Sons and Daughters of Noah and the Insanity of Racism

Creation, Culture, The Gospel

skincolor(By: Nick Kennicott)

On the way home from watching Is Genesis History? last night, my oldest daughter and I had a wonderful conversation about all the people of the earth coming from Noah (and, of course, Adam before Noah). The discussion began as we talked about how the different kinds of cats in the world (e.g. lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc.) could come from only two felines from Noah’s Ark since a housecat and a lion is so different. Very quickly we began talking about the same issue with humans and how people have different features (e.g. skin color, facial features, bone structures, etc.), not because we are inherently different as human beings, but because God created us in such a way that small changes would take place over time for our bodies to adapt to our environment in a way that it is best suited to withstand our regularly recurring conditions. A person’s skin is darker when they descend from ancestors who, for many generations, have been in environmental conditions that are harsher in terms of heat and light, as opposed to those with much lighter complexions whose descendants are from colder and darker climates. Likewise, people who, for generations, have come from climates with a lot of snow will likely have eyes that are more narrow because they need protection from light glare off the white surface, whereas dark and dreary climates might mean larger, rounder eyes.

We then discussed how we live in a time where many of these differences are coming together in ways they haven’t in the past because of the ease of travel and communication around the world. Until the modern era, it wasn’t likely that someone from Mongolia was going to have much interaction with someone from Mexico, however, it is very possible that today a Mongolian man might meet a Mexican woman and the two marry and have children. We are seeing new ethnic make-ups that we’ve never seen before, and it’s exciting! What will the great-grandchildren of those children look like over the next 100 or 500 years? Only God knows, but it’s wonderful to consider how He is glorified by displaying his creative power and diversity through the many differences that exist amongst the people of the world and how those differences coming together makes for all new possibilities.

I was reminded in our discussion of the insanity of racism. In fact, I don’t prefer the term racism at all because it implies that there is more than one race–We are all humans. More accurately, what we understand to be racism is ethnocentrism or cultural bias, because the differences that are highlighted in bias only pertain to one’s physical make-up or cultural nuance, not the condition or make-up of the soul. Every human being, be they a Mongloid-Mexican or an Australian-Filipino, bleed real blood, have real physical needs, and most importantly, are dead in trespasses and sins apart from Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1). Ethnocentric bias is insane because it’s based on genetic differences that developed over time through environmental adaptation. If we trace our lineages back far enough, all of our ancestors looked alike. My heart was glad to hear my (very) white daughter say, “If I marry a man with dark skin like our friends from Nigeria, our babies aren’t going to look like they would if I marry a man from China or a man who is white like me… that’s really cool!” Indeed, that is really cool.

I have been reminded once again of the beauty of the gospel to make right what sinful man has gotten so wrong. I praise God that one day all of His people will be intimately aware of the insanity of man’s sinful projections on others when we see the multitudes gathered in worship. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10).

On This Rock (Christ Shaped Church Part II)

The Church

The church is central in the Bible. Most of the New Testament is made up of letters to churches and the parts that aren’t either tell the story of the church, lay its foundation, or predict its future. Even in the Old Testament, there is a way to understand Israel as God’s church in the world. From beginning to end the Bible is a thoroughly church-centered book, which means the Christian life is a thoroughly church-centered life.

This truth is often misunderstood. I am not arguing for some sort of ecclesiastical formalism, or depreciating the individual Christian life. I am also not defending everything that can be or has been done in the name of the church. Sadly, there are plenty of true stories of ecclesiastical abuse and unfaithfulness, but my plea is this: don’t give up on the church. Don’t lose hope in something that Jesus loves. The promise of the church endures, because Jesus guarantees the promise.

This series is a study of 1 Peter 1:22-2:10. Any number of passages would serve as excellent studies of the church, but there is something poetic about studying Peter’s writings. It was Peter, after all, to whom Jesus made the statement in Matthew 16:18:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

1 Peter 1:22-2:10 is a deeply rich section of Scripture concerning the local church. Several themes coexist and intertwine with one another in such a way that a quick reading risks missing the thrust of the whole. The passage begins with community (love one another earnestly, 1:22) and ends with community (Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people, 2:10). The heart of the passage is about community as well (As you come to him… you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, 2:4-5a).

Here’s the key theme of this entire series: The only answer to our longing to belong is found in Christ’s Christ-shaped community: the church. Our goal in the next article will be to give that phrase meaning.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

The Prodigal Shepherd

Uncategorized

sheep-690198_1280

(By Matt Foreman)

I have only ever written one poem in my adult life, the one below…  I actually don’t even really like poetry all that much.  But back in 2003 I was responsible for a Christmas Eve message and had writer’s block.  While I would never normally replace a sermon with a poem, since it was Christmas Eve, and I was having so much trouble, I decided to try my hand at a poem.  This one wrote itself in about an hour.  (That’s never happened again.)  It’s an imaginative portrayal of the experience of a shepherd near Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth…

The Prodigal Shepherd

A man sat still in the cold night air
on rock cold hard, his feet were bare
and stared into the sleepless world
down at his flock within their fold
and thought upon some distant star
what trick of mind had brought thus far
him to this place of fruitless breath
of endless toil and lonely death.

