One Year Later

It has been almost a year since I have posted.  At one point I even thought about waiting a few more weeks to post so that it would be exactly a year. Then I changed my mind.

My first thought in writing this post was to lay out all of the changes that have taken place over the past year.  That would make either a really long post or a post that doesn't do each change justice.  So I decided I would just divide it into multiple posts.  Here's a little preview:

  • A new calling
  • A new city
  • A new child
  • A new church

Posted by Jack | at 11:13 AM | 0 comments

Reflections, part three: Larry

Most people don't think of Jamaicans when they think of Ethiopia.  That is unless they know a little something about Rastafarianism.

Rastafari's believe that Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie (Born 1892, Emperoro1930-1974) was the second advent of Jesus Christ.  As such, Ethiopia is somewhat of a holy place for them.  As a matter of fact, the city we stayed in all week, Shashamene, was home to probably the most famous Rastafarian, Bob Marley, for several years.

All of this is to introduce you to Larry.  Dreadlocked, beard wearing, song-singing, Bible-carrying Larry.  Larry is the owner of the hotel where we stayed and, though he is not from Jamaica (He is from Trinidad and Tobago), Larry is a Rastafarian.

From the start, we all greatly enjoyed being around Larry.  One of our interpreters began conversing with him about Christ.  This lead to a heated discussion with some of the funniest one-liners of our entire trip.  Larry is one funny Rastifarian!

The next night, several of us sat down with Larry, opened our Bibles, and began using the Scriptures to discuss the person of Christ.  Larry had several passages he believed pointed to Haile Selassie being Christ (Acts 2:30, Psalm 87:4, Psalm 2:12, and others) and even where marijuana was a gift from God (Ezekiel 34:29)!  He only used the King James Version Scofield Study Bible, so the translation we had was pretty different.

Needless to say, this made for an interesting conversation.  The hardest part was that he would agree with us about everything we said about Jesus, but applied them all to Haile Selassie as well.  Even when we would point to something in the Bible that went against what he believed, he would move to something else.  Or just stare at us.

Larry was fun to be around.  Larry was also very hard to share the Gospel with.  It was a great exercise in relational evangelism.  It was also a great way to make a new friend. We must never stop being or becoming friends with someone just because they don't accept the Gospel.  I truly enjoyed being around Larry and he seemed to enjoy being around us. I am praying for Larry and hope you will too.  I hope I get to go back to Ethiopia and I hope I get to see Larry.  Most of all, I hope Larry meets Jesus. Of course...Larry says he has.

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments

Grace and football

You may or may not know that I am an Auburn fan.  Pretty big one, I think.  And this year they are doing really well.  Living in the land of the Bulldogs and Jackets, I proudly display as much Auburn paraphernalia on my desk as possible.

One of the reasons Auburn has done well this year is because of the transfer of an extremely talented player, Cam Newton.  Cam chose the University of Florida over Auburn.  However, after an off-the-field incident involving a stolen computer, he transfered to Binn Junior College where he led his team to a national championship.  Having now transfered to Auburn and having a stellar year, he is now on the top of many lists for the Heisman trophy.

He was actually the subject of conversation between me and a good friend of mine, who just happens to pull for "the other school."  His ribbing on Cam is not on his play, (there is nothing he can say about that) but rather his past.  And my friend is not the only one.  I saw this article the other night which describes the incident in Florida and questions whether or not he is worthy of the Heisman because of those events.

I don't know Cam.  I don't know anyone that does know Cam.  I have cheered for him and am extremely thankful he plays for Auburn and not some other SEC school!  But can a person make a mistake and change?  Can they be in the wrong place, do something less than stellar, and pay the consequences, coming out on the other side more mature and different?  I am not saying he has or hasn't.  I just want to ask the question.  I am not the only one.

A couple of things I do know.  I do know someone very well who was the head coach at a large Division 1 NCAA football program.  I heard him talk numerous times about the opportunity he had as a coach to invest in the young men in their program.  And not just help them do better.  This man is a firm believer in Christ and he saw it as an opportunity to live and speak the Gospel to these guys.  I know as well that Mark Richt, head coach at the University of Georgia, is a devoted follower of Christ whose faith has had an impact on numerous players.  And I spoke to someone this summer who had recently heard coach Gene Chizik speak at a summer F.C.A. camp and share his faith in Christ.

I am not saying that having a Christian coach means that your players are all saints.  Unfortunately, coach Richt has had that splashed all over the place this season.  In fact, I am not even so much thinking about football any more.  I am thinking about grace.

I am reminded of Paul's words:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis added)

And such were some of you.  That's the ever present reminder of grace.  Because of our sinfulness, we all have things in our past that disqualify us for more than a mere trophy.  We have rebellion that sets us at odds with God.  We all are guilty.  And yet, in steps Christ who bears God's wrath and showers us with His grace.  We are not worthy, but His sacrifice makes us worthy.

Has Cam changed?  I hope so.  Has Cam changed because of Jesus is King of his life?  I really, really hope so.  Is coach Chizik pouring a Jesus-saturated example into Cam's life and the lives of the other men on the team?  I pray so.

Nonetheless, let's remember that grace is the only hope we have.  I don't want to be a Pharisee that takes grace and gives wrath.  Life's more than football.  Our convictions must carry over in every facet of our lives.  Even when it means giving a guy the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by Jack | at 10:38 AM | 0 comments

My Lu

I am a blessed man.  In more ways than I can count.  Next to my salvation, my biggest blessing is my wife.  She is loving, kind, challenging, and very dear to me.  I have no better friend and could ask for no better mother to my boys.

One day while we were in seminary, I wrote a verse on her mirror:

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD."
Proverbs 18:22

I understand the depths of that verse more and more every day.  Lu, I love you and you are the greatest source of joy in my life outside of Christ.  Happy birthday!

Posted by Jack | at 11:56 AM | 0 comments

Reflections, part two: the shepherds

One thing that strikes many Americans when they land in Ethiopia is the fact that animals are almost everywhere. Any patch of grass, even in the city, may have horses, cows, and sheep grazing freely.  And have no doubt, someone owns them and knows exactly where they are.

There was another type of shepherd I encountered while in Ethiopia.  These shepherds tended God's sheep.  Pastors who loved Jesus and wanted to see people come to know him.  As I looked into their faces, heard their stories, and watched their leadership, I saw men that had something powerful.  No they weren't perfect nor were they more spiritual because they lived in a difficult place, surrounded by hostility.  Yet in their lack of material possession, there was somewhat of a freedom and a love for Christ that is compelling.

There were the two church leaders from a church that was a three hour walk away.  They came that far to receive a Proclaimer, a unit containing the Bible, recorded in their language, that can be charged by an outlet, the built-in solar panel, or even the small hand crank.  They came this far because they want people to hear about Jesus.

Then there was the pastor in Arsi who was constantly with us, serving us even when we wanted to serve him and his church.  Worshiping and singing with gusto.  Praying fervently.  Counseling those who made a decision for Christ.

And there was the pastor from Kofele.  This young pastor with a beautiful family has a small bed in the back of his church.  I had seen pastors in Ethiopia give part of their home to be used as a church.  I asked if this was the case and was told that this was not his, but the bed for the guard they had to hire to stay in the church because they were in an area that is ninety-nine percent Muslim.  To say that those matter-of-fact words were sobering would be a gargantuan understatement.

No, these men are not perfect.  They have flaws and weaknesses.  But being in their presence caused a great sense of unworthiness to come over me.  They wanted us to teach them. I wanted them to teach me.  I pray that we accomplished both.

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments