Canaan. We are all born under God's curse because of our sin. But "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." (Galatians 3:13-14) That promise to Abraham is that through his seed (Christ), all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Hallelujah!