Long had been his journey here
from angry home and mother’s tear
and hard and cold his heart had been
to look on her with mirthless grin.
To seek for glory was his want
For famous story was his hunt
Yet naught had come to him but this
To look at sheep in brainless bliss.

He thought with pain at what had past
his guilt, his shame, his vileness
those he had hurt, those he had robbed
the children left to violent sobs.
He bowed his head, they overtook
his body cringed and swayed and shook
and cast upon the dark cold ground
a rain of tears and empty sound.

O Lord, what mercy can this worm
have hope to gain or swipe or earn?
That man and pregnant woman past
as poor as dirt and yet no cast
of sorrow, pain upon their face
but hope and joy and eagerness.
Yet naught for me, no hope, no joy
no reason expectance to employ.

Did not the priest say, just this day
God’s promises are on the way,
His Own Anointed, David’s son
would raise up sword, the battle won,
would claim the throne and raise his race
all the world bow to their face.
Yet not for you, the priest did say,
no place for sinners on that day.

No place for shepherds, dirty, vile,
covered with muck and dirt and bile.
You have received what you deserve,
no place for you on glory’s curve.
And knew it true, as he did say,
I knew it true as clear as day.
No mercy can there be for me,
A prodigal and righteous free.

The night was still, the air was cold,
no sheep were braying in the fold
when suddenly the air seemed thin
he struggled so his breath to win
as shimmering the air began
to twist and turn and brightness ran
about the hillside to and fro
the stars were darkened with a glow.

Shouts rang out from shepherds near
as on the hillside did appear
a being clad in raiment bright
forgot in daylight was the night.
Hard it was to see his face
yet clear as crystal was the grace
that flowed like honey from his tongue
and shook and soothed and stung and sung.

To all the shepherds he did speak,
Yet thought the man with conscience weak,
he speaks to me, it seemed so clear
for me this being did appear.
And falling to his face he cried,
Lord, mercy on this mountainside.
With fear I look upon this face
Condemned I stand and without grace.

And then they heard the angel say,
Fear not, for news I bring this day,
of such a kind as never heard
through voice of man or spoken word.
And yet to you this day I cry
with glory to the God most high
joy comes upon the world this night
joy such as devil will affright.

In David’s city, that place of lore,
that prophets long did speak before,
is born this night a Shepherd great
who bearing stripe and suffering hate
will seek to gain and win his own
his wandering sheep and wayward son
him Savior, sinful men will call
Messiah, Lord, and before him fall.

And this will be a sign for you,
to know him right and see him true
as he who comes to be like you
the lowly meek and frightened few
To bring to naught the pride of man
the wise man’s thought, the strong man’s hand
In manger lowly, meek and mild,
Will you find God’s only child.

And you, the poor, the dust of earth
will proclaim Messiah’s birth
and heaven’s doors and gates will sing
as you approve his offering
and in your hearts, no longer cold,
are brought back to the Father’s fold.
And for eternal ages sing
Glory be to Christ the King!

An echo rang across the skies
As up above where eagle flies,
A multitude were seen to wing
their way across the heaven to sing.
Then light was gone, the night was cast
back into darkness at the last.
But glory was felt by all at hand
as they stared across the land.

Yet, breath came thin still to the man
with conscience weak and pallor wan
his bones grew brittle as he sought
his thoughts to order what his ears had caught
And then a dawn danced to his face
condemned no longer, saved by grace
His voice rang out, his lungs were clear,
For me this message DID appear!

Come must we to Bethlehem,
to see this Son to praise this Lamb.
On me, on me God’s favor rests
Despite my sin and sore distress.
For I will see this Savior’s face
This Babe will smile with forgiving grace.
And it will be the face of God
to save me from this guilty sod.

And near another voice rang out
and soon they all began to shout
and clap and hug and run and sing
with glory to the newborn King.

And heaven’s gates were opened wide
And like the turning of the tide,
It has begun, the angels said.
And death itself will soon be dead.

And heaven holds, not once a year
But every day, when sinners hear
a Christmas party begins to start
when Christ is born in sinful heart.

Written by Matt Foreman, Dec.24, 2003.

Longing to Belong (Christ Shaped Church Part 1)

The Church

Have you ever been in a place and among a people where you truly felt that you belonged? Can think back to a precious family memory, maybe a Christmas morning or a Thanksgiving meal? Have you experienced that deep sense of belonging through sports, finding it in the camaraderie of mutual victory (or common defeat)? Has there been a particular groups of friends that know you inside out, that laugh at all the same jokes and cry at all the same stories?

On the flipside, have you ever felt deeply and desperately alone? I think we often miss the point of loneliness. Real loneliness isn’t utter solitude. It’s not found on a two-week hike in a remote mountain range. It’s not hidden on the dark side of the moon. It’s not even a rainy afternoon without reliable wifi. The loneliest place in the world is actually a crowded room, when you believe you don’t belong. There is no isolation deeper than having community all around you and still feeling like you’re on the outside looking in.

The Inconsolable Secret

The Christian Philosopher C. S. Lewis captured something universal in his essay The Weight of Glory:

The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality is part of our inconsolable secret.[1]

Lewis touches upon a common reality, what he calls our inconsolable secret, the shared fact we all desperately want to have a place we fit in and belong. Communally, we long for community. The human heart is like a puzzle piece that will never be complete on it’s own, one that can be quite easily damaged by trying to force itself where it doesn’t really belong. The phenomena we call nostalgia testifies to the truth that we all, deep down, just want to go home.

There are millions of false or halfway answers to our longing to belong. There are crowds upon crowds that we can join to try and quench our inconsolable secret, but they never work because what we are really seeking is not a crowd, but a community. There’s a very important difference between those two things.

A crowd is a place to get lost in; a community is a place to be found.

A crowd is a place to visit; a community is a place to come home.

A crowd a place to be a stranger; a community is a place to be family

Christ Shaped Church  

The only full solution to our longing to belong is found in the Christ-shaped community of the church. That is an audacious claim, but a congregation is called to be a community that believes it and lives it out. When it does, even this audacious claim can come marvelously true, but only insofar as the unity and core of the local church is Christ himself. That is what sets the church apart from any other gathering on earth – only the church has the personal promise of Christ that he will be with us, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)

God’s mission for the world is bound up in his people, and he binds his people together in the church. In articles to come, we will explore the ways that Jesus’ presence reshapes his people into his own image on earth. In so doing, we will encounter the answer to our inconsolable secret, and finally fulfill our longing to belong.

(by: Nicolas Alford)

[1] Lewis, C. S. The Weight of Glory, available for free online at http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf

Orphans Adopted

The Gospel, Theology

(By: Chris Marley)

A world of orphans
	Alienated
Long lost sinners
	Isolated
A global orphanage
	And angry mob
Of shaking fists
	And attempts to lob
Stones of furious words
	Like “God is dead”
Hoping to drown out
	Existential dread
Heaving bricks through windows
	Of their own intellect
Shouting “follow us”
	To every tribe and sect
“We will tear down God
	like twisted iconoclasts
And replace Him ourselves
	And we will stand fast
On the day of judgment
	That will never come
Compile our numbers
	To a powerful sum”
But yet there are some
	Who hear the truth
Later in song but
	At first uncouth
First, the conscience
	That screams out the Law
Breaking facades
	And leaving them raw
Exposing unrighteousness
	Revealing unworthiness
The calling of “lawlessness”
	Shows them their life’s a mess
Broken and destitute
	Like Rahab the prostitute
Pleading for mercy
	They cannot deserve
Pleading for grace
	From the one they don’t serve
Like dogs for crumbs
	From the master’s table
Drowning in guilt
	They know they’re unable
To earn love
	From their God
Since their ancestor
	Was formed from the sod
Breathed into life
	Yet broke the law
Tore fruit from the branches
	And finally saw
What evil was
	Within himself
And though once high
	On sacred shelf
He fell, with his wife,
	And all posterity
Fell broken and bent
	From that prosperity
Creating the orphans
	Lost from their God
Repressing the truth
	They ever applaud
Their works
	To drown out the noise
Clinging to riches
	Their lusts and their toys
Yet there are some
	Who from past eternal
God chose to save
	From fate infernal
And sent His Son
	In the fullness of time
To clothe them himself
	In His works sublime
To turn away wrath
	And absorb it alone
Now cursed was the one
	Who once sat on the throne
Cursed by their sin
	Through imputation
Drinking the cup
	For their salvation
That orphans convicted
	Could now be adopted
By grace through faith
	Their salvation allotted
For they are made heirs
	Through redemption applied
Eternal inheritance
	Through Christ now supplied
Calling, “Abba, Father”
	Who wipes away tears
And approaching the throne
	With boldness, not fear
Pitied
	Protected
		Provided for
			Chastened
Sealed to that Day
	By everlasting salvation
Not of themselves
	What they’ve done
		Or will do
No man can stand
	To receive his own due
It’s not what they’ve done
	But what they have heard
Of what Christ has done
	And salvation assured
In the Gospel of Peace
	To orphans long lost
Through faith we now see
	That adoption’s cost
In the cry, “It is finished!”
	Made from the cross
And now He is risen
	In Heaven he waits
For when angels carry us
	Past those pearl gates
To glory eternal
	New heavens, new earth
Changed out like a garment
	In cosmos rebirth
Where the children adopted
	By faith and by grace
In the arms of their Father
	Will then know their place

Chris Marley is the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ.